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What’s Next for Restaurant Industry Talent Acquisition?

While U.S. restaurants continue to face the challenges brought about by COVID-19, many of the changes of 2020 are here to stay. According to research from Technomic, 40 percent of Americans took advantage of takeout and curbside delivery (at both fast casual and dine-in) during the pandemic. About two-thirds of those stated they would continue using these services even when restrictions are lifted.

While the restaurant industry as a whole is suffering from high unemployment, candidates have options. Restaurant employers who may have furloughed or laid off workers are struggling to cast a net and reach qualified workers to replace those who moved on or have postponed job searches. Because restaurants are facing both seasonal and rebound hiring needs, and recruiting teams have gotten smaller, focusing on how to do more with less in hiring efforts is key.

Safety Protocols and Curbside Delivery Are Here to Stay

“One thing that really stands out in the restaurants that have handled this crisis well are those that make safety a top priority and broadcast what they have done and continue to do in order to keep staff & customers safe. We have hired many staff members in the service industry who have left other jobs because they didn’t feel that their employer did enough to keep them safe. In addition, those that advertise roles that are CURRENT (and not just ‘evergreen’) are seeing significant success. We are constantly adjusting to the changing in-restaurant dining trends, and sometimes it feels like we’re swimming uphill, but that challenge is what keeps us on our toes.” —W Chris Burcham, VP of Client Services, Transworld Advertising.

“As dine-in service dropped due to the shutdown, I’ve seen friends and colleagues have to make significant changes in customer experience and training staff on safety best practices. They are often using an outside service to conduct overnight sanitation and the entire staff is trained to ensure social distancing guidelines are always followed. They’ve also pivoted quickly to curbside delivery and enhanced safety that was essential for them to keep staff on the payroll and ensure the safety of both employees and customers.” —Jim Knight, Culture Expert and Former Hard Rock Cafe Executive.

Related: How we help restaurant and food service companies hire.

Food Supply and Demand is Changing the Restaurant Industry

“With plant-based meat demand continuing to skyrocket through the pandemic (with sales jumping 264% from March-May 2020), due to consumer health and environmental concerns and in part due to supply chain disruptions in the meat industry, the momentum of the plant-based space is clearly only accelerating. This growth and excitement from investors means that hiring will continue to grow in 2021, with a continued focus on R&D as well as business expansion.” —Alyon Steinhart, CEO and Founder of Eclipse Foods.

The Need to Stand Out in a Crowded Market

Many recruiters are hopeful that as the pandemic winds down and business picks up, there will be a surge of new hiring. This would be a good thing for job seekers, who for the past year have faced a downturn in available jobs. With more companies hiring comes more competition, and this is especially important in the crowded food services space. Having a strong brand, offering good benefits, and prioritizing workplace safety will be key to standing apart from your competitors.

“It will be more critical than ever to make sure we have the right talent in the right place in 2021. People are not going to put up with being unhappy in their job after 2020. Organizations will be forced to focus more than ever on organizational fit, culture fit, and finding ways to express how they focus on staff happiness and wellness during the recruiting process more than they ever have before.” —Amanda McNeil, Human Resources Manager, AcctTwo Shared Services, LLC.

Employer Branding More of a Focus As Majority of Recruiting Online

As recruiting continues to stay primarily online, the restaurant industry will continue to streamline their processes and systems but focusing their recruiting activities online. This is more than online events but all marketing and candidate engagement activities are happening online on career sites, online job fairs, virtual interviews, and via social media. In fact, I’ve seen large companies like Taco Bell begin focusing hiring campaigns on using influencers like me experimenting with different online recruitment strategies.

“A trend TA is moving towards is being able to address the emotional part of the job search process. People become resistant to change if they are unsure and 2020 brought a lot of uncertainty to our lives. That won’t go away any time soon in 2021 and will hopefully be less by the end of the calendar year. What can companies do to eliminate that uncertainty from the jobseeker in numerous areas—job postings, employer branding, career site content, video—and make them comfortable in looking for a new job?” —Matt Lozar, Director of Recruitment Marketing at Haley Marketing Group.

It’s important to keep an eye on what larger restaurant chains are doing to bring back and hire staff. While larger chains have more resources for recruiting and advertising at their disposal, what they have all done is learned how to pivot – to delivery and curbside service at the height of the shutdown, for example, and now with safety precautions and hiring efforts. With smaller teams and limited resources, an agile strategy can help support recruiting efforts for restaurants.