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Leveraging Technology and Processes to Tackle the Worker Shortage

Help Wanted signs are commonplace in hospitality. Here’s how operators are leveraging tech to cope.
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Editor's Note: This is one of three installments in HT’s Workforce Technology Series covering hiring, training and retention.   


There are few universal truths, but here’s one: hotels and restaurants are challenged to fill hourly positions.

Alan Rogers, FSC Franchise Co. Vice President of Organizational Learning and Development, has worked in senior level restaurant positions for more than 25 years. He says hiring has always been one of the biggest challenges facing restaurant operators, but not to this degree.

HT's Workforce Technology Series

“There's the old saying all the way back to Ray Kroc (the former leader of McDonald’s.) ‘We're not in the hamburger business. We're in the people business; we just happen to serve hamburgers,’ and that's always rung true through the industry. Your success lives and dies on the people that you have. That's always been the case,” Rogers said. 

High turnover rates have always been an issue in hospitality, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem, and many hotels face a shortage of applicants when hiring for positions, noted Scott Schaedle, founder and CEO of  Quore a hospitality operations solution that streamlines workflows.

With hospitality being a people-oriented business, hiring the right staff is all the more pressing as ‘revenge travel’ and dining out has returned -- and in some cases surpassed -- pre-pandemic levels.  

For Tia Morris, Service Director at City Winery, the biggest challenge is not hiring, but retaining employees. “They're OK with quitting. Back in the day, people would get hired and would retain the job just due the fact that they needed the job … The challenge for me is that people actually feel like they don't need a job.”

This ongoing labor shortage is forcing operators to re-evaluate their hiring procedures, benefits and more.

Modern Marketing 

At FSC’s Beef ‘O’Bradys and The Brass Tap restaurants, hiring has been streamlined. Long gone are the paper applications behind the counter.  

“It used to be if someone came in and you gave them an application and they didn’t have a pen, you would say they didn’t come in prepared,” Rogers said. “Now it is much more about how do we attract the right person, instead of how to select the right person.” 

It boils down to marketing. “You have got to market yourself better than your competitors,” Rogers said. FSC leverages social media platforms and utilizes an applicant tracking system.

Simplify the Application 

For the prospective employee, make the landing page simple, Rogers advises. Simple for the employee to get on (scan a QR code on a sign or window cling, follow direct links from social media).  And simple in the number of questions.  “When I first started using applicant tracking systems, I would have 10 pre-qualifying questions. Now there are just a couple. We don’t want a high dropout rate because there are too many questions,” Rogers explained. 

Tech Updates Pave the Way for Growth for Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, The Brass Tap

exterior Black Bear Diner

Black Bear Diner  has also simplified its hiring processes as it looks to recruit new employees. “The ongoing industry-wide labor shortage has prompted us to take a hard look at our hiring, training and retention efforts, and evaluate how we can use technology to improve and simplify these processes for both our potential and existing team members in order to increase hiring and training efficiencies, as well as employee retention rates,” said Tammy Johns, Chief People Officer, at Black Bear Diner.

Like FSC,  Black Bear leverages technology to make applying “as simple and seamless as possible” for job seekers. “We use the platform TalentReef, which gives applicants options to apply to open positions both online, as well as via text or chat,” Johns explained. “This allows us to cast a wider net by meeting applicants where they choose.”

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The Need for Speed

Landed partners with 80+ job boards and social media advertising platforms. “Millennials and Gen Z are spending one-third of their waking hours on social media platforms. So it is really important that your brand has a presence there,” Wang said.

Speed up the process: keep in mind that candidates are applying for multiple jobs in one sitting, so responding to candidates within an hour or two is essential, “not the same day, not the next day or a week later,” Wang stressed. Landed’s goal is to get them in for an interview within 24-48 hours. “That’s how you reduce ghosting and get your store staffed,” she added. [end sidebar?]

Challenges: No Shows

But even when you can find job seekers, sometimes those applicants don’t show up for interviews. Job search platform ZipRecruiter’s survey of 2,550 workers  found that 22% had ghosted a prospective employer during the application process. Respondents aged 18 to 34 were the most prolific ghosters, being three times more likely than job seekers ages 55 and up.

What if you’re a hotel or restaurant having problems finding employees or  being ghosted by candidates? Technology can help with that!

At Restaurant Technology Network’s RTN’s Start-Up Alley pitch slam at MURTEC 2023, tech startup Landed, a recruitment engine for the hospitality industry, took home top honors for its timely solution that addresses these challenges. 

“GMs are time-strapped operators, they’re not recruiters,” Wang explained during her pitch. “Landed takes over your sourcing, vetting, engaging and interview setup, and we leverage our conversational AI technology as well as a human recruitment specialist team.”

There are numerous tech solutions (GigSmart, GigPro, ShiftPixy, SnagaJob,TalentReef, Qwick, to name a few) that help connect job seekers, including gig workers, with hospitality employers.  

Shift matching platforms like Qwick connect qualified, driven and vetted hospitality freelancers with hotels, restaurants and other hospitality venues, “offering a new level of flexibility for  both the business and the worker,” explains Chief Revenue Officer Jill Erickson. “Manual hiring processes are eliminated, staffing-related operations are reduced, training is minimized, and costs associated with these shrink immensely. Using this tech-enabled solution, workers are now at liberty to accept shifts based on the business, its location, listed duties, schedule and pay.”

Josh Page, assistant director of food and beverage, The Landings Club, a private residential golf community in Savannah, Ga., on Skidway Island, uses local temp firms and Gigpro to fill job openings for “fluctuating business” like banquet and events.

“We don't have enough full-time employees to service our biggest events, and that's where GigPro has come in. It has allowed us to get away from utilizing some of the local temp services here that have much higher markups” on their finder's fee and hourly rate, which is usually 10-15% higher, Page explained.

The Landings has leaned into gig workers and uses them strategically, doing prep work or as a runner. “We have a really quick onboarding for how to run food in each one of our restaurants,” Page said. “When a ‘pro’ comes in, we're able to get them onboarded within about 15 minutes.”

It’s been a good way for prospective employees to try out the work environment, and vice versa. “We’ve had a lot of Gigpros who have ended up converting to full-time hires,” Page explained.  

City Winery too has leaned into using gig workers and converting them over to team members. Tia Morris, Service Director at City Winery in Atlanta, estimates she has hired 10 team members after meeting them through Gigpro.

It helps with one of her challenges: finding team members with the right skill sets. “Somebody can tell you that they are a server or line chef, but actually seeing them in the operation, seeing them during the service, that's when you'll actually be able to know if they have those skill sets.”  

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