The restaurant industry is booming during the holiday season, and unfortunately, many restaurant owners are struggling to hire staff needed to help during the busy time. This year, you are up against the biggest staffing challenges we’ve ever seen. Where the heck did everyone go? Not only is it difficult to get previous employees to return, it’s like looking for needles in a haystack to find NEW potential employees.

Build A Perpetual Motion System

Now Hiring - Crossed out to say Always Hiring

The only way you can combat these unprecedented staffing shortages is to ALWAYS be hiring. Your system needs to be in perpetual motion, always attracting new candidates, always booking interviews, always taking the best people you can find.

You can’t afford to take your foot off the gas. You always need to be looking for that next superstar employee who will add sales, take a burden off your shoulders, someone you can promote from within, who you can trust if you want to take time off, and maybe eventually sell the business to when you’re ready.

You might set out to hire seasonal staff for the upcoming holiday season, but if a superstar appears, you want to be prepared to keep them past the holidays.

In a perfect world, you’ll have a file of potential applicants that you can go to and call on when you are in need. But in these extraordinary times, when you are desperate for staff and find a good one, you make room for them, especially right now.

Don’t turn anyone down because you think you have enough people in the position they are hiring for. It’s better to have too many people than not enough, find another opportunity for them, cross-train them, and don’t wait until the right position comes available

Hiring is a Marketing Challenge

Just like new customer acquisition, your funnel always needs to be filling with new leads. You must spend time and resources to get good people to work for you, even though it is hard to carve out time during what is likely your busiest time. Even after we get past the situation we are currently in, the challenge of finding staff will never go away, and successful businesses are always recruiting.

Right now, the scales are skewed towards lots of demand with little supply. But there is hope. With the technology available today, a lot of the processes can become automated, saving you time and always be working for you.

The Abc’s Of Marketing For Staff

Basic marketing principles apply here, just like they do for attracting customers. The same three steps apply to marketing for prospective employees, Locate, Attract, and Entice.

Locating The Right People

The restaurant industry is hiring like crazy during the holidays. It puts you in a tough spot because you need to find employees quickly but also want to make sure that you find the right person for the restaurant before your competition does, and it’s not just other restaurants.

However, don’t be tempted to settle for someone who doesn’t really meet your needs in order to get a full roster. That’s not fair to your current team members, it will only add to their work loads. It’s key that you don’t fall into the trap of hiring whoever walks through your door, even though they might only be filling the position as a temporary worker for seasonal hiring.

Consider the specifics needed. But conversely, don’t restrict yourself by rigid standards for each position. You might be surprised by how well your restaurant can function with different combinations of restaurant staff.

Decide how many and for what positions the restaurant staff you will need to hire during the holiday season. It is vital that you do not underestimate this number; hiring too few people could result in a negative impact on the restaurant, such as food and service delays or lower customer satisfaction levels. Hiring too many or poor-quality candidates means you are wasting time and money. When you know what you are looking for makes it easier to approve or reject candidates.

The good news is that two-thirds of Americans ages 16 to 34 intend to search for temporary seasonal work this holiday season. To beat out all the other businesses vying for the same candidates and to avoid adding stress to the already busy season, you need to work smarter, not harder.

How can you help seasonal workers succeed? Identify what roles your restaurant will lack after accommodating for your regular staff taking some well-deserved time off for Thanksgiving, the winter holidays, and the New Year. Ask your regular staff, who’ve been with you long term, about their plans early so you have plenty of time to make a new schedule and get a clear idea of what positions will need to be filled. The sooner you put out job postings, the better candidates you’ll get answering the call.

Hiring seasonal workers isn’t like hiring for permanent positions, even though in this climate, they can become permanent. Prioritize flexibility and availability on busy holidays and in the evening. Make sure college students’ schedules line up with your needs since there are no uniform timetables regarding finals. Oftentimes, temporary restaurant positions get filled by people who become your most loyal employees. This is a great way to get more workers on board and can help your restaurant gain popularity with its staff.

Getting the Message To The Right People

When you know what types of people you are looking for, then you can get your hiring message in front of them in as many ways as possible. Make sure you have an eye-catching headline and include all the benefits of choosing you as an employer. We’ve seen huge success with these options, and you should be using them all.

  • Google Paid Ads – On Google you can target your ideal employee within a set geographical area of searchers using keywords and the specific benefits of choosing you as their employer. It’s important that your ad appears in the top (first page) of results, so keeping track of how much you pay Google to stay above those recruiting sites is key.
  • Social Media- FB Boosted Posts – Your potential staff are on social media, and Facebook, Instagram, Tik-tok – are all useful platforms to find staff. Facebook is ideal because you can narrow your ad down to target your geographic area, age, interests, and other Facebook pages like schools or clubs.
  • Get Your Customers To Recruit – Your customers could be the best source of leads for you, but they need to know you are hiring. Take advantage of this captive audience by putting your message everywhere in house. They want you to do well, and they want you to have great staff. Give them a way to help.
  • Use Your Staff To Get More Staff – Your existing staff wants to work with other great people with similar qualities who they can trust to get the job done and carry their own weight. They may know friends or other servers, bartenders, cooks in the industry that would be happy to relocate. Make sure you put a referral program in place – if they bring you a great potential candidate that you hire, it’s important that they be recognized for their efforts.
  • Email Existing Customers – A dedicated email to your customer list is the number one way that we’ve tested to get new employees. Most of the people on your list aren’t going to be looking for a restaurant job, but they know people. This works so well because you don’t have to cross-media, there’s a link in the email directly to the application page, and they can forward the email to anyone with the click of a button.
  • Print Postcards – Direct mail is always a valuable tool. The USPS offers an inexpensive way to deliver postcards in selected zip codes called Every Door Direct Mail that can be delivered into the neighborhoods you establish as the most likely to have your potential candidates living. And since postcards are easily passed from hand to hand – it can cover a lot of ground.

