Hire and Retain Better Restaurant Workers in 2023

We all know that for restaurants – reputation is everything. But in a difficult hiring environment, how do you build a great reputation without jeopardizing your bottom line?

It all comes down to your staff. And in 2023, that’s the problem most hiring managers in the restaurant industry are facing. The pandemic changed how restaurant workers view the industry – and it also changed their needs. Understanding these changes will be the key to achieving success.

According to TouchBistro's State of Restaurants report, “81 percent of restaurant operators say they are short at least one position. Servers and dishwashers are in the highest demand, and one-third of restaurants report that they are short on both positions.” 

In a 2022 Toxic Work Environment Report, “CareerPlug found that 52 percent of employees in the restaurant and food services industry do not feel like their manager genuinely cares about them/their performance at work. TouchBistro found that only 39 percent of restaurants are investing in professional development opportunities to stay competitive, compared to 43 percent in 2019. Employees actually do want signs of long-term career prospects and manager recognition, such as promotions. Opportunities for professional development and career growth are critical to employee satisfaction and, subsequently, lower turnover rates.” This is beneficial not just for your employees but for the restaurant itself, both financially and operationally. 

Finding Candidates

While it may be tempting to write off today’s workers as unmotivated or disinterested, the nuances are far more complex. This year, with a recession looming, restaurant workers want opportunity and security, but most of all they want quality of life. This means staff must be fully supported in areas where they have not been traditionally. 

But where do you find the best candidates? 

When deciding where to recruit restaurant workers online, many job platforms promise to plaster your jobs across the Web for a fixed price. But do you know what you’re paying for and where it’s going? 

The key here is in understanding the two types of advertising – traditional v. programmatic – and decide which is the best fit for your organization. 

Traditional job advertising allows you to have a fixed budget while using old job data to inform decisions as to where to post your jobs. The only downside is traditional doesn’t track how your job posts are performing on each site, nor do they target job seekers. So, when your budget is declining, your job bids become scarce and can become lost in the sea of the internet. 

Programmatic job advertising takes a profile-driven data approach. It monitors candidate behavior to match the right job seeker to your job listing. It then tracks which sites are gaining the right traffic – turns bids up on the sites that are working and down on the sites that are not. While your budget may not be fixed, it still delivers even higher caliber candidates due to artificially intelligent targeting. 

Positioning is key to job advertising. And knowing where to market may be what sets your hiring apart from your competition. 

It’s also important to put yourself in the mind of your candidate. What do they want? What are their major motivators? As inflation takes hold of the economy, many workers are moving salary and job security to the top of their priority list. Therefore, consider these benefits: 

Higher Wages

This year flexibility and higher wages are far more attractive than promised bonuses or benefits. Data from a recent Talroo Job Predictions Report stated that 62 percent of job seekers said that higher pay would increase their likelihood of accepting an offer, while 53 percent said that flexibility was their top deciding factor.  

In another Talroo study, 80 percent of job seekers were more likely to apply for a job with a transparent salary range. With workers fearing mass layoffs in an uncertain financial landscape, posting salary range puts their mind at ease. To stay competitive, offer at or above market wages and be upfront with your salary expectations/tips. 


Just because restaurant workers can’t work remotely, doesn’t mean you have to disregard flexibility. Instead of one-time bonuses or better benefits, take advantage of controlled shifts and flexible opportunities to meet staff needs. Allow them to have more say and control over their schedules. Night shifts may be best for younger professionals who are looking to make high wages while building their careers. Workers with more home responsibilities may need to take weekday shifts. Regardless of where your scheduling lands, shift flexibility extends far beyond the dining table and highlights the work/life balance your candidates crave. 

Growth and Opportunity

If you want great restaurant hires, don’t simply set their sights on the “now” but instill a vision for tomorrow. Staff training is a powerful retention tool in the service industries. So, for positions that don’t require certifications, offer in-house training or sponsor higher education. By positioning your organization as a place of learning, you’ll ease burnout all while filling the skills gap. With the freedom to move vertically and linearly, your company culture will instill hope – reminding staff why they dedicated their careers to food service in the first place.  

The High Price of Hiring

When short-staffed and under stress, hiring can come at a high price – and there are multiple components to the cost. To better understand ROI when hiring and determining salary, compare these three metrics: 

Cost of Vacancy  

While it varies by industry, the cost of vacancy (COV) can be estimated by dividing ‘company revenue per employee’ by ‘number of annual workdays (220)’. This gives you the average revenue produced by an employee daily.  

Just note that it’s difficult to measure the negative impact open roles have on productivity. It adds to burn out by disintegrating team morale, which makes it even harder to tie a monetary value to these metrics.   

Cost of a Bad Hire 

The U.S. Department of Labor puts the cost of a bad hire at up to 30% of the employee’s first year wages. That means, if you hire an employee for $70,000 a year, the employer expense could be as high as $21,000. These factors include lost productivity and damage to your reputation as a quality care provider.  

Cost to Hire 

According to the Brandon Hall Group, “the average cost to hire an essential worker is $340, and for organizations with 1,000 employees or less, the cost is $670.” 

Final Tips to Gain and Retain 

Smart job titles in your job postings is new and groundbreaking in the talent marketplace. They allow you t ouse recruitment analytics to check your job’s reach along with the best-performing job titles and descriptions. You also have the ability to track your job posting progress, edit the description and manage budget. These titles give you the ability to vet and select candidates from the get-go and ensure you reach top restaurant talent fast.   

But most of all, consider a culture shift. Kitchen, wait staff, and hostesses are prime examples of professionals who turn service into an artform. They’re trained to prioritize others, no matter the cost — and while this can make for great service, it also can cause burnout and damage the trajectory of your employees’ careers. It’s vital that your staff feel supported and that they have the freedom to voice concerns – because the days of zero flexibility are behind us. Show job applicants that your workplace embraces individuality, growth and well-being.