Recent data from Indeed Hiring Lab shows that food service workers are now relatively less interested in industry jobs versus pre-pandemic levels. Working in food service may have presented several additional challenges during the pandemic, such as enforcing mask mandates, increased exposure to the coronavirus, reduced shifts or hours, reduced pay, and changes to the ways and processes by which restaurants serve their customers.
Now, however, as some restaurants begin to reopen or return to normal operating procedures, mask mandates are lifted for fully vaccinated individuals and the country adapts to a significantly lower daily infection rate, restaurants are urgently hiring food service talent to fulfill operating needs. Alice Cheng, founder and CEO of Culinary Agents—a professional networking and job matching website—says, “Today, these same job postings are looking for nine line cooks. And it’s not just cooks—many restaurants, especially ones that are reopening or opening for indoor dining for the first time in a year, need to hire multiple people for almost every position.”
With demand for food service talent high and supply low, you may have more control as a candidate.
Ways some restaurants are evolving to attract talent
Whether you’re a long-time seasoned food service professional or looking for restaurant jobs for the first time, many restaurants are making changes to support talent shortages. Here are three ways some restaurants are evolving:
Better working conditions
Both during and before the onset of the novel coronavirus, working in the food and beverage industry presents specific challenges that make the work physically and mentally demanding. Long hours working on your feet, dealing with difficult customers and keeping up with the fast pace of the lunch and dinner rush can all make food service jobs tough—many of which pay little with few benefits.
As a food service professional during the pandemic, you might have had to deal with all of the same challenges, plus enforcing mask mandates and other safety measures and simply being exposed to the virus by working in close proximity to customers and coworkers. Many restaurants also acknowledge those challenges and seek to reduce their burden on employees. For example, Mike Shine of Frank’s Houston says, “We follow not just local, but also state and national COVID protocols, including masks for personnel, full sanitation of all work and service areas. We help staff schedule vaccines and do routine testing as needed.”
Rayme Rossello, owner of Mexican eatery Comida in Aurora, Colorado, also explained the ways he made adjustments to accommodate better conditions for his staff:
“When things got bad last spring, I gave my salaried staff three weeks off and paid full salaries. It put the idea of work-life balance into perspective. In the past, there was an expectation that we’d all work 50 to 60 hours a week. ... Now, we’re moving toward 40 hours a week consistently. I would rather have the people who have my back, our guests’ back, and the whole staff’s back feeling healthy. I don’t want people to be exhausted or have them stressed because they can’t get home to walk their dog. People need time to go outside and take a walk.”
“And I’m down with this way of life now! It’s really nice to have two days off a week. It becomes hard to take away once you have it. I said to my team, even as we get busier, we need to be smarter about what we are doing so we can continue to focus on work-life balance.”
Beatrice Stein, a hospitality consultant in New York City, also spoke on the importance of businesses maintaining a positive, healthy work environment: “Restaurant work is a really hard job, and if you aren’t being treated well in one environment there are a million other restaurants you can go work in.”
Better pay and benefits
One of the main ways restaurants are attempting to attract talent is by offering higher wages, sign-on bonuses and starting incentives, and better benefits. Cheng explains, “When it comes to wages, things are evolving. There are businesses offering higher wages now because they’re in dire need. It’s the only lever they can pull.”
Food service companies like Chipotle and McDonald’s have made announcements about increasing wages which, according to Hiring Lab, caused a spike in searches by people on Indeed for jobs at those companies.
For Adam Orman, owner of Austin restaurant L’Oca d’Oro, it’s not just about pay either: “The pandemic has shown us that things like higher wages and paid sick leave are not just employee benefits, these are community benefits.” L’Oca d’Oro’s 20% hospitality charge guarantees all employees at least $15/hr (plus any tips), membership to a Direct Primary Care Clinic, subsidized mental health counseling and paid time off.
Opportunities for people with little or no experience
Because restaurants are seeking staff urgently, they may also be open to hiring people to develop and train who have little or no experience. This is a great opportunity if you’re looking for extra cash as a student, additional side income or are simply seeking to enter the food service industry for the first time.
Ted Swigert, owner of Drake Restaurant explains, “We’ve broken our hiring template. We’re looking for people that we can develop. I look for something on their resume that shows they can take on tough challenges.”
Tips for finding great food service jobs
If you’re looking for work at a company that values the experience of its staff, there are a few ways you can secure great jobs in the food and beverage industry—especially now as demand is high.
Here are a few ways you can search for great food service jobs available now:
1. Do your research.
Finding great restaurants to work for might take some amount of research and exploration. Once you search for jobs on Indeed and find ones you’re interested in, take some time to look at the companies’ Company Page which includes reviews, salaries, available jobs and Q&A.
Under the “Snapshot” section, you’ll also see the company’s Work Happiness Score, which scores a company based on 15 dimensions of work happiness. You might also visit their company website’s “about us” or equivalent page to look for any values or updates they’ve made to their offerings during COVID-19.
2. Filter your Indeed job search results.
It may be true that many companies have raised their wages or introduced new benefits that didn’t end up in the news cycle like McDonald’s or Chipotle. To find jobs offering a certain salary amount, filter your search results by salary to find job opportunities that match your pay requirements.
3. Use your network.
Tapping into your network of friends, family members, mentors, previous colleagues or even teachers can help you identify good restaurants that may have open opportunities right now. Many job offerings come from referrals since employers like to hire people who will have a high likelihood of succeeding.
4. Prepare for your interview.
Finding and applying for the right jobs and landing the interview is half the work. Securing the offer by making a great impression is the last step to starting your new job. Do your research on the company and prepare your answers to common interview questions so you feel confident when walking into the conversation.
When asked about his favorite interview questions for candidates, Shine offered the following:
1. What aspects of your past or current jobs have been the most challenging?
2. Tell me about a professional challenge you had and how it was resolved?
3. Share why you’d be a good fit for this position
4. Define ‘hospitality’ in your own words
He also said that he looks for “a proven track record with a recognized restaurant, calm and confident in presentation” and someone who can “recognize the value and the must-haves to great guest hospitality.”
Related: How to Prepare for an Interview
The most in-demand food and beverage jobs
Below are 10 of the most-posted food service jobs by employers on Indeed between May 2020 and April 2021: