Are your restaurant’s wages competitive?

By Matt Parkin

In the restaurant industry, attracting and retaining talented staff is a constant challenge. With lots on the go, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing things the way they’ve always been done, but that’s not always the path to success. Many employers list “competitive compensation” in job postings, but are you actually paying your employees competitively?

Along with the speed of your hiring process, one significant factor that can make or break your ability to secure top talent is your restaurant’s wages, which also contributes to employee turnover and your level of retention. In this article, we’ll dive into the importance of pay transparency, take a look at average compensation data, and explore strategies to improve the competitiveness of your opportunities.

Maintaining pay transparency

Pay transparency is a critical aspect of the candidate experience and can significantly impact your ability to attract qualified candidates. According to FindWRK’s Picture of The Hourly Workforce report, job seekers consider the inclusion of wages as the best way to improve the candidate experience. When you’re competing with thousands of other employers, leaving out wages or mentioning “competitive compensation” won’t help you stand out.

By being transparent about wages upfront, you demonstrate your commitment to fair compensation practices, build trust with candidates, and ensure that applicants who apply are genuinely interested in the offered wages.

Keeping tabs on current market rates

To provide you with a benchmark for wage competitiveness, here are some of the current wage ranges for active campaigns across several restaurant roles in Ontario:

Cooks: $17 to 30 per hour

Dishwashers: $16 to 19 per hour

Servers: $15.50 to 25 per hour

Bartenders: $20 to 30 per hour

These ranges reflect the current market conditions and provide insight into the wages that candidates may expect for these roles. It’s important to assess your restaurant’s wage structure in relation to these ranges to ensure you are competitive and attractive to potential candidates.

Aligning wages and expectations

Aligning wages with expectations is crucial for efficiently attracting and retaining talent. If you’re paying $17 per hour for someone with three years of experience, while another restaurant is paying that for an entry-level role, you may have a difficult time finding the experience you’re looking for. It’s important to be realistic about your wage budget and what you can afford to pay while also considering the expectations of candidates.

Many businesses think it’s better for the bottom line to keep hourly wages as low as possible, but investing in employees can bring increased motivation, innovation, and loyalty your business needs to thrive. If you’re seeking candidates with several years of experience but can’t afford to pay premium wages, consider being open to training individuals who show potential. If they have quick service experience, why not take a chance on them for your full-service role? Investing in training can be a cost-effective way to develop your team and create a skilled workforce that aligns with your budget.

Exploring alternative forms of compensation

If you’ve realigned your expectations and don’t have room to increase wages, there are alternate forms of compensation that can enhance your restaurant’s appeal to potential candidates. Growth opportunities, such as career advancement and skill development programs can be enticing for candidates seeking long-term growth in the industry.

Additionally, offering schedule flexibility or other perks, such as employee discounts, healthcare benefits, or retirement plans, can help compensate for lower wage ranges. These additional benefits can make your compensation package more competitive and attractive to candidates.

Moving ahead

Ensuring that your restaurant’s wages are competitive is essential for attracting and retaining top talent in the industry. By embracing pay transparency and including wages in job postings, you provide candidates with crucial information upfront and improve their candidate experience. While money isn’t everything, the high cost of living makes it an important factor for today’s employees, so make sure to watch the market to keep your compensation competitive. By implementing these strategies, you can position your restaurant as an employer of choice and quickly attract the skilled staff needed for success in the highly competitive restaurant industry.

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