The restaurants industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
According to Fortune, more than 100,000 eating and drinking establishments in the US closed for business in 2020, either temporarily or permanently; this caused the sector’s sales to fall by $240 billion from an expected total of $899 billion.
These establishments also had to lay off and furlough millions of workers in order to stay afloat during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Despite being able to reopen, as COVID-19 restrictions have eased and the vaccination rollout has ramped up, restaurants, bars, and cafes are far from out of the woods yet.
Although there was decent job creation in the first half of 2021, the sector is still lacking more than 1 million jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the US National Restaurant Association. This sector has one of the highest levels of unfilled job openings of any industry.
Unfortunately, this staff shortage situation is only getting worse, particularly with the prevalence of the Delta COVID-19 variant in the US.
Although employment in the sector had been climbing since May 2020, it declined for the first time in August 2021. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the fall was by 42,000 to 11.34 million jobs, which is down from 12.31 million in February 2020.
The September BLS employment report showed that while, like in August, there were job gains in the wider leisure and hospitality sector, restaurants, cafes, and bars were not benefitting.
The sector is also suffering badly with the ‘Great Resignation’. Joblist found that the sector’s employees are quitting over pay, benefits, and working hours; an Indeed survey noted that childcare and other care support is a particular concern for restaurant workers.
Also, research by the National Restaurant Association found that 75% of restaurant operations saw recruiting as their biggest challenge.
Indeed and OpenTable to the rescue
In light of the employment crisis in the US restaurant sector, Indeed teamed up with restaurant booking service OpenTable to use technology to help out the sector, and particularly the smaller restaurants, who don’t necessarily have the recruitment resources of larger chains.
Indeed SVP and general manager of small and medium-sized business Raj Mukherjee tells UNLEASH that the collaboration began in the summer and culminated with “Interview Days: Restaurant Jobs, a month-long US nationwide hiring initiative to help accelerate the recovery of the food and beverage industry”. It is currently underway and will be for the rest of October.
The collaboration aims to do tackle staff shortages by connecting “job seekers with local restaurants and businesses actively looking to fill open roles”.
Mukherjee is clear that Indeed couldn’t do this alone, and that working with OpenTable has “allowed us to combine our strengths and resources so that we can reach…food and beverage employers” and equip “them with tools they need to connect with tools they need to connect with job seekers” who are keen to work in the sector.
Spotlight on Interview Day initiative
Through the initiative’s associated job website, Indeed and OpenTable are providing free resources to support employees with hiring.
These resources include access to a free suite of recruitment tools from Indeed to help them “source, screen, and host interviews”, explains Mukherjee.
Employers can also invite candidates for interview on Indeed, as well as schedule, manage and conduct the interviews on Indeed’s platform – this means they don’t have to rely on “third party video interviewing apps”.
This makes the process cheaper and more seamless for these struggling employers, although it is not as automated as paid-for Indeed’s Hiring Platform offering.
Restaurants “also gain access to OpenTable’s hiring guide, which includes tips, checklists, and job posting templates” focused on just hiring, but also retaining, talent, according to Mukherjee. Further to this, “OpenTable is offering free training and certification for all hosts and managers to quickly onboard in their new role”.
Indeed has a long-standing partnership Goodwill who are helping candidates prepare for job interviews. Job seekers can also get advice from Indeed guides and workshops that are tailored to the restaurant industry.
Overcoming the ‘Great Resignation’
While Indeed and OpenTable’s October hiring initiative is hopefully one step towards solving the hiring crisis in the US restaurant sector, this is an incredibly complex situation that will require long-term solutions.
Mukherjee tells UNLEASH that employers need to be laser-focused on the demands and prioritizes of workers.
For instance, many job seekers are “concerned about health safety” particularly in a sector where you can’t work from home, so employers could show they take these worries seriously by mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees or conducting all their interviews virtually.
Further to this, Indeed research has found that “81% of employers are less concerned about resume gaps than they were pre-pandemic and 61% were open to considering candidates’ skills over past work experience”, notes Mukherjee.
So companies need to publicize that they are looking for any skilled employees to apply, regardless if they have been furloughed for 18 months or have never worked in the restaurant sector before.
Mukherjee continues that employers need to consider “hiring wages, bonuses and perks” – and to make this obvious in their job description – in order to attract job seekers to apply. “Our research shows that 96% of those [who] added perks and benefits” have successfully attracted talent.
Companies need to really show and share what is unique about their company culture and what makes them a good employer, according to Mukherjee. Values and principles are very important to employees as they consider their next career move; in some cases, this is more important than wages or perks.
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