Hiring Quickly (But Safely) as Dining Demand Picks Up

Restaurants are filling up again, but hiring and retaining employees in the midst of a national workforce shake-up remains an uphill battle. There are several talent acquisition strategies you can apply to make your hiring process quicker and more efficient without compromising your brand, workplace culture, or the safety of your employees and customer base. 

Take a Modernized Approach to Attract and Engage Talent 

With staff in short supply as millions of Americans continue to quit their jobs, restaurants looking to ramp up hiring for the busy season are faced with an ultra-competitive hiring market. Recently the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job openings in the hospitality industry increased by 130 percent in 2021, with over 1.7 million positions opening up in the month of December alone. 

In Sterling’s annual leadership survey on hiring and retention trends in hospitality, we found that many businesses are leveraging similar tactics to overcome the competition. Hiring initiatives like raising wages, highlighting workplace culture, and introducing employee referral programs are being utilized across the industry. However, this uniformity begs the question: are restaurants overlooking alternative, more effective strategies that might help them truly stand out? 

One emerging approach some restaurants are implementing is the utilization of modern technology to improve the candidate experience. For example, 25 percent of our survey respondents said they had integrated tools like mobile-friendly job postings and applications into their hiring strategy. This could point to a missed opportunity for other restaurants, not only to speed up hiring efforts, but to become more competitive by offering candidates a modernized and uniquely accommodating experience that encourages them to take the next step in the hiring process. These technology tools are widely available and easy to implement, and fully-integrated platforms exist for creating a seamless, constantly engaging candidate journey from application to onboarding. 

Thorough and Efficient Background Checks Build Trust, Safety, and Authentic Cultures 

It’s no secret that employees have high expectations when it comes to workplace safety. While comprehensive health and safety regulations have certainly cooled down since the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic, restaurants should still expect that many candidates will be seeking a workplace that goes above and beyond when it comes to protecting their health and well-being. 

But staying on top of pandemic-related safety requirements while still trying to hire quickly can lead to restaurants overlooking other critical safety measures, such as identity verification and background checks. In the most extreme cases, restaurants seeking to avoid delays in hiring (often related to inefficient screening processes) may decide to forego background checks altogether, and this puts both employees and leadership in an unnecessarily vulnerable position. 

In order to avoid this potentially costly mistake, it might help to examine the business and workplace safety benefits of adopting modern background check and identity verification technology. In addition to providing a safe environment while avoiding the usual delays of drawn-out screening processes, background checks offer much more detailed insights into a candidate’s potential criminal history and experience. Such an approach can lead not only to a faster, safer hiring experience for everyone involved, but can also boost retention by revealing a more thorough picture of how a candidate fits into the overall company culture. 

Reevaluate Your Retention Strategy 

Finally, high turnover rates have been uniquely troubling for the restaurant industry. In 2021, the US saw a 32 percent increase in employees quitting their hospitality jobs, well above the 25 percent increase across all industries. As restaurants move to hire quickly this season, those which don’t also implement a thoughtful and effective retention strategy may risk falling into a vicious cycle of worker churn. 

To identify the right retention strategy, it's important to be mindful of why workers are leaving their jobs in the first place. Naturally, some of the top reasons are intuitive, such as employees seeking higher pay, better benefits, and more opportunities to advance in their careers. However, in a recent study by Qualtrics on reimagining workplace trends after the pandemic, many hospitality workers also expressed an interest in businesses stepping up employee engagement efforts and increasing their focus on the overall employee experience. 

Importantly, many restaurants won’t immediately be able to raise wages or offer advancement opportunities, and therefore might benefit from focusing solely on unique benefits they can provide to make their business stand out. In this case, consider initiatives such as creating a positive work environment, promoting diversity and inclusion, and boosting engagement through top-performer recognition and team-building exercises. The better you position your company as one which cares about its employees, the faster you can expect candidates to line up outside the door. 

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.