5 Lessons Learned Helping People Land Restaurant Jobs in a Pandemic

    Securing strong talent requires operators to think carefully about growth opportunities.

    A Taco Bell employee works in the drive thru.

    Taco Bell

    No matter how great a business’ brand is, candidates favor a team whose culture is the right vibe for them.

    It’s no doubt 2020 was a difficult year for job seekers across the U.S. For me, all the alarming news stories circulating online about the havoc COVID-19 would wreak became vividly real that second week of March. Overnight, we saw job seekers pouring into our newly launched job candidate app by the thousands. This made our work at Landed all the more urgent and we’ve been directing all our energy into building the fastest way for furloughed or laid off hourly workers to land on their feet with a new job.

    Landed is a platform for food and retail businesses to hire the best candidates fast using video profiles, and we went live in March 2020. Since then, we’ve helped retail and food/restaurant businesses adapt quickly to a new landscape and hire hundreds of people—in a year when the U.S. unemployment rate hit a record 14.7 percent. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

    The Landed team has learned five important lessons during this journey.

    Employers need to ditch manual processes and paper

    Food and retail businesses are juggling a lot amidst the pandemic: stringent regulations, fewer in-person collaboration opportunities, and operating process overhauls, all while keeping the health and safety of employees and customers top of mind. Traditional recruiting processes don’t work in this new world. We were surprised to hear from companies with hundreds of locations that they still utilized paper applications submitted in-person at the store or restaurant. This wasn’t a sound strategy at a time when in-person interactions needed to be minimized.

    We talked with many forward-thinking businesses owners and franchisees who wanted to take the opportunity to overhaul their recruiting and hiring processes, ditching paper and automating whatever they could in order to take the pressure off hiring managers, who are constantly recruiting in order to combat very high turnover (typically 130 percent for a quick-service restaurant). New technology that automatically matches candidates to job opportunities helps hiring managers quickly find the best people for each position, effectively screening candidates so they can interview fewer people and hire more.

    Go video-first in recruiting

    Moving from a paper-based to a digital platform for recruiting means candidates and hiring managers can take advantage of multimedia options. Video profiles have emerged as a great way to help candidates stand out. Hiring apps can guide candidates through the process, offering prompts such as, “How would you handle an angry customer?” or “Tell us about your front-of-the-house, customer-facing experience.” To further automate the process, employers can use AI technology to screen candidates based on dozens of data points such as confidence and poise (for customer-facing positions) or technical acumen. Think of it like a dating app, but for hiring.

    This approach helps ensure that employers are connected only with candidates who match their criteria. On the flip side, candidates are 4x more likely to land roles they’ll love, because jobs are matched according to culture fit, situational aptitude required, and opportunities for self-development. Candidates who create video profiles are typically hired within 10 days, 2x faster than those who don’t create them.

    Hourly workers care about learning and growth more than pay

    While many people believe that hourly workers prioritize pay, a Landed survey of 1,000 job candidates found that they care most about learning and growth opportunities (29 percent). Salary (23 percent) and location (20 percent) were second and third.

    This means landing strong talent requires food and retail businesses to think carefully about growth opportunities even if somebody is coming in for an entry-level, minimum-wage job, and to build career progression into all roles.

    This is exactly how Ricky Girardi, previously director of HR and Training at a Chick-fil-A franchise, approached it. He helped bring a Chick-fil-A location doing $8 million in sales per year to $9.2M in sales in just 16 months—boosting that location to the top 10 of all Chick-fil-As in the nation. A key part of that was reducing employee turnover from almost 200 percent to less than 50 percent  over that period, by recruiting more thoughtfully. Girardi created candidate personas, and then built an environment that promoted employee retention, bringing in good talent even if they had low availability, being open to hiring younger staff that they could cultivate into long-term employees, and giving existing team members plenty of opportunity to take on more responsibility. He also constantly recruited, bringing on 3–5 new employees every month to backfill and keep a good pipeline of future leaders.

    Employers need to sell a job to candidates as much as candidates are selling the employers

    No matter how great a business’ brand is, candidates favor a team whose culture is the right vibe for them. In the Landed survey, candidates cited “friendly and understanding interviewers,” “quick responses” and “flexibility” as key factors in deciding where to ultimately work. The rise of flexible gig work, like DoorDash, Uber and Lyft means that hourly workers have ample options to pick from. That means employers have to sell to candidates as much as candidates have to sell employers.

    We’ve also seen that a commitment to diversity and representation improves a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent. In a survey with 50-plus talent leaders, they stressed the importance of emphasizing diversity in hiring practices. This included strategies like crafting inclusive job descriptions, adopting KPIs and quotas for diversity hires and having focused marketing to this demographic. The most successful Landed clients have tied diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to cold hard numbers to tracking the reality of day-to-day, on-the-ground hiring practices.

    Employers need to build partnerships within community organizations to boost diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring

    According to the Economic Policy Institute, as of December 2020, 25.7 million workers in the US remain officially unemployed, otherwise out of work due to the pandemic, or have experienced a reduction in work hours or pay. The National Restaurant Association estimated that the pandemic cost the food industry $240 billion in 2020—driving businesses to make big changes to stay relevant.

    Amid this upheaval, employers across industries are realizing the importance of building resilient and adaptable teams from the corporate level to the store, customer-field levels. Our most successful clients are taking meaningful steps towards incorporating rigorous diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in their hiring practices—building a diverse company and store-level workforce that is reflective of the customers they serve. Hiring a broad spectrum of candidates from varied backgrounds ensures employers have a wide range of experiences and skill sets that they bring to the table. There are many existing community resources and organizations that are great places to start.

    The sole purpose of these community groups is to help those underserved by mainstream employment resources land jobs, and widening the hiring pool with diverse candidates. Examples are Rubicon Programs, MEDA (LatinX community), Goodwill, and local county employment offices and Veterans groups. These are great partnerships to tap into when looking for highly motivated talent outside of conventional recruiting channels.

    The world has changed significantly over the past 12 months—job recruitment and hiring is no exception. Employers who don’t take steps to modernize their hiring practices will find themselves unable to attract the best candidates, adding cost and time in an area where few businesses have either to spare.

    Vivian Wang is the founder & CEO of Landed (gotlanded.com). She and the Landed team are building the fastest way for the 90M hourly workers in the US to land jobs at essential food & retail businesses like Wendy's, Taco Bell, Grocery Outlet & more with video. After graduating from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, Vivian worked in roles ranging from advising European central banks on financial markets strategy at BlackRock and launching the Asia & EMEA markets at real estate tech company, Matterport (NASDAQ: MTTR), to leading special projects for the C-suite at Gap, Inc., owner of Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Intermix.