Restaurant Industry Resources Edizeven Blog

Frustrated restaurant manager with no applicants

Frustrated with candidates not showing up for your restaurant interview?

We reduce candidate no-show rates by 64%. Here’s how.

Running a restaurant is hard. There is barely any time to rest. To make matters worse, an employee attrition rate of 70% means that you’re constantly spending time, effort, and money to hire. So you eke out the time between shifts to post your job on craigslist, shortlist from the hundreds of candidates who casually ‘apply’, call them, set up a time for an interview – only to find that they didn’t show up – you have yet another no-call, no-show candidate!

I understand. I’ve been there myself. I started Edizeven to make restaurant hiring simpler for both restaurateurs and employees, so I really wanted to take the problem of ‘candidate no-shows’ head-on.

And after much trial and error, I’m proud to say that we at Team Edizeven have a solution to reduce candidate no-show rates!

The Experiment

We asked restaurateurs to allow us to be their recruiters or headhunters or hiring specialists. They gave us 2 things: details of the role they were hiring for and a time slot when they could interview candidates e.g. 12-2 pm on Tuesday.

We posted the job for the restaurant and invited applications. We had a 10-15 min conversation with each applicant and the references they provided. We then shortlisted candidates based on our assessment of the feedback from the candidate’s references, culture fit with the restaurant team, and the candidate’s job experience. We then asked the shortlisted candidates to show up for an interview at the restaurant during the restaurant’s preferred timeslot.

Over the next 5 months, we ran this beta program with 10 restaurants and helped them hire cooks, cashiers, servers, baristas, supervisors, and managers.

By the end of the program, we had reduced the candidate no-show rate by a whopping 64% percent!

So how did we manage this?

We found that 7 specific practices produced the best results. Along the way, we also reduced the restaurant manager’s effort and time spent to hire for a role by 57%.

#1 – Screen ALL applications – even those with incomplete resumes.

If you’ve always found jobs by walking into interviews, you may be a great line cook, but you may never have written a resume! Some very high potential candidates struggle to put together a resume let alone write a cover letter.

This is the first stage of elimination, so cut candidates some slack and give them the opportunity to convince you with whatever incomplete data they have on your resume.

So how do you select from this pile? When screening applications, try to answer this question yourself:

“Why did this person apply to the job?”

For example:

Are they interested because you run a BBQ restaurant and the candidate enjoys working with meat?

Perhaps it is the location of the job?

Maybe they’re bored at their current job because they’ve been doing the same work for multiple years?

You should be able to find something in their resume or cover letter to answer this question. If you aren’t able to find anything, skip the candidate as they probably just applied for every job they found like a bot.

Whatever your assumption is, make a note of it. We will confirm this assumption soon!

Tip: At this stage, make sure you select at least 40-50% of the total applications.

Tip: If a candidate wrote a personalized cover letter even if the resume does not fully support their claim or the letter isn’t great, select them for now. In restaurants, attitude matters more than skills. If they have a great attitude, they will pick up the skills. A personalized cover letter is a good indicator of a great attitude.

#2 – Text before calling. Call before an in-person interview.

You looked at the resumes, and you probably also have a favorite few. You just want to call your favorite picks and interview quickly.


Now remember this golden rule to save tons of wasted time on unworthy applications:

Text (SMS) them before you try calling. Call and speak to them over the phone before bringing them in for an in-house interview.

Your goal is to waste the least amount of your time before you get to those few candidates who will show up for an interview and are worth your time for an in-person interview.

You need to have a call with your potential candidates. This may seem like more time being invested, but trust me, in the long run it saves your time.

Create a few time slots during your day dedicated to making these calls.

Text them and let them know to expect a call during that time. Remember candidates are busy too! Let’s be respectful of their time! Try scheduling such calls at least 1-2 days ahead of time.

Here’s an example text: “Hey Adrian, this is Linda from BBQ Grill. This is in response to your application to the line-cook position in our restaurant. Are you available between 3-4pm tomorrow, March 13th for a 15 minute call?

During our experiment, we observed that candidates are most responsive during the first 2 days after they applied to your position, so it is best to message them the same day you finished reviewing resumes. We also observed that a 1-hour window is acceptable to most candidates and they will pick up your call – anything longer than that and response rates drop.

Again, remember restaurant employees have busy lives. Keeping themselves free and available for your call for more than an hour may be too much to ask!

#3 – Build a rapport with a 15 min call.

two woman laughing

This will be the most crucial step in reducing your no-show.

This 15 min call is all about building a rapport – it is a conversation, not an interrogation.

You are NOT trying to judge skills. You are looking for a culture fit. Make the candidate feel comfortable. Have a conversation about them – what excites them, what have they been up to, what challenges they faced in their job. Break the ice. Find a common thread where you can connect. The stronger the connection, the higher the chances of them treating you as a serious employer and showing up for an interview. 15 mins may seem like a short time to get all the information you need. But trust me it is possible.

