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Is Your Restaurant Scaring Off Qualified Applicants?

Nearly every day, I have owners asking, “Why are the workers of today so difficult to work with?” or “Why can’t I attract people who are committed?” If your restaurant feels like a revolving door of employees or you are not attracting the kind of employees who are committed to your brand, then I challenge you to look at your restaurant with the eyes of a younger employee with different values.

Millennials, age 23-38 years old, are now the largest category of both workers and consumers in the US. If you are still using the same recruiting strategies from 10 years ago, it may be the cause of your frustration. Creating an effective recruiting strategy that is attractive to your potential new crew members is very similar to building a marketing strategy that attracts a loyal customer base.  Everything is first impressions and messages.


The restaurant interior and exterior décor is outdated, has visible dirt and grime build up, and is in dis-repair.  Message: The owner obviously has no money to invest in the business so they may not have money to invest in me, they are just being cheap, or they simply don’t care.


The younger worker and consumer is constantly being bombarded with media messages to find new, fresh, and purposeful products and jobs. That is a key component of why turnover is higher with this generation. They like to be associated with companies that represent their values. They want modern, high-quality, and fun. Owners need to always be looking for cost effective ways to keep their brand relevant from menu to décor.


The employees look frazzled from being short staffed or don’t seem well trained. Message: If they don’t look happy, then I’m probably not going to be happy.


It is not surprising, that people want to work with people who look like they want to be there, who look like “their crew”, and feel proud of being part of a winning team. An even worse message is delivered if during the visit the guests are visibly upset and complaining or the manager is reprimanding on the floor. The younger workers of today avoid criticism at all costs.


The uniforms suck! Message: How embarrassing!


Applicants want to look stylish even when working. They often have to wear uniforms during transit and want to feel comfortable when they run into people they know. You will notice that many of the big chains, that usually hire younger workers, are going to great lengths to provide uniforms that the employees actually want to wear like graphic T’s, modern colors, denim accents, and pick-and-choose-your-style themes. Additionally, do you offer uniform options that conform to fit the heavier worker? Even though they have tasty hot dogs, the worst uniform ever has to be Hot Dog-on-a-Stick! It is amazing that they can attract workers with their dated red, yellow, blue and white striped polyester pill box hats and shirts.


Your recruitment advertising is a handwritten help wanted sign, a boring craigslist ad, or a long hand written application. Message: They don’t speak my language or keep up with the common technology of today, they don’t put out much effort in trying to attract me, and it may not be inconvenient to apply.


What are your recruiting ads and signs saying about you? Do they appeal to a qualified, diverse group of candidates that can see themselves working in your restaurant? Do they show employees happily interacting with other happy employees and guests? If not, it’s time for a revamp.


If you are a smaller operation without a HR department or money for marketing research, monitor what the “big guns” are doing and reverse engineer their strategy. Some of the best recruiting advertising I have seen lately is Taco Bell. They use handheld video testimonials of highly satisfied employees sharing how much they enjoy their job, team mates, and their supportive management team. They speak the benefits of the job and opportunities they will gain from the job. They speak scheduling flexibility. Millennials don’t want to hear sacrifice such as the possibility of no weekends or holidays off—ever!


Make applying easy with online applications and job postings. Gone are the days of spending time traveling from restaurant to a restaurant to apply for a job you don’t know is available and wondering if your resume will your ever reach the decision maker or will it be shoved in the drawer under the register never to see the light of day?


Take advantage of the wide variety of cost-effective online recruitment and job posting apps available today. If you are a small to mid-size restaurant company, check out online recruitment tools such as who have free examples of job descriptions, help wanted scripts, will post to over 100+ major job sites, and their most expensive VIP plan is only $52 for up to 20 posts per month. Techie tool that is changing the way large brands such as McDonald, NBA, and Nestle speak to their recruits is textio which does augmented scripting. Their technology has looked at half a billion job postings and studied what key words cause men, women, or candidates from targeted groups you want to attract to push the button and apply.


It is never too late to try these candidate attracting strategies and give your recruiting plan a face-lift. If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our regular newsletter or contact us.


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