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7 Ways to Creatively Staff Your Restaurant

hiring leadership Mar 22, 2019

How has this year treated you and your restaurant? How has your quest to find staff been?

If you are like the majority of restaurants, it’s been a big challenge. Here’s the bad news, it’ll probably will not get much better in the coming year.

But don’t get all sad about it just yet. There are some innovative and creative ways to get new staff to come to your restaurant.

You’re going to need to have an open mind and a commitment to taking action to see these ideas through. That’s the keyword to finding staff...action. Most talk a good game about attracting staff, but only a few actually follow through.

This is good news for the restaurant that is willing to make recruiting a priority. While others sit back and accept the labor market as being a challenge, innovative restaurants see this as a time to stand out. As Shakespeare so eloquently put it, “nothing is neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” There is as much of a labor crunch as you buy into.

  • Think people are lazy? You will attract lazy people.

  • Think everyone steals? You will have thieves.

  • Think people are dumb? You will have staff that reflects your limited beliefs.

Come to the table with the mindset of expecting the best from others and not the worst. Yes, being in this industry can make people jaded and cynical. If (and it’s a big if) you want to be that way. Defy the norm. Challenge the bullshit rules that others accept. Have a game plan to change how you are looking at staffing.

To help you break free from the pack of mediocrity, here are seven creative (and controversial) ways to challenge your hiring mindset.

1. Start playing offense and less defense

Actively recruiting talent must be a top priority when hiring in the coming year! You can no longer sit back, post a few help wanted ads on the internet and “hope” some people apply. Hope is NOT a strategy you want to invest in. Invest in taking action!

Get on social media and network like your business depends on it because it does. Connect with people and ask for referrals. Message people and ask if they are looking for an opportunity. You need to play offense and stop hanging back waiting for qualified applicants to come to you.

This year, you’ll need to be a little more aggressive in pursuing top talent.

2. Tap into the “gig economy”

There is a new culture out there that wants to work very flexible shifts. Welcome to what is known as the "gig economy." A flexible workforce that seeks employment on their terms. Now before you dismiss this route, take a look at some of the gaps in your schedule.

Are gig workers the solutions for long-term success? Probably not. However, in conjunction with other tools, they do offer some relief to an industry that is struggling to fill positions.

Banquet servers, service assistants, utility personnel, and event bartenders are potential positions that you could tap into for gig work. The upside is those seeking gig work are not full-time employees of your establishment so you avoid many of the extra costs associated with employment. The downside is that many are not invested into your brand as a full-time employee might be so the chances of them not showing for a shift does escalate.

3. Look towards older generations

As people realize that their little nest egg for retirement might not be a big as they thought, many are returning to the workforce. Now, before you snub the idea of having your dad work in your restaurant, take a look at the strengths that many older generations offer.

They were brought up to respect hard work. While some of the younger generations seek the buzzword of “life balance,” Gen X and Baby Boomers actually like to work and they work hard.

Baby Boomers in particularly live to work. They are of the mindset that you work for a company until it’s time to retire from there. Dedication is a virtue they embellish.

Gen Xers are known to work to live. This generation will work hard for the nice house, car, and luxury vacations. They are not scared of working hard if they can get what they want. They show up for the reward and the perks.

4. Skip the millennials

For all the hype millennials get at being the “me generation” they aren’t that bad. Yes, they get some stereotype bashing on social media. Yes, some of it probably is accurate. However, every generation has its strengths and its flaws. It depends on what you are willing to tolerate.

Maybe it’s time to focus on the newest generation entering the workforce and that is Gen Z? These young and rising powerhouse workers are designed for a fast pace environment and quick cognitive reflexes (just watch them play a multiplayer video game.) They want to learn and are quick at accessing information from the internet (mostly via YouTube videos.)

They are just starting to turn 21 and are a prime resource if you know how to recruit them. That means your culture is going to need to be hip and cool.

You’re going to need to know what you stand for (called core values) and want to be a part of something bigger than just your restaurant (think community.) The best way to attract them is to showcase your team having fun and making a difference through your social media.

5. Tap into the veteran pool

With the rising numbers of military veterans returning from deployment, you have a very capable potential teammate looking for ways to integrate back into civilian life. Why not help out a vet and your business at the same time?

No matter what your stance is on the military, you should take a look at these potential candidates. They are highly trained in a variety of skills. They take orders well. They exhibit discipline. They are respectful. They are self-motivated.

Contact your local Veterans Administration Office and see how your restaurant could help some vets reintegrate back into society. It’s a smart move for everyone in your community.

6. Show the world your culture

Looking through most social media feeds you see the same boring posts 95% of the time. A picture of a menu item or a drink from the bar. Zzzzzz.

If you want to attract better talent, then make social media an integrated part of your recruiting plan! If you don’t have a steady stream of people coming to apply at your restaurant then you have done a very poor job of recruiting. You think that people are going to hear about what a fantastic place you are to work at my word of mouth? Get real. Word of mouth has been replaced by world of mouth.

Show your team having fun. Show your chefs creating the weekend features with a video. Showcase your team through fun “did you know” kind of posts that make your team appear as real people (I know that might be a new concept for some.) Celebrate your teammate birthday’s, anniversaries, or kids! Show the world how much you care about your team and they will start to notice.

7. Have a referral program

In an ever growing economy, money sometimes does speak the loudest. It’s a little sad, yet it’s the truth at times. You can resist this or you can make it work for you.

Welcome the 25:25:50 referral program. For every applicant that applies (and gets hired) the referring employee gets $25. If they stay the next 30 days (usually the make it or break it deadline for most) they get another $25. If they stay 90 days (which tells you if they have staying power) and the employee gets another $50. This scale, of course, can be adjusted to meet your needs.

The best tips for a referral program to work are these:

  • It must be followed. You can’t promise to pay people and referral fee and not pay.

  • It must be communicated constantly. You can’t just roll out a new process and have no follow-up communication. That is just stupid to say things one time and expect them to be ingrained into their subconscious. Repetition is the mother of all skills. Repetition is the mother of all skills. Repetition is the mother of all skills. Repetition is the mother of all skills. I think you get the hint.

While the labor challenges are going to be public enemy number one for restaurants in 2019. A smart operator will open their eyes to new ways to actively recruit, hire, train, and retain their talent. The game is going to get too competitive to lose a teammate for lack of doing your duty as a leader.

You’re going to need to play the game to win and not to lose. That means you might have to cut loose the poor performers that are dragging your brand down. Yes, that might seem to be counterintuitive when facing a labor shortage.

The truth is that there are plenty of high-quality employees out there. Those negative energy vampires you hold onto out of fear are just driving away any top talent you might have now or can attract in the future. Energy attracts the same kind of energy: positive attracts positive and of course negative just brings more negative.

Be the leader your team needs and send the negative energy ones down the road to work for your competition. Think of it like legal sabotage. Out with the bad and replaced with the good.

If you follow these seven ways to get creative with your staffing methods then you won’t have to worry about it as much as you have been.

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