Staff shortage in the hospitality industry? 3 tips for effective recruiting

The best way to find suitable staff varies from one industry to the next. In our series on 'Branch-specific employee recruitment', we discuss labour shortages in 3 industries and highlight the best ways to find new staff. This article is all about successfully recruiting staff in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry has more vacancies (in Dutch) than any other industry. The COVID-19 pandemic caused hospitality workers to leave the industry (in Dutch) in droves. So what can hospitality businesses do to get the staff they need?

Three recruiting tips for the hospitality industry

Hospitality entrepreneur Wouter Ammerlaan and pub manager Omri Althuis share their top tips on finding staff in the hospitality industry.

1. Highlight the fringe benefits

The hospitality industry has wide opening hours so staff often eat during working hours. If your staff has to eat on the job, you are required to follow the rules on providing meals. You must offer meals to all employees starting their shift before 13.30 and ending it at or after 20.00.

“Make the most of the rules and give your staff something delicious to sink their teeth into”, Ammerlaan recommends. His own employees get to tuck into a menu that changes every week. “We give our staff a healthy meal every day, paid breaks, and after-hours drinks.” In other words, full-time employees get 5 free dinners a week. Highlighting that you offer delicious chef-made meals on the job might see more job applicants.

2. Use your team as a business card

Satisfied workers bring in new workers. Several dishwashers in Ammerlaan’s restaurants knew each other before joining the company. One of them told the others how much he enjoyed working for Ammerlaan. Show why working for you is so great on offline and online channels. Ask your employees to help out and share their experiences with friends or their social media followers. Reward employees for referrals. You could offer a gift voucher for your restaurant, for example.

On the website for ‘Kom werken in de horeca’ (come and work in hospitality, you can find a free toolkit (in Dutch) with social media posts, posters, and other resources to quickly share vacancies.

3. Offer hospitality training

Training is one of the main fringe benefits (in Dutch) for employees. Omri Althuis, pub manager at De Beierd and De Gist, started as a dishwasher ten years ago. Thanks to various training courses, he is now a manager. “Advancement opportunities are decisive for me. I enjoy taking courses and always learn a lot. They give you lots of new insights that you can use to enhance the customer experience. Besides, investing in your staff ties them to your company. Now that I am a manager, I get the staff to follow all sorts of training courses.”

What courses you should offer your employees depends on the goal you have in mind. Want to boost your staff’s industry knowledge? Offer them a course on food and wine pairings. Or a course on allergens, so that they can provide tailored service to guests with special dietary wishes. Other types of training to consider include courses on beer or coffee or on hygiene and safety.

The KHN Academy (in Dutch) offers industry-specific courses for free or at a discount.

Hiring self-employed professionals or shorter opening hours

The hospitality industry is somewhat hamstrung by the dangerous combination of low salaries and temporary contracts, including seasonal contracts. This makes many workers seek more stable employment elsewhere. Now that staff is in short supply, workers are grasping the opportunity to register as self-employed professionals (in Dutch). This lets them demand a higher hourly wage and negotiate their working hours.

Hiring a self-employed professional is not the best solution for all hospitality entrepreneurs, according to Robèr Willemsen, president of trade association Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN). “Business owners always have to keep a close eye on their profit margins. Another option would be to shorten your opening hours. That way, you will need less staff and will not increase your team’s workload.” Figure out what works best for you and ask your accountant to weigh in if necessary.

Staff shortage? View experiences and tips

Finding staff in a tight labour market is a challenge. Still experts and entrepreneurs see opportunities, such as recruiting via Open Hiring or finding foreign staff. Learn from their experience and tips.

Customised terms of employment

Employment conditions go beyond the hourly wage; fringe benefits also play a major role, argues Willemsen. "One employee needs training (paid for by the employer), while for another an extra day off is more important. Many younger employees actually want flexibility and do not need a permanent contract. But this does not apply to everyone, as skilled workers and full-time employees want to know where they stand. Then offering security is part of being a good employer." So, engage with your employees and push for tailor-made agreements, advises Willemsen.

Some words from hotel and catering entrepreneurs

Staff shortages also affect entrepreneurs Martin Dieleman of Tof Koekie in Rosmalen and Rob van de Velde of De IJzeren Man in Vught. They came up with smart solutions. Dieleman hired an employee from an unexpected source and Van de Velde changed his business process. In the video below, they share their story and give tips.

Staff shortage in the hospitality industry? Here's what you can do