It’s no secret that Covid-19 has impacted the restaurant workforce. The restaurant industry provides direct employment to 7.3 million Indians, and it is estimated that an equivalent number are engaged in ancillary activities. While one of the biggest employment generators is in a grim situation, the ratio of increasing unemployment in the country has risen.
It is being estimated that over two million people directly employed in the sector may be rendered jobless. The numbers may even increase considering the second wave. However, for a few of the restaurant operators, recruiting during the Covid-19 pandemic can be advantageous because so many restaurant talents are looking for work.
Restaurants must be picky, however, to ensure that new hires are good fits for the long term and that they’ll work safely alongside existing staff. But, in the race for the right talent, how will be the new restaurant recruitment look like? Should restaurants adopt several measures to ensure their existing staff is safe from job insecurity?
Adaptability in the workplace needed
Harmandeep Khurana, the founder of The Barbeque Company looks for talent first, even if the recruitment process takes time. “Many people have lost the job during the time of the pandemic, many talented are still jobless. In the race of talent, restaurant job recruitment will become so tough as there are lots of talented people are there who are keen to get a good job and one will surely think to recruit someone who is talented and in need of a job more than anyone else,” he said.
Talent in today's time is all about adaptability in the workplace. The pandemic has taught the industry to be prepared for the worst and still give the customer a seamless experience.
According to Vicky Bachani, Co-Founder of Farmaaish Resto-Lounge and Bar, in the backend, one has to look for employees that are quick learners and ready to take up different roles or help other departments when needed.
“During the pandemic we had the entire service staff filling in as kitchen helpers, and they did the work amazing well. We are always happy to have all-rounders in our kitchen who can manage various roles when the situation calls for it,” he said.
Similarly, recruitment for managerial positions will be more determined on the basis of how well a candidate can risk and change management and come up with new ideas to deal make the business work in changing situations.
Transparency should be the key
The ongoing crisis has eventually lead to non-payment of salary to staff and huge cuts in jobs. Brands with organised infrastructure and a bit of deep pocket will still be able to survive with major restructuring processes, while many outlets will have to shut shop.
In such a scenario, Bachani feels that transparency should be the key. “We made sure that all salaries for the tenure before the lockdown were paid in full, and we were transparent about the change in the salary structure till the situation normalizes,” he commented.
For some, the biggest challenge will be to hire strategically while making complex arrangements for their employees’ return to work. For others, scaling up their workforce and making faster hiring decisions will be top of mind. Amid all, staff retention is also crucial especially for loyal and highly skilled employees.
To ensure that Aman Talreja, Founder of Murphies Pune and The Doner Company in Pune and Bangalore is ensuring that the employees are getting access to the basic facilities at least, from food ration to clean water and medication if required. “We've also tried to allocate other jobs to them and are training them to deal with more delivery and pick up related tasks,” he added.
Making existing staff feel safe
According to Bachani, the most important thing is to make sure that the existing employees feel safe in the place they work in. Bachani is arranging regular doctor visits and checkups for his staff and is bearing the room and food expenses of the team.
“We have also approached some insurance companies to provide a basic package that covers for Covid-19 or other illnesses so that they are not dependent on us or their families in case of any emergency,” Bachani informed.
Some restaurants are learning to pivot quickly, with curb service and delivery options keeping them marginally afloat during the outbreak. For these companies, assessing which staff members are essential or can be moved into new roles will be key.
The new recruits too are required to understand the basic need for hygiene and sanitisation more than ever as everyone ordering or stepping out to eat is looking for a place that is properly sanitised and is really clean. “One has to be really on toes to help guests gain the confidence and feel the warmth they used to as the world is adapting to the new normal,” Muddassir Iqbal, Founder and Director of Zooby’s Kitchen commented.