Tips for Tackling Staffing Issues

May 24, 2021

By Rita Imerson – Operations & Training Consultant


Across the country, we’re hearing from operators about how challenging it is to hire and recruit. The market for employees is more competitive than it ever has been, and this is in conjunction with the re-opening of our industry that we’ve all been anxiously anticipating. It’s clear there are many reasons for this labor shortage, but whatever the cause, our industry will once again need to pivot and strategize to be competitive when it comes to hiring and retention. We recently posted the following question in several industry-specific social media groups to find out exactly what employees are looking for when job searching:


“If you were looking for a job, what kind of hiring post would motivate you to apply? What kinds of things would it offer? What would it say? What do you want in a job that would make you want to stay there long term?”


Restaurant training programs

Some common responses were:


  • Living wage/higher pay
  • Benefits (PTO) and health insurance
  • Flexible schedule options along with a set schedule
  • Automatic gratuity (FOH employees)
  • Shared gratuity to BOH (BOH employees)
  • No “clopens”
  • Good work/life balance
  • Mental health support
  • Good management that treats employees with respect


These responses are not surprising, but this is a good time to evaluate what you can offer and what your culture is like to improve both recruitment and retention if you have not already.

In addition to closely and honestly looking at your working environment, we recommend the following strategies for hourly employee recruitment:

  • Post a clear and authentic job ad. You want to avoid sounding like every other restaurant hiring post. Make sure what you say is to the point and what job seekers want to hear. For example, instead of writing “we treat each other like family,” write “we have a set policy that all employees can request one weekend off every two months.” Post clear information about compensation. Tipped employees will be looking for exactly what they can expect to make in gratuity, how much they distribute to other positions, and how they receive that gratuity (still paying tips in cash – or paying out tips once per week instead of biweekly – include that info!). Also, think about a catchy heading that will encourage people to click on your post. Something like “Want to be able to take a full weekend off every eight weeks – IN A RESTAURANT JOB!! You can do that here!”
  • Brainstorm any benefits of the job that sets you apart. Things like: no late nights or early mornings, closed all major holidays, free food when you work and 50% off when you dine on your day off, stylish and comfortable uniforms, weekly contests with cash prizes.
  • Consider video or phone interviews as a first contact. This will help you screen employees with the potential of fewer “no shows.”
  • Offer referral bonuses to current employees.
  • Use your social media to promote your fun workplace. Are you on TikTok? Ensure people in your hiring demographic can actively see how fun it is to work at your operation.
  • Also, don’t forget that Gen Z is a much more casual and laid-back generation. You may not be able to evaluate them on the “old rules.” Texting communication, a casual appearance, and youthful mannerisms are standard. It would be best if you didn’t rule out potential hires based on generational habits.


To improve retention, think about ways to engage your current team better. What can you do to make their work-life more enjoyable, so you keep the employees you DO have? The best way to find out is to engage in one-on-ones and allow for an open and honest two-way discussion. Make sure they know you’re listening by taking notes and then follow up a week or two later on the things you discussed.


In addition to the above strategies, hiring outreach may be a good tactic. Contact local high schools and colleges and see how you can reach their students. Summer is coming, and many students may be looking for a part-time job. Are there any local community organizations that support people in need? Make sure they have the list of your open positions.


And don’t forget, the most crucial part of hiring is onboarding and training! New hires will make immediate decisions once they start, and they may be fielding offers from multiple places. It’s important they feel valued and feel that the operation is organized and committed to doing what it promised during the interview process. Conduct a thorough orientation, providing all new hire information and a tour and introductions to the team. Ensure they get a full training schedule and understand exactly what’s expected of them during training. Check-in with them daily and review their training progress. Once they have completed training, make sure they feel supported and encouraged to ask questions and keep learning!