Attracting Restaurant Employees During a Labour Shortage

The foodservice industry has always been a revolving door of restaurant workers but finding staff to replace these workers was never an issue—until the pandemic hit. During this time, restaurants were forced to lay off most, if not all, of their restaurant workers. 

Now, with the industry going back to the new normal, you’d think there would be an endless line of restaurant employees looking for work. However, the fact is we’re in the midst of a labour shortage and restaurants are struggling to replace staff. 

Finding restaurant workers has never been harder, but there are a few key ways to turn things around for your business and stand out from the competition to attract quality restaurant employees. 

Keep reading to find out how. 

Groups of front of house staff


1. Understand the Current State of Labour

It’s no secret that restaurants and foodservice establishments were some of the businesses hit hardest during the pandemic. Forced to shutter their doors and resort to takeout, most restaurants had no choice but to lay off most of their staff. In fact, Restaurants Canada estimates  that 800,000 foodservice jobs were lost due to the pandemic. 

Though the country is slowly but surely returning to a new normal and restaurants are re-opening, finding restaurant workers is proving to be a challenge. There’s a long list of reasons why this could be, including:

     •  Many past foodservice workers are hesitant to return to the industry that left them without a safety net
     •  Many have switched industries altogether 
     •  Some may be concerned with their health and safety
     •  Some are without childcare 
     •  Many Canadians want a work-from-home position

      Restaurants are reporting that hiring competition is fierce, making hiring an even more crucial focus of their overall business plan. 

      2.  Attract More Restaurant Employees 

      If you’re having trouble attracting restaurant employees (let alone quality employees), there are some immediate changes that you can implement to up the ante against the competition.  


      The pay in the foodservice industry has always fluctuated. But the pandemic drove home the instability of surviving off low hourly wages and unreliable tips. Attracting restaurant employees can be as simple as increasing their pay and improving benefits to stand out from the competition. These perks can include better health insurance, free meals on shift, discounted meals outside of work hours, bonuses and more. 


      While the schedule in the foodservice industry is often polarizing (some hate the long hours and weekend work, some are naturally drawn to it), offering better schedule options is a smart way to attract quality restaurant employees. Regular weekends off and longer shifts (for more days off) could help restaurants secure long-term, full-time loyal employees and doesn’t require much more than a little scheduling creativity. 

      Workplace Quality

      No matter how great the pay and schedule are, employees won’t stay in a toxic workplace for long. If you suspect that your workplace isn’t an attractive one for employees, dig into why (exit interviews help with!). Offer managerial support, team building activities, mental health awareness and more to improve your workplace culture. 

      Growth Opportunities

      There needs to be room for growth and opportunities for your employees to keep them wanting to stay. It can be as simple as offering additional skills training or opportunities to work at sister stores, or as structured as a clear managerial track. Your employees need to feel valued, respected and have a reason to stay loyal. 

      The goal is to make your foodservice establishment stand out from the many others that are also focusing on hiring. These changes don’t need to cost a lot of money and they don’t need to be permanent, but giving your restaurant the best chance to attract staff is critical.  

      Group of kitchen staff


      3. Increase Brand Strength 

      There’s a reason why top brands have no trouble attracting top-tier talent. People gravitate to names they recognize, and it’s no exception in the workplace. Focusing on your brand strength and getting your business’ name out there will make you more attractive to potential employees (and your job ads more effective). 

      Take advantage of the following tools for (mostly) free advertising: 

           •  Food delivery apps
           •  Contests and daily deals 
           •  Customer loyalty programs
           •  Social media 
           •  Newsletters
           •  Partner with local businesses

        Get creative to get your business’ name out there as a great place to eat and work!

        4. Employee Referral Programs 

        Sometimes the best way to hire quality restaurant employees is through word-of-mouth. Current employees usually know exactly what it takes to succeed at your workplace, so a referral from them is worth its weight in gold. Incentives for them to refer family and friends (as long as they stay for a specific amount of time) is a win-win situation. Offer a cash bonus, a gift certificate, tickets to an event, paid holiday—whatever you can afford as an incentive your staff.  

        Kitchen and serving staff prepping for dinner service


        5. Improve Job Descriptions

        If you’ve ever had an employee quit during training, you know how frustrating and expensive it can be. Sometimes it’s the right decision, but sometimes it comes down to them not fully understanding what the job entailed—and then balking once they find out.  

        Clear and detailed job descriptions will better set you up for success with new hires and ensure they know exactly what they’re walking into and reduce employee turnover.  

        The Takeaway 

        While things are looking up for the foodservice industry for the first time in the last couple of years, staying afloat means finding good restaurant employees to help. Take matters into your own hands by making sure your business is one that good employees won’t want to leave. Use these tips—to find, attract and retain talent.

        Written by River Street Writing 

        Shaking hands with new hire