How 3 restaurants tackled holiday hiring

Dec. 18, 2015 | by Cherryh Cansler

Holiday shopping season often translates to increased foot traffic for restaurants, which forces many brands to hire seasonal help to keep up with demand. In fact, 84 percent of the 1,000 restaurants polled in a recent Snagajob survey reported that they were hiring additional seasonal employees.

"Not only is there a higher number of people in the shopping center, but people are spending longer periods of time shopping during this time of year," said Doc Popcorn Co-founder Rob Israel, who increased staff to serve the extra shoppers and to work the longer store hours implemented by mall management in many of his locations.

"In addition, because popcorn is a popular gift item — and we pop fresh at all our locations — we need extra staff to prepare customer requests for gift orders," he said. "Also, more people shopping means more snacking, with shoppers needing a pick-me-up to keep energy levels up. Since many Doc Popcorn locations are PopKiosks located in the common area of the mall, it is an easy grab-and-go snack option and an attractive gift purchase."

Like Israel, David Ragosa, co-founder of Kono Pizza, said he ramps up staffing during the holidays at all his mall locations.

"Our customers are even more time pressed during the holidays, and Kono Pizza is a perfect fit with our ability to offer a customized pizza cone that they can eat while on the go, that is ready for them in just three minutes," he said. "Increasing our staffing over the holiday period ensures that we continue to provide fast, friendly service while mall traffic is at its peak."

Although many people may assume that the smoothie chain, Maui Wowi, would suffer a decline during winter months, the opposite is true, said Mike Weinberger, president.

"Our customer base are loyalists, and we don’t really expect any sort of decline in business at all," he said. "In fact, we expect to experience a sales spike at this time of year, which is very typical for the Maui Wowi Hawaiian brand as our locations are in many high-traffic areas."

Not unlike Kono and Doc Popcorn, Maui Wowi has increased its staff to gear up for holiday shoppers.

"Our guests love our smoothies as they are an ideal choice for hungry, busy holiday shoppers looking for an energy boost without having to slow down their pace," he said.

"You got the right staff"

It’s no secret, however, that hiring good seasonal help can be tricky.

"Finding temporary staff this year has not been an easy task," Israel said. "As the economy and job market are faring better this year, relative to years past, finding reliable employees was challenging. However, between starting early this year, being patient and a little bit of luck, we’re finding ourselves to be well-staffed for the upcoming holiday season."

Ragosa agreed, saying that hiring the right staff to provide the best customer service always takes work; but the chain has the advantage of having a good reputation for treating their employees well.

"Our staff appreciates the simplicity of the work environment and being able to provide a high quality food to those on the go, without the mess and grease of some other mall food options," according to Ragosa, who said Kono is one of the most popular places to work in many of its mall locations.

Weinberger said it’s been pretty easy to staff his stores this holiday season.

"Our teams know it’s 'all hands on deck,' and everyone is ready for the influx," said Weinberger, who often hires college students who are home over break. His strategy is a must, said Anthony Lye, CEO of HotSchedules.

"Your average college student has spent three months partying until the sun comes, and now, has nothing to do until school starts again in mid-January," he said. "While you might run the risk that Johnny freshman might be a little slow one morning from a late night out, proper training and advancement opportunities could ensure that he returns season after season until graduation, which could lend itself to a nice post-graduate role for Johnny if everything goes to plan."

On the other end of the spectrum are seniors, who many companies neglect as they try to build seasonal teams.

"The holiday season is a great opportunity to make a positive impression on customers, and senior workers who have years of work experience might know how to create a better customer experience," Lye said. "While they need less direction in business, you might have to leave some paper applications, so seniors can apply the old fashioned way."



Topics: Staffing & Training

Cherryh Cansler
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for wwwView Cherryh Cansler's profile on LinkedIn

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