The Restaurant Renaissance: Competing for Labor

The Restaurant Renaissance Competing for Labor with talent acquisition tech

With over 110K restaurant closures and 2.5 million job losses, hospitality was devastated by COVID-19. But as businesses open up, restrictions are lifted, and vaccines roll out, we’ve quickly found ourselves in a Restaurant Renaissance.

But the Restaurant Renaissance is a double-edged sword.

While it’s incredibly heartening to see so many fresh job openings, restaurants are struggling to find employees to fill those roles.

Labor is currently one of the largest challenges facing hospitality businesses as displaced workers move onto new industries or prioritize unemployment benefits over facing the public. And because there are so many job openings, workers that remain in hospitality have the flexibility to move to a different, more favorable position — perhaps at a competitor.

Companies are being forced to increase their efforts to attract and retain employees as the industry continues to recover. As a result, mass-hiring events have skyrocketed.

Taco Bell recently had its fourth annual Hiring Party event on April 21st spanning approximately 2,000 units across the country. The brand had a goal to hire more than 5,000 employees. In addition to this hiring event, Taco Bell also announced plans to expand benefits and PTO for general managers.

Chipotle followed suit, expanding its benefits package and now offers debt-free degrees to eligible employees, building on its existing debt-free degree program. This approach has proved successful, with Chipotle noting that employee retention rates are 3.5x higher for students enrolled in its Cultivate Education program. 

IHOP announced a National Recruiting Day to be held on May 19th where the brand plans to hire at least 10,000 employees.

With these massive hiring initiatives, hospitality businesses will need a lot of competitive firepower to keep up. And while these are all fantastic ways to entice candidates and existing employees, the best strategy is to supplement these efforts with an all-in-one HCM platform to highlight the employee experience.

Applicant-facing technology to stand out from competitors

Although we’re undergoing a Restaurant Renaissance, candidate dropoff in hospitality is high. If the application process to apply for a line cook position takes over 5 minutes, a significant portion of candidates will fail to complete the application in full.

Personalization is another important aspect of applications that is often overlooked — usually because hiring managers don’t have time to engage with every single applicant for every open position. But if dynamic two-way communications with automatic follow-ups and personal touches are key to grabbing (and keeping) candidates’ attention.

Here’s an example of what we mean.

Say John is applying to a line cook position at a restaurant group. The application portal gives him several options based on his location. He completes the application quickly from his phone and is given one screening question: “Do you have at least 5 years of experience working in a kitchen?” John answers yes — he can elaborate on that experience during his interview.

Once the application is complete, John receives a follow-up message, “Hey John, thanks for applying to the Line Cook role in our North St. location! We’d love to have you in for an interview. Please let us know what time you’re available and let us know if you have any questions.”

John provides his availability and asks two questions, “What is the interview dress code? Do I need to take a COVID test before showing up?”

He immediately receives a follow-up message, “You can dress business casual. Please remember to wear PPE. Jane Brown, the restaurant manager, will follow up with you shortly to answer your other question.”

Coordinating interview times, screening applications, answering questions, and flagging interviewers to answer candidate questions is impossible to do in real-time at scale. So how can this be done without slowing down your hiring pipeline? With a humanistic, hospitality-driven conversational AI platform.

The right conversational AI platform captures the candidate’s attention, is engaging, and it encourages them to complete the application process. 

We developed Carri, an AI-driven hiring assistant for this exact reason. Carri humanizes the application process while delivering action-oriented messages that remove talent acquisition friction.

Spread the word

Before we can even think of engaging with candidates, we need to actually find quality applicants. The Restaurant Renaissance’s talent desert makes efficient sourcing a must-have.

In today’s digital world, online presence is just as important as in-person hiring events. Everything from job boards and online ads to QR-code applications and text-to-apply jobs are vital talent acquisition tools.

An all-in-one HCM platform can execute all of the above, and more, to build a diverse candidate pool that fits your business’ specific hiring needs.

Harri’s talent acquisition suite, for example, can be used to blast job openings on any of your preferred job boards, like Indeed or Craigslist. Templated jobs make it easy to quickly push out jobs as new positions open up, and can be customized to fit location, brand, and more.

Here’s where the “all” in “all-in-one” HCM platform comes into play. Applications that come through Harri are automatically pushed into your ATS, and they update in real-time based on a candidate’s interview status. Not only does this streamline administrative hiring processes and eliminate the chance of errors, but it empowers managers to spend more time on the most pressing tasks at hand — like answering a candidate’s question about COVID-19 testing in order to ensure they don’t drop off the hiring funnel.

Remember, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to hiring top talent. Creative talent acquisition initiatives like hiring events, brand awareness, great management, and the employee experience all play critical roles in a hospitality business’ ability to source candidates. An all-in-one HCM platform empowers managers to focus on those by creating an air-tight TA process.

Create a culture that candidate want to work for

Employee cheerleaders, we’ve all seen them before. Think about the last time you’ve seen a company webpage or social media campaign that highlights employees singing praises of their employer and the company culture. They’re even more prominent during the Restaurant Renaissance as brands grapple for top talent.

At Harri, we’re proud to work with brands like Snooze an AM Eatery that is so well-known for being employee-centric brands.  That makes all the difference when attracting quality talent. 

This employee loyalty isn’t built overnight. It comes from brands that listen to employee concerns and feedback, take initiative to deliver what staff wants, and provide internal growth opportunities. 

Technology is another key strategy to providing a great employee experience and embedding culture in every process. This makes the timeclock an invaluable tool.

Why is that?

First and foremost, the timeclock is an excellent way to gauge employee sentiment. As an employee clocks in or out, you can ask them to rate how they’re feeling, the quality of their shift, and more. If an employee flagged a bad shift, managers can reach out to learn the cause why — and potentially reduce turnover in the progress.

The timeclock can also be used to broadcast messages to all team members. Celebrate an employee’s birthday, let the team know about a new team-building initiative, or simply congratulate an employee for clocking in on time for 10 consecutive shifts (an excellent KPI related to employee turnover).

These might seem small, but culture is all in the details. Every small positive act builds up over time, and before you know it, your positive efforts will create a culture that resonates with employees and candidates alike. The result? An employee experience that makes people want to work for your brand.

Tech-driven talent acquisition

The Restaurant Renaissance is in full swing. If you’re not actively taking steps to attract talent, engage candidates, and build an amazing employee experience, you’ll fall behind. Technology to boost these initiatives is proving itself to be a vital tool in the race for talent, and cross-functional initiatives are winning.

See how an all-in-one HCM platform like Harri creates experiences that appeal to candidates, workers, and managers alike.

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