A Seasonal Hiring Guide for Restaurants

We all remember our first jobs; usually a summer gig to make a little bit of extra cash while school was out of session.  We can still feel the nervousness of putting in our application and anxiously waiting to hear back about an interview. Then, after securing the job, there was that first day of work and the intimidation of training. Finally, that first paycheck made it all worth it. You’ve dreamed for the past two weeks about what you will spend your hard earned cash on. That is until you rip open that first envelope and confirm with your parents that, yes that really is the right amount of taxes to be taken out. Seasonal jobs are a lot of people’s first introduction into the workforce. But what about the other end of it – that of the employer?  Being on the other end can be just as stressful as being the job seeker.

Hiring seasonal help is often necessary to the restaurant industry. Whether it is for the summer season or the holiday rush, seasonal hires can help businesses handle the extra workload that isn’t present during other times of the year. Being well staffed has its advantages. Your business will be able to easily adjust to the workload fluctuations that come along with the change in seasons. If customer demand increases, a well-staffed restaurant will be able to respond positively and ensure a good customer experience. When restaurants have the right employees and enough employees, customer service goes up along with customer satisfaction and 86% of consumers are willing to pay up to 25% more for a better customer experience.

Don’t forget that having enough seasonal help leads to shorter wait times and faster service; with faster service comes a quicker turnover rate of customers, which in turn leads to higher profits. Finally, offering seasonal help will help to give your full-time employees more flexibility in their schedules during the holidays/summer season. Keeping your regular help happy is crucial in retaining them during the months when you don’t need the seasonal help.

People remember their first job and they also remember if it was a good fit for them or a total disaster.  To ensure that you find yourself in a well-staffed, pleasant work environment this season take a look at a few pieces of advice to help secure the best employees for your restaurant.

  1. Know What You Want

The best way to start your search is with a solid idea of who you need and what you want them to do. Be clear on the responsibilities of the position. Are you looking for previous experience in the industry? Or are you willing to train them completely? Something to keep in mind is that you can always train someone but you cannot adjust their personality to fit your business or to mesh well with your current employees. You want quality over quantity. A few characteristics to be on the lookout for are:

  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Great personality
  • Good customers service
  • Smile, make eye contact, communicate well
  • fits with your full time staff
  • Don’t have a lot of prior commitments
  • Don’t need a lot of time off
  1. Revisit Job Descriptions

It can be tempting to reuse the job descriptions that you created in years previous but don’t. Check your descriptions and requirements for accuracy before posting anywhere. Oftentimes, jobs change over time and you don’t realize how much until the needs aren’t met. Ask any employees currently performing that job for a list of their duties and requirements so you can accurately present the position and reach the best candidates.

  1. Promote the Benefits

Attract the best candidates and convince them that your establishment is a good fit for them by advocating the best parts of your workplace. Is it a fun place to work? Do you offer a discount on meals? Are you willing to work around vacation schedules? Mention perks like that in your job postings or during the interview process to show good candidates why they should choose your business over another. Most potential employees have put in applications to multiple businesses in hopes of being sure to secure a position, so what you put in your description can make all the difference.

  1. Know Your Audience

Who are you looking for and what do they like? If you are looking to hire millennials and iGens in your restaurant maybe look more towards social media to promote you job listings. Chances are that if someone is already a patron of your business and following your social accounts they might be interested in working with you. Especially if you offer a discount on meals! If you are considering hiring retirees perhaps go a more traditional route and put an ad for your job openings in the local paper or on the radio. Also, don’t count out the tried but true tactic of putting a “Now Hiring” sign in your window.

  1. Start Early

It may feel like you have all the time in the world, but summer will be upon you before you even know it. To be safe, start your recruiting process a solid two months in advance of when you need your seasonal employees to start. Keep in mind that your core demographic such as college students and high school students are going to need to make it through finals before they can even think about starting to train in your restaurant.

Starting early will also help you to get the process going before the summer hiring frenzy begins. A lot of college students put in applications during their spring breaks in hopes of securing a summer job.

When hiring, fill in your key positions first. That way you know that you will be covered and not scrambling at the last minute to find only a decent fit for a position that is crucial to your operations.

  1. Be Consistent

As it is with food, consistency is paramount. Make sure that your recruiting processes are consistent across the board. If all employees are required to go through the same experiences you have a better chance of a consistent work environment. Employees also spend a lot of time together talking; you don’t want them to be chatting and realize you hired the neighbor kid on the spot and made them go through 3 different interviews. Save time by having a process in place for interviewing, call backs, and onboarding so that the process can be smooth and efficient.

  1. Mind the Gaps

Once you do have your staff hired, be sure to have a system of checks and balances to track their progress and watch for red flags. Some people can seem like a perfect fit during the interview process but once they join the team they just don’t fit into the natural workflow. It’s not ideal but it does happen and it’s better to know that earlier rather than later when you can’t do much to amend the damage.

