Online Restaurant Recruiting: A Guide to Contactless Hiring

By Katherine Pendrill

Restaurant Recruiting During COVID-19: A Guide to Contactless Hiring

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to the restaurant industry. One of those changes is the rise of contactless hiring.

While many businesses have shifted their recruitment and hiring processes online over the years, the restaurant industry has generally been slower to adopt a digital-first hiring strategy. In fact, virtually every aspect of the restaurant recruiting, hiring, and training process is still primarily done face-to-face. 

But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and new infection control measures such as social distancing, in-person restaurant recruiting and hiring has become increasingly challenging.

To keep current employees and prospective candidates safe, many restaurants have begun adopting contactless hiring strategies. By taking the hiring process online, businesses have not only been able to continue hiring restaurant employees during the pandemic, but they’ve also developed new ways to recruit and onboard candidates. According to a survey by CareerPlug, these are trends that are likely to stick around with 61% of businesses that made changes to their hiring process during COVID-19 planning to keep those changes in 2021.

In this article, you’ll find out how to make your own hiring process safer by learning:

  • How to adjust your restaurant recruiting process for COVID-19
  • What is contactless hiring?
  • How to implement a contactless hiring strategy in your own restaurant
  • Tips for carrying out virtual employee onboarding 

Whether you’re hiring restaurant employees for front of house or back of house, this guide will help you implement a contactless hiring process that’s safer for everyone involved.

A "now hiring" sign on a restaurant window

Adjust Your Restaurant Recruiting Process for COVID-19

Before you can implement a contactless hiring process in your own restaurant, first you need to change the way you go about recruitment. Not only will you need to rethink the way you get the word out about new positions, but you also need to adjust the information you’re putting out to prospective candidates.

Below, we cover three essential ways to adjust your restaurant recruiting process for COVID-19.

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1. Update Your Careers Page

The first step in reimagining the restaurant recruitment process for a contactless world is updating the careers page on your website to address safety concerns. Prospective employees want to know what your restaurant is doing to keep them safe and your careers page is the easiest way to convey that information.

When updating your careers page, clearly outline the safety measures that your restaurant is taking and what you expect of your employees, including:

  • What PPE employees are required to wear (e.g. masks, face shields, gloves, etc.) and whether you will be providing the required PPE
  • Whether you are conducting regular health checks and what those look like (e.g. temperature checks, health questionnaires, etc.)
  • Your sick leave policy (e.g. paid sick days, unpaid time off, etc.) and whether you’re offering hazard pay of any kind

Remember, your prospective employees are also navigating the pandemic, and answering their safety concerns right off the bat will help them decide if your company is a good fit for their needs.

2. Adjust Job Descriptions

According to a survey by CareerPlug, 21% of employers changed their hiring profiles in the wake of COVID-19, and the hospitality sector made up a significant portion of this group. Now, restaurants are looking for candidates who can be more flexible with their job duties as employees are expected to do more than ever before due to the demands of the pandemic.

For instance, your new server job description may include duties such as helping customers navigate contactless dining technology and enforcing social distancing restrictions. Similarly, your kitchen staff may now need to coordinate the handoff of takeout and delivery orders.

By updating your job postings with proper restaurant job descriptions, including your restaurant general manager job description, you can give prospective candidates a better idea of what their day-to-day responsibilities will be, without the need for them to come in and job-shadow other staff members.

3. Market Your Open Positions

Once you’ve updated all the necessary information, the next step in virtual restaurant recruiting is actually getting the word out.

If you’re a large restaurant hiring a high volume of employees, ranging from a restaurant busser to a general manager in a short time frame, you may want to use a talent management platform that can help you source large numbers of top-quality applicants at once. Though a fast and efficient way to drive high-quality applicants through your virtual candidate pipeline, keep in mind that talent management technology comes at a steep cost.

Therefore, if you’re an independent restaurant with a limited budget and just a few roles to fill, the better option is to use free online platforms to market your open positions. In order to reach as many prospective candidates as possible, consider using the following restaurant recruitment channels:

  • Restaurant-specific job sites such as Poached, Culinary Agents, and Industry
  • General job boards such as Indeed and Glassdoor
  • Local culinary schools and vocational schools
  • Your own social media channels, as well as local social media groups

When marketing your open positions, be sure to specify that resumes and applications should be sent digitally and not dropped off in-person. This will help to ensure that your restaurant recruitment efforts remain fully contactless.

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Implement a Contactless Hiring Strategy

While taking the restaurant recruiting process online is fairly straightforward, actually hiring restaurant employees without meeting face-to-face can be a little tricky.

But while it may seem daunting, contactless hiring can actually be a quick and easy way to find your newest team members.

What Is Contactless Hiring?

Just as the name suggests, contactless hiring refers to a hiring process conducted without any face-to-face interaction. This not only means there are no in-person interviews conducted, but it also means all communication between you and your prospective candidates is done virtually.

Contactless hiring is already common in many industries because it saves time and offers greater flexibility to both employers and prospective employees. In fact, a study by Zenefits found that even before the pandemic, 13.5% of hiring managers exclusively conducted virtual interviews, and 28% conducted a mix of virtual and in-person interviews.

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3 Tips for Contactless Hiring

Despite the benefits, contactless hiring is still relatively new for many restaurants – especially smaller mom and pop operations. For an industry that prides itself on fostering human connection, the idea of contactless hiring can understandably seem a little alien. And admittedly, it can be difficult to properly evaluate candidates for more technical or skilled positions.

