10 Strategies Restaurants Can Use to Overcome Hiring Challenges

October 7, 2021 - Emily Newton

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The restaurant industry has faced substantial staffing issues over the last two years. Restaurant jobs declined early in the COVID-19 pandemic due to shutdowns, and now, three out of four restaurants report hiring and retention as their greatest difficulties. These hiring challenges threaten the sector’s ability to serve its customers.

The current labor shortage is a multifaceted issue, and as such, there are many possible solutions. Here are ten strategies restaurants can use to overcome these present hiring challenges.

1. Provide Attractive Healthcare Coverage Plans

Improving employee compensation is one of the best strategies to attract and retain workers. The restaurant industry is already a remarkably competitive sector, and the current job market allows many workers to leave their position for options with better benefits. Providing more competitive benefits packages can make a restaurant more attractive than other workplaces.

A 2018 survey revealed that 78% of American workers are more likely to stay with their current employer because of their benefits. These benefits can take many forms, but healthcare is one of the most important, considering the nation’s high medical costs. A generous healthcare plan can be a tremendous relief to people struggling with medical bills, attracting more workers.

2. Offer Competitive Pay

Similarly, restaurants can mitigate hiring challenges by offering higher starting pay. Of the 53% of restaurant employees considering leaving the industry, 76% cite low wages and tips as the reason. As straightforward as it may seem, paying workers a more competitive salary can improve retention and attract applicants.

Higher unemployment benefits amid the pandemic revealed to many workers how little their previous employers were paying them by comparison. After experiencing what it’s like to have higher pay, few employees will return to a workplace where they feel they’re unfairly compensated.

Since this is such a pervasive issue in the restaurant industry, higher wages can easily make an establishment stand out. Other strategies like adding automatic gratuity to bills can also improve workers’ pay, encouraging more applicants.

3. Establish Ongoing Development Programs 

Another way restaurants can stand out from other potential employers is to offer ongoing development paths. Most restaurant workers don’t likely aim to be in the industry forever but rather see it as a way to sustain themselves on the way to larger career goals. Employers should recognize this and help workers along that journey.

Offering education assistance is one of the most effective ways to go about this strategy. For example, McDonald’s education program, Archways to Opportunity, has resulted in 20% increased employee retention rates. Helping employees pay tuition, access learning resources or learn new skills can give applicants a chance at pursuing their goals they may not find elsewhere. Increased hiring and retention may follow.

4. Advertise What Makes the Job Unique

Restaurants can also optimize their job listings to attract more workers and overcome hiring challenges. Since virtually all restaurants are looking for new workers, establishments need a way to stand out from the competition. Job listings should display what sets a position apart, like any unique benefits, company values or growth opportunities.

One easy way to stand out is to be upfront about compensation. Vague phrases like “competitive pay” likely won’t be enough to attract applicants in today’s market. If restaurants list their actual, specific compensation range, candidates can be sure whether or not the position can cover their expenses.

This specificity will give applicants the assurance they need in an uncertain labor market. They’ll likely also appreciate the transparency.

5. Foster a Positive Workplace Culture

Another effective strategy to overcome these staffing obstacles is to focus on company culture. Surveys paint a grim picture of the current state of the restaurant industry in this area. Almost half of current restaurant workers cite emotional abuse from management as a reason for leaving, and 15% say they’ve faced harassment from coworkers.

Restaurant owners should take issues like harassment and abuse seriously, establishing systems for anonymous reporting and investigation. HR experts may also be able to provide advice on how to foster a more positive environment. If establishments can work past these widespread issues, they’ll be a comparatively more enticing workplace.

This applies to workplace safety, too. Whistleblower complaints at meat processing plants rose 30% amid the pandemic, signifying how workers are paying more attention to safety issues today. Working to create a safer workplace will improve employee satisfaction.

6. Set Up a Referral Program

Restaurants’ current employees can be a valuable resource in finding new workers. Given the size of the labor shortage, workers likely know a few people who may be looking for a job. Setting up an employee referral program can encourage them to convince these people to apply.

Referrals connect restaurants to potential employees they may not have found otherwise. They’re also typically more cost-effective and produce better results than other hiring methods. According to LinkedIn research, referrals save $7,500 in sourcing costs on average, and these employees typically stay far longer.

7. Become More Active About Recruiting

Beyond referrals, restaurants should take a more active role in recruiting in general. Posting listings on job websites is a crucial first step, but hiring efforts shouldn’t stop there. Employers should actively engage users on these sites and social media.

Reaching out and responding to people on social media and job sites displays attentiveness and care. If recruiting efforts are still falling short of expectations, restaurants can try narrowing their focus by geo-targeting their posts and openings. That way, a long commute will be a less relevant factor, improving the chances of finding an interested applicant.

Restaurant owners and managers should look for places to get involved in the community, too. University job fairs, sponsorship opportunities and similar events can help reach new audiences that may include job applicants.

8. Use Pre-Screening Assessments

One of the most often-overlooked hiring challenges is how long and tedious the hiring process often is. If restaurants can streamline this pipeline, they can address their staff shortages quicker and with lower expenses. Pre-screening assessments are an easy and valuable solution to this issue.

Many job sites and applicant tracking systems let employers set up pre-screening questions to give applicants when they apply. The answers to these questions will help restaurants narrow down job candidates before the interview process. Consequently, they’ll only interview the applicants most likely to get to the job, reducing wasted time.

9. Ask Current Staff About How to Improve Retention

While finding new workers is often the focus of discussions about hiring challenges, employee retention is also an issue. Turnover in the restaurant industry is high, and studies show that replacing an employee can cost one-half to two times their annual salary. Improving retention is essential, and restaurants can learn how to do so by talking to their staff.

Exit interviews can reveal why workers leave, highlighting any persistent issues that need solving. Asking current employees about what they like best and least about the job can help guide improvements. By listening to staff about what they want, restaurants can make a better workplace for both current and future employees.

10. Invest in Automation

Some restaurants may consider automation. Many software automation tools can improve hostess station duites streamline tasks like ordering, scheduling and other administrative work, giving employees more time to focus on other areas. These tools are often affordable, easy to implement and will help restaurants make the most of their current workforce.

Restaurants with large enough budgets can automate some kitchen workflows as well. Some kitchen robots can produce up to 60 servings per hour, helping restaurants serve customers despite staffing shortages. These solutions may be more expensive and initially disruptive, but they’ll improve long-term savings and efficiency.

Hiring Challenges Are Pressing But Manageable

Restaurants in different situations will have varying needs, so which strategy is most effective depends on the specific case. Adopting a combination of these methods will likely yield the best results.

The restaurant industry may face significant hiring challenges, but they can adapt to handle them. These ten strategies can help restaurant owners find new workers and retain their current staff to meet surging demand despite ongoing obstacles.

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.


Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a technology and industrial journalist and the Editor in Chief of Revolutionized. She enjoys reading and writing about how technology is changing the world around us.

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