With the busier and more lucrative months comes a higher workload level and seasonal hires can be a great way to help distribute the demand. Even though they are temporary employees it is still important to determine if they are a good fit for your business. By starting early, knowing what you want, advertising your openings, and having a consistent hiring process you are on your way to finding seasonal employees that have the potential to mesh with your business and maybe even become a returning and trusted employee. Best of luck in your search!

Save

Hungry For Talent: Strategies For Enticing New Cooks

Line cook in the kitchen.

There is a quiet epidemic in the restaurant industry that very few patrons are aware of – the lack of hireable line cooks. With a new generation being raised on The Food Network everyone entering the restaurant industry wants to be a celebrity chef, but nobody wants to start from the bottom as a line cook.  These shows are not an accurate representation of how much work it takes to get to the top of the restaurant industry as a chef, and especially not the hard work and luck it takes to become a celebrity chef. These shows are creating a divide between the expectations of those entering the industry and the realities of working in a kitchen.

With the uptick in the economy, the number of new restaurants is increasing nationwide but the number of cooks being produced by culinary schools isn’t keeping up with the current demand creating a shortage of employable line cooks that restaurant owners are feeling in their kitchens. With the abundance of jobs, new cooks simply leave looking for better opportunities. Chefs are saying that it is not unusual for a line cook to stay for only a few months before leaving again. Those left behind are the ones feeling the pinch of an understaffed kitchen.

The Deterrents

Many cities are experiencing the shortage of cooks. From New York City to San Francisco, ads are being placed everyday looking for skilled cooks. Part of the issue is the hours. Cooks must be willing to work weekends, nights, and holidays. All times that would normally be spent with family or friends. In the past working grueling hours was the only option for an aspiring chef. Until recently. New options such as food trucks, pop up restaurants (temporary eateries that appear during festivals) and tech companies with cafeterias, can offer better hours, higher pay, and better benefits. Having the career you love and still getting to spend time with loved ones is the dream for any person. Positions offering those opportunities are luring more and more cooks away from the restaurant industry leaving a deficit.

Location can be an issue for many restaurants as well. City life is expensive and the average cook in the United States makes $10-$12 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with those working in large cities being on the higher end of the national average. With the average rent in a city like New York being around $1,200 a month, living in the city just isn’t feasible for these line cooks on the wages they are currently receiving. More and more are migrating to smaller towns where there is still a strong need but the cost of living is more affordable. Even the commute to work being 15 minutes closer can be a determining factor when deciding upon employment. This movement is creating the deficit that city restaurants are currently trying to deal with.

What Can A Restaurant Do?

In the face of the shortage, what can a restaurant do to lure skilled line cooks back into its kitchens? The obvious answer for some businesses is to start offering higher starting rates and signing bonuses. A lot of graduates fresh from culinary school are facing large student loans they need to pay off. The tuition, supplies, and room and board for the Culinary Institute of America tops $31,000 a year. It can be a challenge to pay for student loans before the cost of living is even factored into the equation. An offer of higher pay with a bonus can be very appealing when those bills start rolling in.

“We now pay our staff probably $3 to $5 an hour more than we did when we first opened [in 2012],” Chef/owner Will Gilson from Puritan & Company Chef pot cooking on stovein Massachusetts told Fortune this year.

The signing bonuses don’t always need to be monetary though. Paying for required shoes, uniforms, or other items can be a great way to entice a new employee. Anything an aspiring chef would need or would want career wise, can be used as a bargaining tool.

Other restaurants are going right to the source. Offering programs where they will pay for part of an employee’s student loans each month after a probationary period. Some groups, such as Boston Urban Hospitality which operates three restaurants, are offering up to $1,000 a month to help with student loans after a three month probationary period. Without the strain of student loans the smaller wages can become much more livable.

With housing being an issue for many trying to work in cities, some businesses have chosen to offer assistance in finding affordable housing. Moving for a job becomes an easier decision when you know the rent will be reasonably priced and possibly close to work. The added stress of finding a place to live is taken away and allows the employee to focus on their job.
Another route for a restaurant is to offer additional training to cooks who agree to work for them. Investing in programs to teach the cooks new and creative ways of preparing food is a draw for many looking to expand upon the knowledge they already have. A way to continue education and a sense of working towards something greater is a goal for many millennials, and cooks are no exception. It also helps to keep them focused on the kitchen and keeps their eyes from wandering towards other opportunities.

If none of those work for you, try offering to critique students at a local culinary school. It is a great way to network with current students. While judging if you find a student you think would work well in your kitchens you can offer them a position before they have done too much searching elsewhere. Offering them an externship is also a viable alternative. Starting a cook in your own kitchen can be an easier way to develop the talent of the candidate to the needs of your kitchen.

With a 10% growth rate the Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts an additional 175,000 jobs for cooks in the next decade. As long as shows such as Iron Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen have prevalence, the new generation of cooks is going to have higher expectations from their employers than the generation before. Unless some changes are made in the industry to the long hours and low wages, the problem is going to persist for years to come. Now is the time for restaurant owners to start taking a look at the way they are recruiting their new cooks.