MRM EXCLUSIVE: Attracting Restaurant Employees in the Gig Economy

Uber’s recent entry into the public stock market (and news of Postmates’ upcoming IPO) solidified what’s become increasingly apparent for traditional employers: The gig economy is booming.

The independence and autonomy offered by app-driven “gigs” have drawn workers away from more traditional jobs, forcing restaurants to find ways to replenish their vanishing workforce. With 36 percent of U.S. workers now involved in the gig economy, it’s clear that the ability to create your own schedule and communicate through digital platforms act as powerful employee recruiters.

Working-hour constraints and the need for employees’ physical presence limit restaurants’ ability to mimic some of  the perks of malleable “gigs.” Still, businesses can implement policies and technology solutions that stop the exodus of workers to these nontraditional work arrangements. Here are four ways your restaurant can better compete for talent with gig jobs touting freedom and flexibility:

Shift Scheduling Responsibilities to Employees

Both restaurants and workers agree: scheduling is a pain. Covering shifts is a widespread problem among businesses managing part-time employees, no matter the industry – 62 percent of retail managers have had employees quit because of scheduling conflicts. Restaurants can combat this persistent issue by introducing a centralized, self-service shift-management platform.


Through this technology, businesses grant workers greater autonomy, giving them the ability to input work availability, pick up open shifts, and swap shifts in an open shift marketplace. While not fully replicating the “punch in when you want” ethos of the gig economy, this approach provides employees more of a chance to customize their hours which contributes to higher job satisfaction and retention.

Simulate 'Gig' Ideas

To win back millennials and younger workers fleeing traditional restaurant jobs, businesses need to get creative. How can you infuse “gig economy” elements into your standard operations? One way is to make shifts  available across your organization. For instance, if you have multiple locations within a short distance, you can allow employees to sign up for shifts at any of them. This practice offers greater flexibility while also increasing the internal labor pool across the cluster of restaurants.


Moving workforce management and communication to mobile platforms is another way to borrow from the gig economy, enabling employees to complete administrative tasks on their own time and remain connected outside of your physical location.

Embrace Personal Devices

The gig economy has spread, in large part, due to the ubiquity of smartphones. Restaurants and retailers, however, have been slower to latch on to the mobile wave. While some employers are hesitant to change gears and implement “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies, it’s becoming harder to ignore their omnipresence. Now that over three-fourths of Americans own a smartphone, embracing the technology has become a clear strategic advantage.


BYOD policies help you facilitate stronger employee engagement and implement management solutions like digital workplace platforms. By connecting with your staff on a platform where they feel comfortable, you can develop stronger relationships and quickly alert employees to changes in policy or operations. Only eleven percentof workers in the hospitality industry have an aversion to using personal devices at work – suggesting that avoiding BYOD programs is a detriment to the workforce. Switch to a digital employee management and operations program to alleviate these concerns and streamline the way you relay information.

Focus on Communication

A lack of communication between corporate leaders, managers, and workers quickly causes internal relationships to deteriorate – creating a domino effect that wreaks havoc on productivity and employee engagement. Building regular, direct forms of communication with restaurant workers is crucial for creating a healthy, effective workplace. By looping employees into business announcements or updating them on upcoming changes, you make them feel like an important part of the company and deepen their investment.


While it has many inherent advantages, the gig economy can’t compete with a well-connected, communicative restaurant environment. In these situations, employees are able to establish communities and support networks not attainable through app-based employment. Better communication also impacts your bottom line, as workers are encouraged to submit practical feedback that can streamline processes and improve customer experiences. Through digital workplace platforms, you’re able to more effectively interface with restaurant employees, keeping them engaged while reducing down turnover.

With jobs in the gig economy boasting unprecedented employee independence and flexibility, it often appears difficult or impossible to compete as a traditional restaurant. However, you don’t need to overhaul your business model to stack up – small changes can be enough to retain workers and pique the interest of new candidates. Altering your operations to embrace digital solutions shows employees you care, improves your restaurant’s productivity and helps you compete with the new wave of flashy “gigs.”