The industry added more than 230,000 jobs in June, and more than 250,000 in July, but the total is still nearly 8% below pre-pandemic employment levels.

The pandemic has reshaped the workforce, what people do for a living, when and where they work, and the safety of the work environment. It has also impacted what candidates look for in their jobs today.

As a result, it’s not only important to understand how to enhance your employment proposition, but also what tools you can use to improve the hiring process.

The National Restaurant Association’s recent webinar, “Help Wanted: Helping Your Business Fix Your Hiring Woes,” explored several options, such as new hiring tools and technology, and optimizing financial incentives such as tax credits. It was sponsored by longtime Association partner, Heartland, a Global Payments Company.


Download the webinar recording now


Heartland’s John Romano, who heads up the company’s Human Capital Management Sales, and Sara Nickel, the Association’s senior director of Workforce and Business Development, led the discussion.

A microcosm of the labor picture

Romano noted that even though employment is on the rise, the industry hasn’t been able to fill all of its job openings. “Restaurants are advertising, posting on social and online, and have hiring signs on billboards and in windows, more than ever before.”

The industry added more than 230,000 jobs in June, and more than 250,000 in July, but the total is still nearly 8% below pre-pandemic employment levels. Still, hiring remains highly competitive; about 1 million positions are not filled.

For every one-and-a-half jobs posted, he added, only one job seeker is actually available for hire.

Part of the reason for the hiring challenges, said Nickel, is rooted in the misperception that the industry doesn’t offer enough opportunity or career advancement.

“Everyone knows it’s not true,” she said. “The pandemic only made things worse as our workers struggled and the perception of our industry took a hit. This attrition has made it tough to manage the other aspects of business and maintain operational consistency. Unfortunately, that's the environment we find ourselves in.”

The end of the labor crisis may be in sight

Romano said he thinks there’s an end in sight to the hiring crisis. Here’s why:

  • The additional unemployment funding from the federal government’s stimulus bill is scheduled to end in September. When it does, many of the individuals receiving those funds, will return to the workforce.
     
  • From a health and safety perspective, more individuals are getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination rates are rising, and that’s going to help.
     
  • Third, schools are reopening and many individuals who left the workforce to care for their children can now return to work.

How can operators immediately address their hiring issues?

1. Perfect your online presence. The workforce is brand shopping, and your digital face is often making your first impression. Potential hires are doing their research before they even think about coming to work for you. It goes beyond your website; having an engaging social media presence is also important. Highlight what makes your company desirable, why you’re passionate about your brand and employees. Have a strong, consistent message, and make sure it’s consistent across multiple channels‑‑your website, on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and all the other social media pages and sites where you promote your job openings.

2. Leverage tax credits. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is the government's way of rewarding businesses for hiring people facing barriers to employment. They fall into certain criteria: some are veterans, some live in remote areas, some are impoverished, long-term unemployed, or are ex-felons. If you hire someone who’s receiving government assistance, such as food stamps, welfare or supplemental security income, you may be eligible to receive tax credits, and they are substantial. You could receive anywhere from $2,400 to $9,600 per employee.

3. Focus on employee engagement and career development. Highlight your advancement opportunities to job candidates. Even if they don’t see the job as a career opportunity or even a long-term job, it will be far more appealing and attractive if they understand how it fits into a professional pathway. Show how restaurants are an industry of opportunity, even employees start out in hourly roles. If they recognize there's potential for growth, that you'll help develop them, they'll stay beyond the revolving-door period of 30 to 90 days.


Learn more about the WOTC


Romano and Nickel advised operators to use smooth, structured applicant tracking and onboarding systems that quickly explain what you as the employer are looking for in an applicant. This will remove friction from the hiring process.

A communication feature recently added to the company’s suite provides the ability to text candidates and gives employers the opportunity to stay connected with job seekers. “We’ve found that about 30% of people respond to emails, but close to 90% respond to a text,” Romano said.

“From a hiring perspective, it’s important to streamline your hiring and onboarding processes, and leverage your tax credits,” he added. “Create easy-to-understand job descriptions, leverage available technology, and take advantage of the thousands of dollars available for businesses through the WOTC. That's going to be really important as people get back to work, and we head into the end of the year.”


Heartland provides entrepreneurs with software-driven technology to manage and grow their business. The company serves more than 400,000 merchants nationwide, delivering trusted solutions for payment, payroll and human resources, point of sale, customer engagement and lending. Heartland is a leading industry advocate of transparency, merchant rights and security. Heartland is a Global Payments Company (NYSE: GPN). Learn more at heartland.us.

Learn more about Heartland’s human resources management and payroll services by clicking here. To read more about Hiring in Hard Times, check out our infographic here.