Bacon=Love: First Watch’s Lou Sposato on How to Recruit for Success

Liz Dillon


Lou Sposato Headshot Lou Sposato, Senior Director of Human Resources | First Watch Restaurants

Like most restaurant companies, employing great people who enjoy what they do in delivering a great customer experience is core to our business strategy at First Watch. We have 330 locations spread across 29 states, and we’re growing fast. And so we’re on a constant journey to think and rethink how we engage with millennial workers, who comprise much of today’s hourly workforce and are so critical to the success of our company.

With the economy booming and unemployment at the lowest levels in nearly two decades, the competition for hourly employees is more fierce than ever. But as employers are finding, traditional recruiting strategies are not effective with this generation of workers.

Must-haves for store-level recruiting

We recently conducted a webinar with our recruiting partner Snag to share what we’ve learned in recent years about what it takes to find and keep the best hourly talent:

First Watch & Snag Webinar

  • Fast, easy, mobile
    • Careers page: If it takes six clicks to apply for a job, that’s probably four clicks too many. By segmenting our Careers page and geolocating visitors to our website, we provide seekers quick access to the most relevant jobs.
    • Job postings: We’ve optimized our search terms and limited our job postings to a single screen—if a millennial has to scroll down, it’s game over. Talent networks may be useful for salaried positions, but they’re a huge turn-off for hourly applicants.
    • Applicant communications: Phone calls are dead and so is email. Texting is how millennials communicate. Keep messages succinct and use bullet points and photos wherever possible.
  • Hire smarter
    • If a job candidate isn’t a good fit with our culture, they won’t be successful…and neither will we! We’re asking applicants fewer questions but focusing on the ones that best identify workers as a cultural fit. Regional Directors and VPs meet with every managerial candidate before they’re hired.
  • Bring on the quinoa
    • When it comes to our menu, we don’t try to be trendsetters. Quinoa has been around for years, but we didn’t serve it until 2014 when we were convinced it was something our customers really wanted.

But when it comes to recruiting, we know we have to be trailblazers.

We use Snag’s restaurant-specific recruiting platform for all of our store-level hiring so that we stay on the cutting edge. Artificial intelligence provides us instant engagement with seekers. We closely monitor innovations through LinkedIn and SHRM to ensure that we stay on top of the latest recruitment strategies and tools.


How to fuel employee retention through recruitment

At any given moment, we know other companies are working hard to lure away our best employees—and we can hardly blame them. Voluntary terminations are at an all-time high in part because finding and applying for a new job has never been easier. So, while the recruiting process is important, holding on to those great workers is equally crucial.

At First Watch, we’re pleased that our employee turnover rate is lower than the industry standard, but we’re determined to take it down even further, and so we spend a lot of time learning what motivates our employees.

Understand what makes your employees want to stay

First Watch restaurants serve only breakfast and lunch, and we close at 2:30 p.m. each day. Our employees never have to work a night shift, which is pretty much unheard of in our industry. It’s something we highlight in our job postings because it’s a differentiator that sets us apart in the marketplace.

When we surveyed employees about what they liked most about First Watch, we assumed the lack of evening hours would be number one. Well, you know what happens when you assume. Yes, the limited hours helps to recruit, but it’s our culture and the way we empower our people at every level of the organization that makes them want to stick around:

1. We love our employees more than bacon

Given how many breakfasts we serve each day, that’s a pretty big statement. In real terms, it means that the entire company is dedicated to our “You First” culture in which we put our employees first, treating them with the same care and respect as we would a customer.

We believe that if we take good care of our workers they’ll take even better care of our customers. It’s a philosophy that started with our founding back in 1983 and one that has helped us succeed when other restaurant chains have come and gone.

2. Promote from within

A great way to maintain our culture is to promote from within. This requires us to actively develop our next generation of leaders and managers from our existing workforce. We hold every manager accountable for developing their employees.

3. Empower everyone

Employees want to know that what they do at work matters and what they say counts. From the restaurant manager to the dishwasher, every employee is empowered to do what’s right to make the customer happy. Does a food item not look worthy to be on a customer’s plate? A server can send it back without worrying about upsetting the kitchen. Our employees share the common goal to put a smile on the customer’s face and feel empowered to do what it takes to make that happen.

4. Make them proud

Our surveys tell us that our partnerships with organizations like No Kid Hungry and our initiatives to buy coffee beans from women-owned companies in Colombia makes them feel good about the company.

5. Keep innovating

From offering employee referral bonuses to programs that offer discounts on cars and movie tickets, we’re constantly thinking of ways to engage our workers. Once we get them in the door, we’re working hard to find ways of keeping them here.



Check out the original post & connect with Lou on LinkedIn here.


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