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Fast-food restaurants are so desperate for workers they're hosting hiring parties

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 11/19/2018 Jeanette Settembre
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You’re cordially invited to get a job.

As the unemployment rate sits at just 3.7%, employers are getting so desperate for talent that they’re throwing hiring parties with free food and swag to lure in new talent.

Taco Bell beefed up its hiring efforts recently by throwing its first-ever hiring party in Indiana, inviting job seekers into one of its restaurants for games, nacho fries, watermelon freezes, and gift cards. Attendees were also given the opportunity to interview on the spot and learn about the company’s benefits.

“The hiring party is really a play on the old school job fair that used to take place at colleges or at the restaurants where people come in and give their resume,” Bjorn Erland, vice president of human resources at Taco Bell, told Moneyish. “The key was making it interactive and casual, but also if they wanted to interview and get hired, that was available as well.”

Taco Bell reported nearly 75 in-person applicants and 40 new hires -- more than 50% of the typical 20% hiring rate -- and received more than 300 online job applications as a result of the job fiesta. The fast food giant plans to roll out the hiring party program nationally next year.

With the employment rate at its lowest since 1969, restaurant owners and managers are especially concerned about attracting and retaining top talent. In fact, 65% of restaurant, hospitality and entertainment decision-makers said hiring new employees was a top operational priority, up from 55% in 2017, according to The Gallagher 2018 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey. And nearly three quarters (74%) said getting and retaining talent was a top HR priority, the report also found.

“Job seekers are in the driver’s seat,” said Bill Ziebell, president of Gallagher Employee Benefits Consulting and Brokerage. “The number of unemployed workers are at a historic low, and it’s quite common that today’s job seeker will receive multiple job offers and do immediate employer comparisons. This is happening in restaurants and countless other industries. In addition to their cash compensation, they do look at benefits packages and other people investments – such as work scheduling flexibility, paid-time off, and community involvement – side-by-side and know which employer is more heavily invested in their future and overall wellbeing.”

Recruiting top talent in new markets has always been a priority for Shake Shack, which is why it started hosting pop-up parties before a store opening. The burger giant advertised heavily on social media rather than on traditional job posting sites for an informal recruitment event in Charlotte, N.C., at local brewery Lenny Boy Brewing Co. The team gave out t-shirts, sunglasses, koozies for brews and hiring cards for interested attendees. They threw similar parties on the West Coast in Glendale and Hollywood where they gave away free Shake Shack burgers and hired 40% of 60 attendees. Similarly, when they hosted a pop-up party in Palo Alto, they hired about 40% of the 150 people who showed up.

“We’ve made it easier and faster for candidates to get to know us, and get hired,” said Natalie Diehm, director of talent acquisition at Shake Shack, of coming up with innovative ways to recruit new hires. “They don’t need anything -- they can just show up,” she added.

Teaming up with local restaurants has also helped them create buzz around their events. When they hosted one in Seattle recently, they had Butcher’s Table help them create a special burger using their ingredients and offered coffee and donuts for dessert.

Industry experts say enticing people looking for jobs in the restaurant business outside of traditional job postings is a must in order to retain talent. The turnover rate in the fast-food industry is the highest its been since researchers began recording data in 1995, according to MIT Technology Review, and giving potential employees a taste of company culture could be a way to get them to stay on the payroll a bit longer.

“It’s like a rebrand of the traditional open call. It gets people excited about the brand. It’s about creating an exciting environment where people want to go to work and showing them the opportunity for growth,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance said. “In the past people would spend many years at one company, whereas now they jump around.”

Taco Bell© Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg Taco Bell
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