According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. job market faces some tough challenges very soon. Over the next ten years (2006-2016), our nation’s overall labor force will increase by 10 percent, or 15.6 million jobs. However, the number of workers between the ages of 16 and 24 will fall. Furthermore, the share of workers in the 25-to-54 age range will also decrease.

While these figures may trouble numerous industries, they should especially concern the restaurant industry. The National Restaurant Association projects that the sector will produce 2 two million jobs in the same time frame. How will restaurants draw able workers? How can restaurants show that their businesses offer better opportunities than the rest?

To make matters more interesting, many restaurants don’t have the luxury of human resources departments to help recruit and retain top workers. Then again, that may be a blessing in disguise. Not to knock HR, but perhaps the lack of a formalized recruitment process can force restaurants devise more creative ways to attract workers. Help wanted signs and job listings, while useful, just may not be enough anymore.

Just a thought, or five...

1.) Get ‘em early. The 16-to-24 set is when the restaurant industry traditionally “gets them early.” Well, just because there may be less to get doesn’t mean you still can’t get them. Working with local schools is a start. Invite students to tour your operation, or speak at Career Day to stir up some interest. Maybe you’ll even get an apprentice or two out of it.

NRA Solutions’ ProStart program also prepares high school students for the rigors of the restaurant industry. Add the recruitment of ProStart-certified students to your staffing practices.

Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace can also connect restaurants with youngsters. It’s less time consuming than you may think. What are you waiting for?

2.) Encourage competition. Bravo’s popular television show, Top Chef, has become a publicity tool for the restaurant industry. Hosting your own mini-contest not only may bring awareness to your employment opportunities but to your restaurant as well. Logistics will be tricky, but the work will prove to be worthwhile in the end.

3.) Target seniors. After all, they’re the fastest growing group of workers. Maybe you’re leery about hiring workers 55 and older – can they handle the physical and mental demands of your fast-paced business? I counter those concerns with the fact that our seniors are living longer and are much healthier than seniors from previous generations. Plus, they are loyal.

Of course, you have to hire based on what you think is best. Maybe someone can’t wait tables but he or she can take delivery orders, which leads us to my next point…

4.) Tout the numerous opportunities available. Everyone knows about waiting, dishwashing and bartending, and those are all fine jobs. However, I don’t think the restaurant industry promotes the fact that various positions exist throughout an operation. Many workers go onto management positions and even eventually lead their own restaurants – a dream come true for many!

Also, restaurants need to become take advantage of technology more in the next few years in order to cut costs and generate more revenue. Throwing tech-savvy workers into the mix is crucial.

5.) Flaunt the flexibility. So many folks these days want to ditch the 9-to-5 grind. Appeal to that crowd by pointing out your restaurant’s nontraditional nature when it comes to hours.

There are numerous other fabulous ideas out there too. Boasting the industry’s commitment to community service, offering continuing education opportunities and speed interviewing are a few more. I’m not suggesting you should ditch your traditional recruitment efforts altogether either. If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.

In the best-case scenarios, facing new challenges leads to developing new ways to conquer them. Can you do it?

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Tags: hiring, human, jobs, labor, resources, statistics

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Comment by Judy "the foodie" Asman on August 1, 2008 at 12:20pm
Claire, great post. What I glean from it is by approaching new ways to recruit, it's also an opportunity for companies to start emphasizing the value of passion. HR standards can sometimes focus too heavily on company standards and selling the company line, leaving employees to feel like if they go by the manual, they're good employees.

But this is not always a good substitute for someone who truly loves their job and understands what helps make the industry successful. This, I believe, can be spawned by getting them involved in a larger social network like what you suggest.
Comment by Andy Swingley on July 31, 2008 at 4:21pm
What about retention? I have yet to open a restaurant that I don't start with enough employees and then over time go from having enough employees to a hiring problem. I think I still have a retention problem......

Come to think of it, I have the same problem with guests....opening week is strong and it goes down from there. Must have a retention problem there too!

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