Five ways to recruit better

Hospitality recruitment top tips

There’s no denying that recruiting staff to work in the hospitality industry is tough, but some companies are better at it than others. Read BigHospitality’s top five ways to recruit better and make the whole process a little easier. 

1. Hold an open day

A number of hospitality businesses, particularly bigger ones, started running recruitment open days a few years ago and their success and suitability for an industry which is all about its people has led to a greater number of companies taking this route.

The idea is to invite potential employees along on a specific date to meet management and learn about the business and the roles on offer rather than having a restaurant manager or HR officer sift through job applications and then interview individual candidates. 

One of the early adopters was Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s.  The company’s senior recruitment manager Marcus Weedon says as well as saving time the Carluccio’s open days, which often include a food demonstration, help managers spot people with a natural aptitude for hospitality as well as a passion for the brand.

 “It’s two hours rather than a full day of doing interviews,” he says. “It also gives people the opportunity to get a feel of what we are about and what it would be like working in the business,  which is better first off than having a formal face-to-face interview. “

The idea that open days can be a chance to showcase your business as well as vet candidates is a win-win according to Shezan Aslam, HR, training and operations director for Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill in Birmingham, who held his restaurant’s first open day in January.

“The benefits of recruiting for staff this way is that it gives everyone a chance to demonstrate their skills and show us their personality, which is important in an industry that relies heavily on customer service,” he says.

“The open day went really well this time and we saw some fantastic candidates who we plan to take on and we’ll definitely be doing this again in the future.”

2. Target the right people

When marketing your business you tailor your strategy to reach your target market, so why not do the same with potential new recruits?

Sticking a ‘staff wanted’ sign in your window is all well and good if your business is in a high footfall area and you are keen to recruit locals. Similarly, using social media can work if your followers want to work in hospitality as well as enjoy it, but if you’re looking for people with specific skills to fill your vacancies, think wisely about where and how you go about it.

Using a forum dedicated to the industry you work in, rather than one that aims at workers from a range of different ones means you’re directly targeting the people you want to work for you.

“Hospitality is often perceived as a sector that people think anyone can work in, regardless of their skill set or experience,” says Louise Fenttiman, advertising manager at BigHospitality Jobs.

“That is why we would always recommend using a specialist job site to advertise your roles to make sure you are attracting candidates relevant to the vacancy.  

“Having access to a dedicated, qualified job-seeking audience means that not only will you have a better standard of candidate with the right skills and experience applying, but it will also cut down on the amount time spent on the actual recruitment process as it reduces the number of unqualified applications you receive. “

3. Focus on the grassroots

In the race to find people with skills to fit your company it can be easy to overlook genuine and willing, yet inexperienced talent. Putting time and energy into training and developing newcomers to the industry as well as showing them what they could achieve through their own dedication and hard work could not only solve your entry-level recruitment problems, but could help you fill vacancies for higher roles in the future.

Glen Harrison, group training officer for Concord Hotels, which trains staff to work in hotels, says the company’s trainees are ‘future industry advocates’ and therefore has teamed up with training company HTP Training to ensure they are fully-primed for working in the industry.  

“Our strapline, developing talent for the future, encompasses our belief in the importance of attracting and investing in young people straight from the world of education, both colleges and schools, so they will be our future industry advocates,” he says.

“We take a proactive approach to on-the-job training and development, seeking innovative ways to meet the changing requirements of these young adults.”

Whitbread is one company working hard to focus on the grassroots, and it’s paying off for the company and its employees. Thirty-four percent of those taking on its all-age apprenticeship scheme are promoted within 15 months and the company makes a concerted effort to match-up promising work-experience candidates with roles if they become available.

“We’ve got it into the mindset of our managers to think about those who have done placements when they have vacancies,” says Sandra Kelly, head of education at Whitbread. “We keep a link with them even if they are still at school or college, because you don’t want to lose out on potential talent.”

And one final word of advice, if you are considering the person on work experience as a future employee, ensure you make their time with you interesting and relevant.

As employment charity Springboard’s head of work experience and Inspire Ruth Bankover says, don’t put them off by making them ‘clean toilets for three weeks’.

“We are trying to inspire students into a career in hospitality and change the perception of it as a stop-gap for other jobs. We don’t want it to be seen as a low-class career choice, so employers need to provide a worthwhile work experience to get them interested in the industry,” she says.   

4. Look within

It is impossible to write a piece about recruitment that doesn’t mention that other ‘r’ word – ‘retention’, but by focusing on it and making sure the workers you have are engaged, fulfilled and developed you may well avoid the recruitment headache.

Exclusive Hotels and Venues, owner and operator of four hotels and two meetings and conferences venues, is building a £1m Chefs' Academy in the grounds of Lainston House which is designed to develop talent and create ‘future stars of the Exclusive Hotels and Venues family.’ Watch our video on the Chefs' Academy here.

Executive chef Andy Mackenzie explains the reasons for the investment: “Young commis chefs are reasonably easy to get into a kitchen but it is very difficult to hold on to them for longer than around six months, which is about the time when you have trained them, got them up to speed and given them a good understanding of how your kitchen works,” he says.

“After six months they are probably complying with everything you have ever wanted out of them but by then their attention span has moved to the next stage, which is usually another kitchen.

“There has always got to be time for development in any kitchen, if you can give chefs that time to learn and develop they will have an incentive to stay.”

When you’re a smaller one-site business you may have to be more creative, but it doesn’t mean you can’t spend time giving your staff the chance to develop and move up.

Earlier this year Duck & Waffle executive chef Dan Doherty set up the Chefs of Tomorrow initiative to give up-and-coming young chefs in his and others’ kitchens the chance to take centre stage and have a taster of life as a head chef without leaving prematurely to meet their ambition.  

“I work with a lot of young chefs and many are curious and ambitious people.  They might make a dish, or create a dish that makes it onto the specials menu, but it will be me who gets the credit.  I wanted to change that so that they are getting the credit they deserve,” he says.

“I’m hoping this will be a way of showing chefs what they can achieve.”  

5. Use technology

You invest in technology to make your ordering and payment processes easier as well as run your bookings and customer loyalty systems, so why not do the same to ease your recruitment problems?

Just over a year ago Carluccio’s followed the lead of Jamie’s Italian and Pizza Express by investing in applicant tracker system Change Work Now and Weedon says it is one of the best moves the company has made.

“It has helped us massively in terms of attracting people via our new website and we’ve seen the amount of applications and quality increase,” he says.

“It means that we can record absolutely everything throughout the process. When an application is received details go out to the operations manager and it also sends emails to candidates, making their experience much better as well. They’re not just sending an email with their CV and not getting a response.  

“We’ll probably get about a thousand applications for our Graduate programme so we’ll need to move quickly with that and it will help us manage that much better.”

Signing up to Believe in Young People’s  online portal has similarly helped Whitbread to connect to its future workforce. The company posts work experience placements on the portal which is also accessed by students who can find the placement best suited to them.

“That has had a huge impact on addressing the skills gap and colleges are extremely excited about it because they are measured on destination as much as grading so it's critical that they can connect with employers,” says Kelly.

Weedon and his colleagues are already looking at other ways to capitalise on technology to streamline the recruitment process further.

“We’re looking into the use of Skype or video interviewing to save more time and ease the pressure on our ops managers,” he says. “There are lots of avenues we want to explore.”

To advertise or search for a job visit Jobs.Bighospitality.co.uk 

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