Hiring restaurant employees in the current environment is challenging.
Vivian Wang knows firsthand. She worked in the retail sector at the Gap and saw the problems with traditional hiring and onboarding within the service industry. To overcome the obstacles, she founded Landed, an application platform that has helped Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A and others in the restaurant industry recruit and retain quality employees.
“We’ve been very focused on helping employers find and engage the best candidates for each position and taking care of their general manager, who can focus on the restaurant business,” Wang said.
Founded in 2019, Landed netted $1.4 million in seed funding in early 2021 from Javelin Venture Partners along with Y Combinator, Palm Drive Capital and others. The product started in seven markets but has grown to 20, including California, Virginia, Texas and Georgia.
Production flow has changed
For restaurants, the last two years have completely upended traditional models. The industry saw the rise of third-party delivery and online ordering. QR codes established a foothold in the industry, and people are also ordering from kiosks inside restaurants.
That means that restaurants have had to rethink training and hiring practices. They have had to define new roles and look for different qualities in the applicants.
“DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub have added completely new channels of demand into these restaurants,” Wang said. “Now you might have a part of your staff that’s working the dining room, you have another part of your staff working the delivery, another the drive-thru window, and then you have the back-of-house kitchen. Well, now you need to have a whole separate group of employees where they focus on things like only curbside pickup.”
Wang believes Landed is the perfect tool for the new omnichannel environment. The app allows applicants to set up a profile and a video statement. Using an algorithm, Landed matches applicants with employers in their area. The process is a lot different than the old classified ad in the newspaper. Landed claims it monitors 80 different job boards as well as social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
The candidates are vetted before the restaurants are involved. Landed, according to Wang, has booked 40,000 interviews in 2022 and has seen a 74% increase over the previous quarter. Once an applicant is contacted, the app allows two-way texting, so employers can remain in constant contact with the applicant.
Wang said candidates in the current restaurant industry must be versatile. They need to be more than just order-takers. They have to solve problems and work efficiently.
“You need to have had life experience interfacing with front of house, like for customers directly, but then also with the various technologies or processes that are in place to support these different modes of service,” Wang said.
Actively managing conversations
Curtis Weaver, a partner in a franchise holding company that owns a group of Zaxby’s in Georgia, uses Landed to vet potential employees. The company has had to adapt to the changing world over the last two years. They instituted curbside pickup and took advantage of drive-thrus. He sees Landed as a key tool in recruiting new employees.
“The main selling point was that there is someone who is actively managing the conversations for the applicants on our behalf,” Weaver said. “You know we have a lot of different platforms that come and pitch to us, but they are really only posting ads on our behalf. Landed’s unique approach in handling all the conversations in a professional and organic manner is really what sets the product apart.”
Besides hiring the candidates, Landed also helps train new employees. That is especially important with the changing nature of the hospitality industry. Workers might need to be trained on how to use the DoorDash app or the specific way a curbside order is fulfilled. In the kitchen, workers need to be trained on the production line with orders coming into the kitchen from multiple sources. In the end, quality has to be the focus in an omnichannel environment.
“There’s a lot of training that goes along with that,” Wang said. “You need to package food in a certain way. Food integrity is important to maintain because you’re delivering an experience to someone’s home, maybe like a couple of miles away. So, you know you need sanitary practices. That stuff is important. That all comes with training and meeting to maintain those new demand channels.”
For managers, restaurants are looking for people who have experience managing in the omnichannel environment. They can manage a complicated logistical operation and make the process flow smoothly. That is a lot different than the skills that were required just a few years ago.
“Managers do need to have a degree of experience for managing a qualified curbside operation,” Wang said. “They also need to be able to manage the technology platforms. They also need to demonstrate that they have experience doing some degree of recruiting and hiring.”
Wang said the company’s overall goal is to automate the process of hiring. Companies do not have to spend hours and hours scheduling interviews and conducting rounds of interviews. Candidates can be evaluated quickly and hired. The average turnover in the restaurant industry is 130%, so companies are always hiring. A place like Chick-fil-A can have around 100 employees at one location so it is constantly looking for people.
Wang understands that restaurants will not necessarily be a career for everyone. But some people can find success starting as an entry-level employee and then working up to a management-level position. Wang said from hiring to regional manager can be a 10-year journey for some people. Wang believes that is more the case with the huge amounts of technology and logistics involved in the operation of a restaurant today. Employees must have both technological and customer service skills to thrive in the current environment.
“They really are transferable skills, and why it’s a really great start to your career, even if you do decide to go elsewhere later,” Wang said.