All the methods you use, and you should be using them all, need to have a simple way to access your online application. Printed material can use a QR code that is readable with a smartphone, online resources with a clickable link, both of which lead to your application. These work well for driving new staff to fill out the application and come in for the interview with little effort on your part.

Attracting The Right Candidates

Think of attracting staff alike dating. You want to put your best foot forward, showing potential candidates how you are different (better) than your competition. Your challenge is to stand out among the herd of businesses all competing for the same employees. You need to have a U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition) for hiring.

What Makes You Better?

When creating copy to put in your job ads, be creative enough to differentiate yourself from the other restaurant in the market. If you do not make a conscious effort to distinguish yourself, it’s likely that you will not be able to compete with the other restaurant in the area.

The best way to figure this out is to ask your current employees. Why do they like to work at your business, what makes it a great job, what makes it better than the other restaurants nearby? You only need to come up with one or two sentences that explain why you are the better employer to choose.

When you are talking to your existing staff, learn a little about them outside of work. If you want more people like them, this will help you know who and where to look for those people. What social media sites do they spend time on, how far do they drive to get to you, or do they rely on public transit? Are they in school? Do they have kids? Chances are there are commonalities among your best employees that you can use to search for new candidates.

Entice Them In

This is one area where technology will become your new best friend. So much of the hiring process can be systematized to eliminate your involvement until it’s time for the important task of interviewing and reviewing all the applicants.

Your job postings should be everywhere. In-house, Facebook, Google paid ads, in local papers, online job boards at campuses, in your marketing to your customers and with your existing employees. And it needs to be EASY for your potential candidate to apply – we highly recommend a QR code (or a clickable link on emails) that leads directly to your online application.

Your application needs to be online- no ifs, ands, or buts. The days of bringing in a resume or filling out a paper application are gone. It needs to collect all the pertinent information you need to reiterate why you are the best place to work and offer the candidate some insight into who you are. If you can include testimonials from existing staff members, you get bonus points.

And the biggest enticement is letting them know what’s in it for them. Are you offering hiring bonuses? Staff meals? One weekend off a month? Bus passes? Whatever it is that is a benefit to being hired by you needs to be clearly spelled out here. These are the lures that will encourage them to apply.

It’s also important to set clear intentions about what the seasonal job entails and the time commitment that you expect. It’s key to be willing to be flexible with shifts, but it’s also important that people know the schedules that they will have to work within and when the season might end. If you only plan on hiring them for a few weeks or a few months, they need to know.

Once they submit the application, it needs to lead them directly to an online calendar where they can choose an interview time. The technologies these days makes it easy for you to only offer the windows of time that you want to set aside for interviewing. Grouping interviews into pockets of time streamlines the process and doesn’t take away from the other projects you are working on.

We talked a lot more about creating this system for all of you hiring in a previous blog post – “How To Solve Your Staffing Challenges In 3 Steps.” It’s worth checking out the essential information for restaurant owners and managers to ensure you hire the right employees and maximize your productivity during this busy time of year.

Train Them Well

Training restaurant staff during the holidays can be tricky. It’s important to set expectations for employees to know what they are expected to do during their shift so they can’t get overwhelmed by the amount and type of work that they will be doing. It will be helpful for restaurant managers and owners to meet with restaurant staff before they start to discuss restaurant operations in detail, so they know what to expect.

Make sure you provide any new restaurant staff with clear instructions on how the restaurant operates during peak hours and festive periods. In addition to this, it may be necessary for restaurant managers and restaurant owners to sit down and go through the restaurant’s operations in detail with new employees before they start working so that everyone knows what is expected from them. Consider cross-training temporary workers so they can fill in for their longer-term co-workers in more than one capacity.

This is a great time to get all the restaurant staff involved and invested in the restaurant’s productivity. Providing employees with perks such as increased holiday pay, extra hours, time off or free meals can keep morale high and encourage restaurant workers to put their best foot forward during this busy season.

Hiring restaurant staff during the holidays can be a challenge. For restaurant owners, hiring seasonal employees is difficult because they only need to work for a short period of time and it’s hard to find qualified people who are available at that moment in time. Having a system in place that is always soliciting new applicants and booking interviews is the key to success. If all this sounds overwhelming for you as restaurant manager or owner, our team would love to help! We specialize in helping you create a staffing system that will run on autopilot for you, so you can focus on the rest of the busy holiday season in your restaurant.

To get detailed information with examples of how to become fully staffed in 45 days or less, watch the replay of our webinar-
“Solve Your Staffing Challenges In 3 Easy Steps”

View The Webinar Replay
Michael Thibault
Michael Thibault

Michael Thibault

Known as “The Done For You Marketing Guy for Restaurants.” International Speaker on Restaurant Marketing. Published contributing author of 4 Marketing Books. Industry expert on Google Searches and Review Sites. Recovering Independent Restaurant Owner and Caterer of over 21 years. And, all-around good guy.

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