Don’t Just Whip Up a Batch of Staff — Recruit the Crème de la Crème

The restaurant industry is great at creating jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that restaurateurs will add 1.7 million jobs to the American economy over the next ten years. The challenge, of course, is in filling those jobs. Whether you run a single eatery or a fast-growing chain, here are four suggestions to help you stand out and attract your fair share of talent in a very competitive market.

Think of Recruitment as Sales and Marketing

The best candidates know they have options. In the same way you have to communicate how your food is the best in town, you need to let candidates know you offer the best jobs around. The process is pretty straightforward.

First, make sure you are clear on the value proposition. List all the reasons someone would benefit from working for you. It’s about more than just income and benefits. Ask your best employees to share their thoughts. Maybe it’s the culture, the great team, the opportunity to be creative or the chance to learn about unique food and wine.

Create an Employment Brand

Distill the benefits into a brand message. I’m not talking about cartoon mice and free tokens. Your brand is an overall impression that encapsulates your identity as an employer. Sum up the brand with a simple motto or concept, and incorporate that in everything from job postings to employee handbooks.

Your brand should not focus on what you need. “Responsible, Hard Workers” isn’t a brand, it’s a requirement. In order to attract those kinds of people, your brand should be about what they want, like “Our Jobs Are as Yummy as Our Food.” Be sure to keep in mind that potential employees are also potential customers. Your brand should help ensure that candidates come away from a recruitment experience with a positive feeling about your company.

Get the Message Out

Now, get that brand and your value proposition in front of candidates. The standard venues should be useful, like or the major job boards. In your messaging, lead with your value proposition — rather than “Help Wanted,” think along the lines of “Help Us Redefine the Fun Night Out.”

Don’t just “post and pray.” Be proactive about hunting down candidates, using the résumé databases on the job boards. When you reach out to a candidate, by email, for example, lead with your value proposition.

Another important place to use your brand is on the career pages of your website. Post pictures of employees at work so candidates can imagine themselves in the environment. Include pictures of teambuilding events, community service activities or the summer staff picnic. Describe the culture and post quotes from your current staff.

Tweet it, Pin it, Post it

You’re probably aware of the impact of positive — and negative — reviews on sites like Yelp and Yahoo! Local, smart candidates will look at those reviews as well as employer rating sites such as Glassdoor. You know which of your staff members love your restaurant and their jobs, so encourage them to share positive comments on Glassdoor and Indeed as well as Twitter and Instagram. You’re already promoting your great food and upbeat atmosphere on sites like Facebook, so make sure you’re also promoting career opportunities.

Your social media content doesn’t have to focus on employment to help attract talent. Establishing your team as experts enhances your employment brand indirectly. Have your chef post recipes on Pinterest, or ask your resident wine guru to start a blog. Send regular email blasts about seasonal dishes or special events. A strong social media presence will drive traffic to your website and career page. It also means that when candidates search on your business, they will come up with more and better hits.

The restaurant industry is thriving, with annual sales close to $800 million and more than a million locations in the U.S. It’s more competitive than ever, and that goes for the talent market as well. A little strategic savvy around recruitment will give you an edge, whether you are a single bistro or national chain.

Tom Brennan contributed to this article.