Food Services Recruitment: How to Hire During Peak Season

Food Services Recruitment: How to Hire During Peak Season

Recent research shows that going into the autumn “the UK jobs market remained tight in September, with candidate shortages impacting recruiters’ ability to fill jobs.” Facing a likely economic recession in the coming months, some people have been reluctant to move job roles. Skills shortages and a low unemployment rate have been fuelling the problem too. Finding ways to stand out from the crowd to attract potential recruits is increasingly important, and one good way to go about this is through the careers site.

As companies recover from the pandemic, the overall employment of food and beverage serving and related workers is projected to grow 9% from 2021-2031 – faster than the average for all occupations. About 955,100 openings are projected each year over the decade, with many of those job openings resulting from the need to replace workers who move onto different occupations, exit the labor force, retire, etc. So even with this growth, the food services industry is regularly faced with perennial staffing challenges.

This article will detail what hiring professionals in the food services industry should consider now that one of their peak hiring seasons is here and the school year has started. Also, learn what they can do to update their recruitment strategies and practices.


Seasonal Attrition and Understaffing

Traditionally, the peak hiring times for the food services industry are summer, the back-to-school season (September, October, November), and the end-of-year holiday season. Pandemic woes aside, now is the time of year when managers and hiring professionals in the food services industry usually find themselves under pressure. During this period, there is typically a great deal of attrition due to younger (high school and college) workers heading back to school, with many leaving the geographic area to do so. This is especially true in geographic areas with large, established colleges and universities.

As a result, many companies in the industry quickly become understaffed and have to backfill many roles. While many college students may leave a summer food service job in their hometown to take on another food service job in their school area, this still leaves their former employers in the lurch. So, not only do understaffed companies need to hire new workers, they’re in a position where they may need to find new types of candidates to fill roles.

Due to the nature of the industry and the workers who typically exit seasonally, this dynamic leads to scheduling holes that employers have to fill. Often, employers find themselves having to modify ads and job postings to reflect more shift-based hiring as opposed to team member hiring. Hiring for shifts (rather than for positions) can mitigate some of this shortfall, but new workers typically want to have steady schedules that they can plan around, so employers can only put so many jobs out there that are solely based on shift work.


The Speed of Hiring: Ads, Social Media, and Other Platforms

In refining their seasonal hiring strategies, employers and recruiters need to be very clear on who and what they’re looking for. To mitigate these staffing deficiencies, food services industry managers and hiring professionals are taking a more formulated approach to seasonal staffing shortfalls than in years past. In this pursuit, meeting candidates where they are and carefully-refined targeting is key.

To accomplish their hiring objectives, today, nearly all companies hiring in this niche are employing programmatic advertising – which involves using algorithmic software to buy and sell online ad space. Programmatic advertising uses traffic data and online display targeting to drive impressions at scale, resulting in a better ROI for the advertiser.

Companies are also using a wider range of platforms to increase possibilities for candidate engagement, whereby a candidate can apply via mobile-friendly media such as texting, for example. This is important because many candidates in this niche are very young and glued to their mobile devices. Many of the candidates recruiters are looking for will be in the Gen Z market. They have a very high social media presence on platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

This means that a company will need to have a high social presence, or at least have the ability to engage at that level. In the practical sense, this also means that areas like fast food and the QSR (quick service restaurant) space need a robust vendor mix to attract active and passive candidates. In addition to job boards and social media, these candidates also spend a lot of time on sites like Spotify and Pandora.

As cyberspace gets larger and the hiring process gets trickier, ironically, processes are becoming streamlined to accommodate the candidates companies wish to attract. Seasoned, for example, is a mobile app specializing in the service industry. There, candidates can view jobs, apply, and schedule interviews quickly without even having to touch a computer. JobGet is also another mobile-first platform that integrates into a company’s ATS. Or implementing an easy application process (e.g., easy apply) is an advantage due to the simplicity when courting these candidates.


Cultivating Efficiency: Food Service Industry Best Practices

Turnaround time: This has to be quick to keep up with high response rates. Operators need to continually coordinate with recruitment and marketing so that the process doesn’t get bogged down. Once a candidate has applied for a job, the recruiter or operator has to take some decisive action within 24 hours, because once that candidate has applied, they're still in the process. Candidates are applying at other companies, and they’re likely to get hired by the first person that gives them an attractive offer.

Geolocation: Recruitment media should be finely-targeted to the location of the site of employment. This is an important thing to consider, but it can be easily overlooked. It makes sense, however: Why would someone want to drive a half hour or more for a part-time job or lower pay due to a long commute? A good rule of thumb is to keep everything within a five-ten mile radius around the location.

Utilize touchpoints to hire continuously: As discussed previously in this space, studies have shown that it can take from 3 to 10 touchpoints before a candidate decides to apply for a job. To drive conversions, a company must grab candidates’ attention as frequently as possible. Targeted Display Ads and Google SEM are excellent for this, since it ensures that candidates will be reminded that the company is out there while they’re surfing other sites due to the algorithms behind programmatic and search engines.

Update and refine job descriptions: Circling back to the need for clarity and the unique requirements of food service employers discussed earlier, recruitment professionals must ensure that job descriptions are current, accurate, complete, clear, concise, and easily understood. If shift work versus permanent positions, or part-time versus full-time are offered, prospective employees will need to know the expectations around their roles up front.

Utilize candidate re-engagement: Candidate re-engagement is essential in maintaining a robust talent pool. Companies should have a talent pipeline filled with qualified candidates from which hiring professionals can source at any time – and this is where candidate re-engagement comes in. According to LinkedIn, 70% of the global workforce is passive talent, showcasing that companies may miss out on a massive talent pool if they don’t implement re-engagement and retargeting.

Today, companies that need to leverage recruitment marketing automation tools to organize passive candidates and nurture them need to catch up. By building a nurture plan to provide passive candidates with regular updates on company news and information, recruiters can cultivate more engaged new hires who have familiarity with the company even before they decide to apply.


Refining The Messaging

When consulting today’s recruiting experts, a chief takeaway is that continuous improvement – a phrase borrowed from the manufacturing sector – has become necessary across a company’s recruiting efforts. Considering both the speed of business these days and the rapid changes that are taking place in the workforce and on platforms. It’s essential to keep messaging current because candidates have become much more in-depth employer vetting practices.

To this end, such things as displaying the company culture are important, since this aspect has become increasingly important to job seekers, particularly younger Gen Y and Gen Z candidates. Whether in-house or contracted, creatives should be updated on an ongoing basis to keep messaging and media fresh. Also, media should be appropriate to the targeted candidate segments and the platforms on which it appears.

Hiring workers for the food service industry involves creativity but also meticulous planning. It is important to remember that these job seekers want their experience to be fast, easy, and engaging. Following these guidelines can enhance a company’s efforts to find and attract top talent and can significantly positively impact turnover.

Finally, engaging an experienced partner can always aid in crafting and refining a company’s food service recruiting strategy.

If you’re looking to build out or update your recruitment strategy for attracting food service workers, feel free to reach out to us!

Subscribe to newsletter


Find Out How We Can Become an Extension of Your Talent Acquisition Team