As the restaurant employment outlook changes, effective restaurant managers are once again looking at tapping into a non-traditional labor pool in order to staff their restaurants. So where will you turn and what kind of employee will you turn to? First, take a look at the four general categories of today’s labor pool:

The Transients. On their way to some other career, they’ve stopped off in the industry for a relatively short time. Your student employees will often fit in this category.

The I-Don’t-Knows. They’re in the industry because they simply don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. They’re trying it out.

The I-Shouldn’t-Be-Heres. With no innate skills for food or service, they tend to give the service industry a bad name.

The Dedicated. They’re in the industry to stay, but still change jobs on a regular basis, always looking for that leg up, an opportunity for career progression and increased income.

Obviously, it would be beneficial to attract the Dedicated and the I Don’t Knows, provided you can convince the latter that this is the industry to be in and that yours is the operation to work for. With that in mind, think of your recruiting plan as a marketing plan. Not selling the traditional products you’re used to selling, but selling yourself and your business. Your aim is to be the employer of choice.

As you set out to be the employer of choice, know that the traditional labor pool must expand to meet industry demand. That means you’ll be looking at a new brand of employee with different needs and expectations. Certainly you can improve on the things you’re already doing, but to recruit in a tight labor market successfully, you have to analyze who is working for you and whom you want to be working for you.

The question that eventually arises is: If there aren’t enough quality people to fill your restaurant employment needs, where will I find them? More than likely in segments you’ve never considered before. Once you target those segments, you can create programs and policies and undertake actions that fulfill specific needs. Don’t forget that you’re competing within not only the restaurant industry for quality employees, but also cross-industry, including retail and other service-related businesses.

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