Here is a rough script to follow, to keep it as a conversation but at the same time judge if the person is a fit for your team.

Hi Anna,

Employer: This is Maria from XXX. Thank you for applying to our job. Is this still a good time to talk to you?

Seeker: Yes.

Employer: How are you doing today?

Seeker: I am well. How about you?

Employer: Doing well, enjoying the great weather today!

<the candidate, might have respond back with something – you just started building your connection>

Employer: I just wanted to chat a bit, understand what you are looking for and hopefully we provide the same. Also wanted to clarify a few questions with you. If that is ok?

Seeker: Sure.

Employer: <Start off with some basic qualification questions for which the answer is straightforward. You are building a rapport again, and making the candidate feel comfortable>

Sample questions: Are you over 18 years of age? Does the shift time work for you? If selected, when are you available to start working?

Now go ahead and ask some of the stuff which will give you the insights you are looking for – validate the assumption you made while reviewing their resume. For e.g.

Employer: I saw in your resume that you worked at a BBQ place for 3+ years. That is great. Your experience will be useful to us [validated the assumption]. What was your day like there?

Follow-up questions – “Oh nice! Why leave?” “Did you ever have a bad day at this place?”

With these questions, you will get enough insights on whether the personality is a culture fit or not.

#4 – Ask for references.

No matter how great the candidate sounds over the phone, ask for a couple of references. By asking for references, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to validate your “gut” feeling. In our experiment, the best candidates (who eventually got hired) were able to find two references to share right when you are on the call with them. Some will quickly follow up with a message.

#5 – Setting expectations. Provide next steps.

If by the end of the call you are sure you want to bring them in for an in-house interview, then mention that while on the call – “We would like you to come in for an in-house interview. The interview will be X hours and paid (or unpaid – whatever your process is). How about Tuesday at 10 am? Does that work for you?”

If you are unsure about the candidate and want to think through, then give them a “date-for-a-date (DFAD)”. Let the candidate know that you will get back to them by X time for next steps.

Providing the next steps and setting expectations shows that you care. You care about not wasting the candidate’s time. You are serious about hiring quickly. You are being professional. They will reciprocate this respect and show up for your interview.

#6 – Check their references.

Call their references to validate your gut instinct about the candidate. Do NOT skip this step, no matter how sure you are. If you’re wrong, you’re probably back to square one, trying to hire for the position again! Look at the time spent calling their reference as an insurance premium to hedge against that mishap.

We usually ask the following questions:

– How do you know the candidate? This gives you a chance to ensure that the candidate’s story matches.

– How was it working with the candidate? Provide these cues if necessary: Were they punctual? Were they responsive? Did they call-out frequently?

– Tell us one thing about the candidate that you didn’t like.

– On a scale of 1-5, how likely are you to recommend them for a different business?

#7 – Reminders

Most people in the service industry do not use calendar invites. If your interview is scheduled for a few days out, it is quite easy for the candidate to forget about it.

Remind them.

The evening before the interview, drop a message reminding the candidates of the interview. Encourage them to reschedule if something came up rather than a no-show and make you wait for them.

Here is a sample message to use.

Hello <John Doe>,

<Your first name> again from <Restaurant Name>. Just checking in if you are still coming in for the in-house interview tomorrow. Look forward to meeting with you!

If you followed through with all the above guidelines, you would see a dramatic reduction in candidate no-shows, and high-quality candidates will surface. Plus, you save tons of time wasted in posting jobs multiple times over various platforms such as Craigslist, Indeed, Poached, or Edizeven and trying to call candidates who never pick and more.

Bonus tip #8:

Hiring staff is sales. Typically, when you are selling to your end customer you are never rude. So, avoid using language like – “if you can’t show up on time don’t bother applying.”

Instead, you can say – “We value people who are punctual, work fast while having fun 😊

The Solution – EZ Shortlist

If you’ve read this far, you are probably overwhelmed. This seems like a lot of effort to get to high-quality candidates. But remember because you’re being organized about it you end up spending a lot less time overall. Also because you are narrowing down, building a rapport, and respecting the candidate’s time you end up hiring a lot faster than you otherwise would.

But we understand that setting up such a process might distract you from your business. That’s exactly why we created Edizeven’s EZ Shortlist. Let us take care of bringing you the right candidates!

Introducing Edizeven’s EZ Shortlist – your personalized premium recruitment service. Just tell us about the job you are hiring for. We will send you a shortlist of hand-picked vetted candidates matching YOUR needs following the practices I talked about here. You just need to conduct your in-house interview. Saving you tons of time. And, in this business, time is money!

Shilpi Gupta is the founder of Edizeven - a job portal for restaurants. She is a self-proclaimed startup addict. After spending nearly a decade at Amazon, she ran a food business called Kukree before launching her current venture Edizeven.