Takeaways From A Restaurant Industry HR Conference

JabaTalks recently attended the National Restaurant Association’s Human Resources and Risk & Safety Conference held in Austin, TX with the entire team.


The conference gave me the opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” while Human Resources leaders from various national and global food chains addressed top-of-mind industry topics. First, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of collegiality and openness to discussing company-specific problems and the various solutions they were testing in a room full of competitors.

The conference room featured a variety of leaders from upscale restaurant brands to fast food icons collaborating over recruitment and retention issues affecting the industry. Here were my 3 big takeaways:


  1. Decentralization leads to inconsistent screening processes for most restaurant chains.
  2. Millennial workers continue to be an enigma for both recruitment and retention.
  3. One-size fits all assessments do not work for recruiting efforts.


Although my takeaways are nothing new in talent acquisition, my findings reinforce JabaTalks’ opinion that the hiring landscape has fundamentally changed for the talent acquisition market regardless of industry. Like many businesses, the restaurant industry relies on their human capital to be the face of their brand and deliver a superior product to keep customers coming back.


According to TDn2K.com, when asked “How concerned is your company with the following workforce related challenges?”

  • 74% of respondents selected “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” with recruitment
  • 71% of respondents selected “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” with turnover & retention.* 


Recruitment and retention have a strong bi-lateral influence over each other. Smart recruitment strategies result in better fitting candidates and better retention plans attract better candidates into your pipeline. While easier said than done, focusing recruitment efforts to address the three above points can help establish better processes and improve your hiring KPI’s.


Decentralization and non-standardization

If your restaurant has more than one location, how can you ensure that location A is following the same hiring process as location B?

While every geographical territory has differences in its workforce characteristics, using consistent and scalable processes guarantees a level of standardization required for maintaining brand alignment. To that point, I found it interesting that many corporate headquarters did not directly control recruitment practices for their individual sites.

If there is no centralized or standardized process for talent acquisition, the candidate and customer experience is affected.



Often characterized as entitled, self-absorbed and lacking commitment, hiring managers are still fine-tuning their talent acquisition strategies for millennials. Those to address the issue first will have a leg up in the battle for millennial talent.

Millennials surpassed Generation X in 2015 to become the largest share of the American workforce.** The millennial generation has changed the hiring landscape demanding the hiring process be mobile, responsive, and minimally burdensome.


  • Mobile needs to play a huge role in how you are hiring millennials. In fact, it has been reported that over 90% of millennials are searching for jobs on their mobile devices. JabaTalks data supports this with approximately 80% of millennials applying via mobile. Yet, roughly only 50% of job applications are mobile friendly. Millennial employees looking for hourly jobs are significantly more likely to complete an application if it can be done from their phone.


  • Most job seekers, especially millennials, have long been frustrated by the job board process of submitting applications and waiting eagerly while their resumé collects dust in a pile or virtually in an applicant tracking system (ATS). The hiring process normally spans up to eight weeks and is characterized scheduling issues and telephone tag required to interview, assess, and hire candidates. Now more than ever, companies need to focus on the candidate application experience in order to win the best talent. By engaging candidates immediately and streamlining the application and response process you can guide the best talent into your pipeline.


  • A standardized hiring process ensures that your recruiters and hiring managers use the same reference points to make decisions. Essentially, everyone is acting on similar information to determine candidate quality which in the end can translate into a similar type of personality representing your brand.



Most ATS’ offer assessments as an add-on feature that are targeted by industry type and help predict the applicant’s fit for a role within a given industry. Many restaurant HR leaders we spoke to use the assessments, but “take them with a grain of salt.”  They may be great at identifying strengths and areas for improvement, but can they really tell you everything you need to know about an applicant?

In working with a pizza chain, I learned about the concept of “blind interviewing” where candidates are brought directly into the store without a pre-screening interview based on their assessment results. The pizza chain remarked that the assessment was not accurately portraying candidates nor providing the necessary information for a constructive next round interview. The one-size fits all assessment approach seems to be widely used, but not effective in getting to know candidates in a practical manner.


The JabaTalks Difference

By automating the phone screen process, JabaTalks gives hiring companies access to standardized interviews without ever having to pick up a phone. Our interview process was designed with the candidate experience in mind to give hiring teams an accurate portrayal of the soft skills and job-related experiences at the earliest stage of the hiring process so teams not only focus on the right talent earlier, but also don’t waste it with unqualified applicants. JabaTalks immediately engages candidates (with a mobile friendly platform) inviting them to take a standard interview customized by the hiring company for a specific position. Once the interview is complete, it is uploaded to a centralized platform (or your existing applicant tracking system) and can be reviewed by hiring managers and their teams.


The Advantage 

In the context of the restaurant industry, the JabaTalks system is meant to standardize the screening process. We engage candidates immediately and provide hiring teams with the information they need to understand a candidate’s previous experience, personality, and motivation for employment.

It is no secret that many teams dread the initial review phases of a hiring cycle. The process requires monotonous repetition of reviewing resumés and engaging in the same phone conversation countless times. The JabaTalks system alleviates that pain, allowing you to skip the information collection phase and only focus on reviewing. Further, you’re able to bring your whole team into the review and rating process. When you do choose to call a candidate, we want that call to be a meaningful step in the hiring process. JabaTalks provides you with the background information into each candidate allowing you to go into future interview stages with targeted questions geared towards whether your applicant will succeed in the role.

Simply put – JabaTalks quickly reduces a large applicant pool into a small group of diverse and well-qualified candidates allowing you to make the best hire for your position.


If you are interested in learning more about (and even testing) the process to understand how JabaTalks can work for you, sign up for free at www.jabatalks.com.




* http://tdn2k.com/

** http://www.pewresearch.org/

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