labour market

5 strategies for your restaurant in today’s labour market

By Matt Parkin

It’s not easy being a general manager or a head chef and dealing with supply chain shortages, rising food and menu prices, and a tight labour market.

Here are five strategies to help you fill your open positions faster so you can focus on other important aspects of your role.

Level your expectations

With the recent minimum wage increase to $15.50 per hour in Ontario, some restaurants are offering $16 per hour and looking for line cooks with two to three years of experience. In today’s labour market, it may be tough to find someone with that much experience who’s willing to work for $16 per hour, or to go through the adjustment of joining a new company for that wage, unless they’re moving to a new city. With the large demand for kitchen staff, they’ll likely be able to find a competitor who is paying them what they’re worth.

With this reality, there are a few options. One is to increase the hourly wage for hard-to-fill positions to attract a higher-calibre talent pool. An alternative is to keep the low hourly wage and take on new talent who are eager to learn and willing to be trained. Consider the time and effort you and your team will put into training the new person and compare that to the cost of paying a higher wage to decide which option makes the most financial sense.

RELATED: Higher wages may help address the foodservice labour shortage

Differentiate your job description

Every restaurant says they’re a great place to work. When there are 30 different server job postings on a job board, what about your job description will make an applicant choose you over your competitors?

Offering unique or value-added perks can help you get ahead of the game in the labour market. For example, one restaurant group started offering housekeeping and laundry services to their staff this year. This helped reduce fatigue for their staff and kept them energized, committed, and smelling good when on-shift. Another company offered to cover employee Ubers home after late-night shifts for their staff. Whatever you choose as a differentiating factor, including something unique in your job descriptions is a great way to stand out to potential applicants.

Tap into new talent pools

If your existing job boards, hiring signs and career fairs aren’t working, try exploring new talent pools.

Reaching out to local charities, non-profits, schools, or sports teams to see if their members are interested in your roles is a great way to meet people where they’re at instead of waiting for them to come to you. Consider having your current staff make fun and engaging TikTok videos about their roles during their shifts to encourage others to come and work for you. 

Automatically extend interview offers

Bad hires are costly. A bad hire can cost 30 per cent of that employee’s first-year earnings or even more than that. This is because some expenses are hard to quantify. These can include reductions in customer service quality and team morale, and elevated stress on top of the time and money spent re-hiring, onboarding, and training a replacement. All that said, just because you want to make a good hire, doesn’t mean you need to take a long time to hire them. In this candidates’ market, a slow hiring process may result in candidates turning to other roles.

To get ahead of this, strive to schedule interviews within 24 to 48 hours of a candidate applying, especially for lower-skilled or entry-level roles where they are likely applying to many different roles at the same time. Using technology to automatically offer interviews to interested candidates can be a great way to save you time and bring a human-centric approach to technology implementation.

Proactively reach out to candidates

Finding a way to balance efficiency with putting the jobseeker first is the path of the future. A great way to do this is to proactively reach out to candidates about your roles instead of having them apply to job postings. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes; would you rather apply to hundreds of jobs or receive an inquiry from an employer who wants you to work with them before you even apply? It’s a great feeling when someone wants you, so jobseekers will feel special and valued, becoming more likely to reply to you and show up to interviews.

Using technology and platforms with external talent pools or systems where you can re-engage with former job applicants is essential to proactively reach out to candidates and keeping your brand top of mind when candidates are looking for new roles.

Matt Parkin is the Business Development Lead at FindWRK. He helps employers quickly connect with hourly employees without needing a job posting.