Restaurant Recruiting Trends Shift as COVID-19 Restrictions Lift

By the spring of 2020, we all had to adjust to a very different way of life. All events were canceled, hand sanitizer was in high demand, we kept six feet apart, and face masks were everywhere.

For many restaurants, this meant having to shut down dining room service. Many restaurants made a full (yet hopefully temporary) conversion to a structure that minimized personal contact. This new COVID-conscious arrangement completely shifted to call-in or mobile app orders, curbside pickup, and delivery. For many businesses, this meant that staffing needed to trim down and talented waitstaff had to be let go.

Among the industries, restaurants were hit hardest. National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 8 million restaurant employees were laid off or furloughed within the first month of the outbreak (March-April). By December of 2020, 110,000 food and beverage service businesses were shut down completely. (Source)

With a new vaccine rollout underway in 2021, businesses are putting plans together to make a comeback. The hope is that restaurants can hire back their talented workers, but some may not be available to return.

Aida is here to help businesses stabilize by supporting fluctuating staffing needs. We’ve put together this guide to help plan restaurant recruitment for reopening and secure the talent they need to begin to make a recovery this year.

How to Shift Your Restaurant Recruitment Process After Covid-19

The vaccine rollout is progressing at different rates depending on what part of the country you are in. Here are some of the most notable trends with restaurant recruiting strategy.

Update Your Careers Page with a Safety Section

While the anxiety of the spread of COVID is not as high as it was last year, people are still concerned about new strains or unknowingly bringing the virus home to vulnerable family members. As of now, only 35% of the US population is fully vaccinated as many people are still waiting to get their first or second dose.

To ease the fears of people who want to go back to work but want to be safe about it, you’ll want to make it known what your current COVID policy is. Are you going to allow unwell workers to stay home and require exposed persons to quarantine? Are you going to require customers to wear masks?

Add to your website and any other job publications what your COVID health and safety policy is. This will make expectations clear to applicants and assure them that you care about their wellbeing.

Aside from your website and job posts, there are more ways to get the word out for restaurant recruiting. Taco Bell recently held a “hiring party” in parking lots nationwide. This publicity lets potential employees know that they are actively recruiting and are doing so with health and safety in mind. This hiring event included social distancing, mask-wearing, and drive-through interviews.

Save Time, and Take Your Interviews Virtual

Traditionally, restaurant interviews happen across the table where customers sit. Interviews don’t necessarily have to be done in person. You can interview over the phone or use a video meeting platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

If the applicant cannot do a video interview and you want to be able to see them, you can interview in person with COVID precautions. For those you interview in person, have them complete a health screening the day of the meeting. Some businesses are using instant-read forehead thermometers to check for fevers on site.

During the meeting, you can keep six feet between you as you both wear masks. This will also be the time to confirm that the applicant will comply with the additional health and safety precautions for COVID.

If you’re wondering how you would find the time necessary to interview candidates with so much work to do, Aida is the perfect solution. When you use our on-demand staffing services no interview process is necessary because we’ve already vetted every single worker for the skills and background needed to do the job. You’ll get the qualified staff you need when you need them.

Restaurants are Getting Creative with Their Employee Benefits

Restaurant wages are going up, especially in fast food service. But To compete with other places who are all trying to hire at the same time, it helps to incentivize with some perks or sign-on bonuses.

For example, Chipotle set up a debt-free education program. Whataburger increased the salaries of general managers to six figures to their GMs and McDonald’s locations were giving $50 to interview and $300 sign-on bonuses.

Give Employees What They Want

Aside from higher wages, workers are looking for improved working conditions. It has been speculated that federal unemployment benefits have lessened the motivation to return to work. 

How well you can recruit the best talent comes down to what you have to offer them. As discussed in the last section, many corporate restaurants are using cash incentives to compete with others who are scrambling to prepare for a rebound. This indicates that you can expect an employee’s market with restaurant recruiting in 2021.


One of the drawbacks of the restaurant industry is scheduling that interferes with family life. In 2021, it was reported that nearly 3 million women left the workforce. It has been speculated that school closures and distance learning caused working moms to stay at home with their children.

Aside from hardships from family obligations, employers have come to realize that managers and employees want flexibility. They need to be able to stay home when they are sick and have a work schedule that allows them to have a work-life balance. 

When you make a job posting, be sure to include that you encourage workers to stay home when ill or taking care of sick children and will work with employees on a schedule that works best for them. 

At the beginning of the interview reiterate your flexibility policy so that they don’t miss these points. These applicants may be interviewing at multiple places, so showing this kind of support helps you stand out from the rest.


As mentioned earlier, Taco Bell garnered publicity about their outdoor restaurant recruiting event to let everyone know that they are still taking precautions in 2021. Many states and businesses have become lax about mask-wearing and social distancing and videos of customers refusing to wear a mask have gone viral.

Some workers are still awaiting a chance to get vaccinated, have household members who are immunocompromised and are concerned about new virus strains that continue to emerge. While there is optimism that we will be able to unmask later this year (2021), it is still wise to maintain the same precautions we had in 2020.

Reassure workers in job postings and during the interview process that you will enforce mask-wearing, social distancing, and continue with COVID-19 cleaning guidelines while we are still working toward herd immunity as a nation. 

Let them know that symptomatic workers are to stay at home, exposed workers will have to quarantine for 10 days, and that mask-wearing is mandatory. This means that customers who won’t comply will be turned away. This drives home the point that the health and safety of your workers are the top priority.


As mentioned earlier, it has been speculated that workers are in no hurry to go back to work because they are still collecting extended federal unemployment benefits. With that said, job security with a steady paycheck makes the transition back to work more palatable.

One way to confirm stability is to decide how many hours you can guarantee and be upfront about this. Once they are hired, have regular staff meetings where you are transparent about how the business is doing. Any good news you can share about increased customer traffic and revenue (or your plans to boost these numbers) promotes confidence. Keeping them in the loop reassures them that things are stable at work.

Another work perk to consider is offering pay advances for managers and employees. They may have emergency expenses and knowing they have this safety net gives them the peace of mind they need to do well at work.

Final Thoughts on Recruiting in the Hospitality Industry Post Covid-19

Food and beverage business owners know all about competing for customers, and now it’s time to apply that same mindset to restaurant recruiting when becoming fully staffed again. 

The restaurant recruiting tips we’ve provided are only a starting point. With some brainstorming, you can come up with original incentives and put together an appealing offer that helps you stand out among your competitors.

As mentioned earlier, stability matters when hiring permanent staff. Some restaurants need more time to recover before they can offer secure employment and steady hours. Aida offers temporary hospitality staffing on demand to give you the workers you need during this post-COVID transition. 


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