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Restaurants, retailers kick off summer hiring season

School gets out all over the country in the next few weeks, freeing students up for summer fun and summer jobs. This year, 74% of companies in the hospitality, foodservice and retail industries plan to hire summer workers, and all but 14% of them will hire more seasonal staffers than they did last summer, according to Snagajob.

The hiring process is already underway — three-quarters of the employers surveyed told Snagajob that they expect to have their summer hiring finished by the end of May. They’ll add an average of 25 seasonal workers, 78% of whom are new and not returning from a prior season.

“Summer is the busiest season for restaurants in most parts of the country, and the stronger business leads to additional employment opportunities at all levels of a restaurant operation,” said Bruce Grindy, chief economist at the National Restaurant Association.

Harvey Cedars Shellfish Company on Long Beach Island at the Jersey shore is preparing to open for its 40th season this weekend. The eatery operates from Mother’s Day weekend to Labor Day, so all of its hiring is seasonal, but the way the owners go about recruiting employees has changed with the times.  Decades ago there was a huge summer labor pool at the shore, as college kids banded together, rented houses for the summer and took restaurant jobs to pay their way, said co-owner Mike Garofalo. That pool dried dried up over the years as the area grew more affluent, and today many nearby beach towns have “Animal House” ordinances that don’t allow homeowners to rent to college students, he said, and even where it is allowed, the rents are so high the kids can’t work restaurant jobs and break even.

Eventually, the restaurant had to come up with a new recipe for summer staffing. These days, the owners hire local high school kids for entry level positions in the kitchen, and train them for the higher-level jobs that keep them coming back through college. Additionally, the restaurant’s dining room is largely staffed by teachers who get their summers off, he said.

Garofalo connects with the local high school football coach to recruit entry level workers and, a few years ago after his own kids and their friends graduated college and moved on, he decided to advertise. Print ads didn’t bring any suitable candidates, but an ad on the restaurants Facebook page this year has brought a much better response, he said.

The restaurant operates with between 30 and 35 employees, and typically only has a few positions to fill at the start of each season. That number has stayed steady in recent years because, unlike many other parts of the country, the island has been relatively recession-proof, Garofalo said.

For many other restaurants around the country, things have been trickier during the years since the recession hit. This year, though, there are signs things are much closer to normal. “Summer restaurant jobs are driven by a national economy that continues to improve, as well as consumers’ pent-up demand for restaurant services that remains at historically high levels. In many states with tourism-driven economies, restaurants satisfy both tourists’ cravings for food, as well as job-seekers’ hunger for employment,” said NRA’s Grindy.

For most jobs, but especially for summer jobs that often provide kids with their first work experiences, a positive personality may be the most important thing workers can bring. Some 42% of respondents told Snagajob that a positive attitude and eagerness to have the job were the top qualities they look for in summer job applicants, while only 17% said experience is most important.

NRA’s website offers some tips to keep in mind when hiring and scheduling for the summer:

  • Plan ahead for uneven demand throughout the year.
  • Schedule staff according to forecasts of how many guests you’ll serve during peak periods; track such data using your point-of-sale system.
  • Hire enough peak staff so that total hourly labor costs represent around 25–30% of total sales.
  • College students, teachers on break, policemen and firemen are all potentially good resources for seasonal/holiday staffing.
  • Look for candidates who fit your culture, have good attitudes and interpersonal skills, and want to have fun.

Source: National Restaurant Association