By Loren Bornstein
For the third week in a row, a good friend and bar manager wasn’t getting a single hit from a qualified bartender for his open position. On top of working his own bar shifts each week as well as doing inventory and payroll, he’d been covering an extra two shifts, because it was only himself and two other bartenders who couldn’t cover those shifts. And he wasn’t alone in his frustration: I’ve lost track of how many hiring hospitality managers have asked me similar questions. It seems everyone wants to know how to find qualified bartenders and the right staff for their bars and restaurants.
As a natural networker, I listen to people day in-day out, and help connect them to opportunities. Especially because I work in hospitality, I tend to know if someone is getting ready to move around or is looking for a candidate. We hear a lot in this industry. It’s helped me learn how and where to find the people I need.
If you’re stuck trying to find a bartender or other team members, here are a few ways to find, recruit, and retain qualified candidates.
Many an owner and manager are already working 60+ hours a week. When you’re burning that energy so often, you don’t go out as much. Unfortunately, events geared toward hospitality like cocktail competitions, brand-sponsored rooftop events, tastings, etc: those are your prime events where many a potential candidate can be found.
The USBG (United States’ Bartender’s Guild) is a nationwide nonprofit connecting industry members all over the country (and really, the globe). They also sponsor many of these events. It behooves any hiring hospitality person to use their network to find a bartender.
Also, we all know there are always a few haunts that are notorious industry hangouts. If you don’t want to go big events, get your nighttime tipple at the industry joint and schmooze. You’re bound to overhear someone needing a job or talking about how they want something more. The rest of it is up to you.
Continuing with that train of thought about going to events, if you Google or Facebook search brands on the market and your location, you might find an event happening close by. Hospitality is notoriously low-tech, so you can’t be as reliant upon a more tech-heavy, classic recruiter search for bartenders.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be learning how to use technology to your advantage. While some of you may hate this, Facebook is going to be your new best friend in searching for bartenders. Hospitality is incredibly tight, and we network like it’s our business (because it is). All you need to do is check your friends and see who is commenting, and you’re guaranteed to find a bartender-at-large looking for their next opportunity. Or, as it happened for me, a mutual acquaintance updated his status letting his network know he needed a bartender—someone tagged my name and, a week later, I was in the door and hired.
Job posting. It’s a thing. Get creative and get marketable. Whether it’s a “We’re Hiring” sign in the window or a posting sent through Craigslist, PoachedJobs, or Indeed, more and more people are responding to creative and easily accessible advertising. You can purchase ad space on Facebook, pay for certain keywords to show up attached to your business that make you pop out more in a search engine—your bartenders might not be using tech that often, but you’re going to have to dive in if just going to events isn’t enough. You have to change your outreach if you aren’t finding the people you need.
I know a handful of bartenders in the last few months who have landed jobs they found online. Is your restaurant marketing to the right websites and audience? What kind of bartenders do you want? Once you know, design your marketing around that kind of candidate and put it on blast at the places they are likely to frequent and the websites they use.
The number one complaint I’ve heard from people in hospitality is the issue around money. Tipped hourly wages are all over the place, and where tips aren’t cutting the mustard, neither will the staff—it’s why hospitality has a reputation for cutting and running, nobody wants to be poor.
To be competitive, you have to have enough financial stability or promise of such to bring on and hold service members. Sometimes, that means you offer above the minimum tipped hourly wage. (Boston’s is a dismal $3.75—we’re incredibly reliant on tips.) Maybe you have an automatic service charge that helps pay for insurance benefits for your staff. Regardless of things, if you’re looking to hire, you know that money is a big part of what matters to anyone. Nobody wants to be worrying about making their rent or living paycheck to paycheck. Be ready to be upfront and transparent about money as you post jobs and network with people.
Finally, it’s not just about finding people, but working on your team culture as you people search as well as when you aren’t looking. Nobody joins a job for money alone—there has to be some kind of relatable exchange. People sign up when they feel like the team culture and morale are comfortable and worthwhile, even if the money isn’t the best. You don’t have to think alike in every aspect, but a team that likes and respects one another tends to also draw in those candidates too. Do your employees feel safe and heard? Have you checked in with them to hear their thoughts on why it might be a struggle to retain staff? Be prepared to just listen and work with your employees to further your culture. It won’t matter how good a new hire is if your team isn’t doing well.
No one approach or strategy is going to solve all staffing issues, but a combination of these has helped me find and keep bartenders. It can be tough to teach yourself new approaches and technology, but it’s worth the effort: there are brilliant candidates looking for you too.
Questions, concerns, successful tips of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.
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