Some restaurateurs are wincing at today’s job market. “I’m in charge of 19 locations,” says Courtney Beach, director of the corporate store division for sandwich chain Pita Pit. “Eighteen of my 19 managers would say hiring is their biggest problem.”
Reaching nearly prerecession digits, the unemployment rate from January to August averaged 4.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The job market is 100% a job seekers’ market,” says Beach. “The demographics we hire—16- to 23-year-olds—they can get a job anywhere.”
To snag top applicants before they are snatched up, Pita Pit has had to speed up hiring. The chain now pushes recruits from interview to hire in one to two days, according to Beach. Cracker Barrel, too, has expedited its hiring process over the past year by more than 30%, according to a brand spokesperson, taking no more than 10 days to hire. Ivar’s, a seafood chain based in Seattle, hires candidates within five days, streamlining the process by half by asking the right questions in the first round of interviews with the help of guidebooks, said Patrick Yearout, director of recruiting and training, at an industry event.
Five years ago, Pita Pit operators would’ve conducted at least two rounds of interviews, Beach says. Now, corporate is advising franchisees to hire promising candidates on the spot and get them onto the very next schedule. Here’s how the chain and others have streamlined hiring to keep up with an illusive labor force.
Cut down touch points
Most of Pita Pit’s store owners have consolidated the hiring process to one general manager with decision-making power. Some store owners have even taken it on themselves, Beach says. The hiring manager is in charge of the whole process, from recruitment to hire, and no one else becomes involved to slow it down.
Turn to the web
Before recruits walk into eatertainment gastropub Punch Bowl Social, they complete online compatibility and availability surveys using HR software. Chief People Officer Rob LeBoeuf says the pre-research helps the chain make informed, on-the-spot hiring decisions. “That reduces the risk of turnover and the associated costs.”
Don’t sit on applications
Although it’s a bit of a gamble, corporate directors tell Pita Pit managers to pounce as soon as they see a strong application. “We used to gather applications a week or two at a time,” Beach says. Now, managers are encouraged to look at applications daily. “If you get a good one now, you better be on the phone that afternoon.”
Hire on the spot
Managers often receive calls from recruits 20 minutes before their interview saying that they accepted a job somewhere else, says Beach. “We’re telling them, if they get to an interview, and it goes well, snag them up,” she says. “Don’t think; just hire the person.”