Attacking the War for Talent

After three decades of working in the quick service food industry, I am certainly accustomed to the cycles of going from an abundance of talent to a shortage so significant that the employment market as a whole has been labeled, “The War for Talent.” Potentially, some of the most difficult roles to fill are in the restaurant industry. It’s hard work with demanding shifts and even more demanding guests. Rightly so, guest expectations are high and restaurants are continuously raising the bar to better meet those expectations. There are many opportunities currently in food service and the competition for these in-demand workers is fierce. 

So what can you do to attract and retain the best talent that will prepare and serve great food and meet the high service demands of your guests? Among many, there are three key actions you can take to find and keep great employees.

Don’t Be Afraid to be Someone’s First Employer

There are some significant advantages to hiring people who have not worked for anyone else. It’s a great opportunity to create loyalty. If you are hiring a new entrant into the work force when no one else would because of lack of experience, that employee is more likely to stick with you. Additionally, you are able to train the employee on your processes without having to break the bad habits learned at another employer. 

Once You Hire the Talent, Invest in Them

It’s true that many in the food service business are students who are on their way to something else. However, in the meantime, you can keep them longer by offering developmental opportunities and providing the opportunity for real responsibility. Employees are desperate for people willing to train and develop them and are willing to make the trade-offs of other perks to learn new skills and develop their competence. Leadership development, in particular, is considered to be a compelling benefit for would-be team

Be the Person You Would Want Your Own Children, or Other Special People in Your Life, To Work For

Nothing else is more influential on someone’s decision to accept a job and stay in that job than the leader. Make the job fun by building community among your team and making managing the culture your highest priority.

One of my mentors and the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, wrote in “Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People,” “The more we can foster the feeling that we are a group of people working together, depending on each other, the more likely we are to be loyal to each other.”

With your younger employees, don’t forget to include their parents as you grow relationships. No doubt they have a lot of influence on where their young person works and they care about who is leading their child.  Conducting information sessions and hiring fairs and inviting students and their parents is a great way for parents to learn about your business and encourage the young people in their life to apply for a position.

While finding great talent is one of the most difficult tasks in the restaurant business, once you start selecting strong talent, that talent will attract other staff and leaders that will strengthen the culture and increase your ability to better serve guests. Focus on the people and the people will focus on the guests. You can teach anyone to prepare great food, but the real talent is in teaching them to care for each other and your guests just like you do. Remember, you are not in the restaurant business, you are in the people business.