However, when done right, contactless hiring can help you identify winning candidates for just about every position in your restaurant.

1. Communicate with your Talent Pool

After narrowing down your list of top candidates, it’s important to set expectations about how the hiring process will proceed. Communicate with each candidate and let them tell them what to expect with the new contactless hiring and virtual interview process.

2. Conduct Virtual Interviews

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of implementing a contactless hiring process is actually setting up and conducting virtual interviews. Fortunately, there are a lot of free tools available that allow you to arrange video calls with potential candidates, including:

However, keep in mind that not all candidates will have access to a computer, so you may need to be a bit flexible and use mobile chat options such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger instead. And if video calling isn’t an option, a good old fashion phone call can suffice.

Once you have the right technology in place, you’ll need to prepare for the actual interview. If virtual interviews are entirely new to you, keep the following in mind:

  • Clarify Logistics: Ensure the candidate knows the start and expected finish time for the call, as well as clear instructions on how to join the virtual meeting. You should also have a backup plan ready in case of technical issues.
  • Set an Objective: Plan ahead and figure out what you need to hear from a candidate for them to advance to the next stage of the process.
  • Prepare Questions and an Interview Structure: Prepare your restaurant interview questions in advance to help the conversation flow smoothly.
  • Prepare Your Environment: Try to find a quiet place to conduct the interview to limit any disruptions or distractions.
  • Reassure the Candidate: Virtual interviews can feel uncomfortable at first. Ease the candidate into the interview by starting with some lighthearted conversation and easier questions.

3. Adjust Your Hiring Criteria

Just as you might have changed the job description for each open role, you may also need to adjust the criteria you look for when hiring restaurant employees.

This might mean looking for an entirely new set of qualities or skills that weren’t relevant before. For instance, you might now need your servers to double as food delivery drivers if you’re ramping up your off-premise restaurant business. In this case, you would not only look for candidates who have strong customer service skills, but also those with a valid drivers’ license, access to a car, car insurance, and a clean driving record.

Man in a cafe using a laptop for virtual restaurant recruiting and contactless hiring

Carry Out Virtual Onboarding

The final stage in the contactless hiring process is virtual onboarding.

Typically, restaurant onboarding – the process of orienting new staff to your restaurant – takes place in-person, in your venue. During this process, employees are introduced to your rules and regulations, receive a breakdown of job-related responsibilities, learn about your restaurant culture, and get to know their co-workers. 

However, due to COVID-19 safety concerns, you should aim to complete as much of the onboarding process remotely as possible. While some in-person training cannot be avoided, consider completing the following steps before asking employees to come in:

1. Complete any necessary paperwork digitally

Paperwork is a necessary part of any employee onboarding process, and fortunately, most admin can now be sent virtually and signed electronically with services such as DocuSign, HelloSign, and eversign.

Generally, you need to collect the following from any new restaurant hire:

  • A signed offer letter (includes details such as rate of pay, title, start date, etc.)
  • Employee information and emergency contact information
  • W-4 form (U.S. federal and state) or Form TD1 (Canada federal and provincial or territorial)
  • I-9 form
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or Social Insurance Number (SIN) card copy
  • Driver’s license copy (if applicable)
  • Payroll authorization
  • Work availability form
  • Employee permits (food handlers license, alcohol serving certificate, etc.)

You can make this process easier by creating and customizing a custom new hire checklist for restaurant employees. However, keep in mind that employment laws and legislation vary based on your location and type of business, so always check your local regulations to ensure you have the correct documentation.

Beyond the more formal paperwork, you should also make sure every new team member receives your restaurant employee handbook. If you already have a digital version of your employee handbook available, send a copy to your newest team members so they can get acquainted with your restaurant’s rules, policies, guidelines, and processes. If you don’t have an employee handbook already, you can easily create one using our free restaurant employee handbook template.

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2. Introduce new employees to the team virtually

Effective introductions are key to incorporating new employees into your team, so don’t skip this step.

Even if you can’t have your whole team in your restaurant at once for in-person introductions, take the time to virtually introduce any new employees to the rest of your staff. This can easily be done by arranging video calls or adding your new employee to messaging platforms like your staff WhatsApp group. 

3. Conduct virtual training when possible

In order to limit the number of times a new employee has to come in and interact with the rest of your team, try to complete as much training virtually as possible. This can involve live video calls where you go over important information such as job duties and company-specific policies. You may also incorporate learning modules, quizzes, and pre-recorded videos that new hires can complete on their own.

Even if you don’t have the resources to create your own training materials, there are plenty of resources available online. For instance, your POS provider may have a library of video tutorials available that can help your new staff members learn the basics. Additionally, organizations like ServSafe, the industry leader in restaurant food safety training, have released free training videos (in English and Spanish) that help to reinforce safe food handling during the pandemic.

These virtual training resources are not just great for new hires, but also for your current staff or any re-hired employees as well. For instance, if you rehire restaurant employees and want to give them a refresher on your new safety policies, consider doing this training virtually instead of in-person.

And for instances where virtual training isn’t an option, try to assign a veteran employee to mentor and train the new hire. This will allow you to set up one-on-one sessions that better accommodate social distancing and limit contact with other employees.

While contactless hiring may seem like a radical departure from traditional restaurant staffing, there are many benefits that come with going virtual. Not only is contactless hiring safer for new employees and your current team members, but a digital hiring process can also give you more flexibility when it comes to finding and securing the right candidates for each role.

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Photo of Katherine Pendrill
by Katherine Pendrill

Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.

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