Applebee’s Free Appetizer Offer Led to 40,000 Job Interviews

  • Applebee’s “Apps for Apps” promotion was a huge success and brought in 40,000 applicants.
  • Restaurants are increasingly turning to application perks to attract potential employees.
  • Retail is facing a labor shortage industry-wide.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Applebee’s says it drew in 40,000 job applicants for 10,000 openings with its free appetizer incentives, a spokesperson confirmed to Insider.

Restaurants are offering up all kinds of perks to attract workers, and Applebee’s seems to be one of the most successful. On May 17, the chain hosted a national hiring day in the hopes of filling 10,000 open positions. Interviewing candidates received coupons for a free appetizer through the “Apps for Apps” program. It got four times as many applicants, “putting us well on our way to meet our goal,” a spokesperson said.

“Our No. 1-selling category is appetizers, so we decided to offer an app for an app. I’ve got guests coming back in droves, but I don’t have all the team members I’d like,” Applebee’s president John Cywinski told The New York Times.

Hiring has been difficult for many companies that have reported a lack of candidates for open positions. But retail and restaurants are are also struggling to retain workers who want to leave for new opportunities. That’s making the sector’s labor crunch even worse.

Read more: Ghost kitchens operators like CloudKitchens, Kitchen United, and All Day Kitchens are expanding their business models beyond the rent-a-space model as competition heats up

Subway, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell, along with others, are advertising thousands of open positions online in hopes of staffing up and returning to pre-pandemic hours with open dining rooms. Some hiring managers are advertising perks like $50 for an interview, signing bonuses, and referral programs. Chipotle got thousands of applications after announcing it was boosting the minimum wage.

It seems perks aren’t always enough to restaff restaurants as thousands of people leave the industry for good. Some workers who were furloughed or laid off early in the pandemic may never return to fast food and customer service work. 

In place of customer-facing retail jobs, some workers are turning to warehouse employment with companies like Amazon, even as those jobs make headlines for poor working conditions. The e-commerce giant has hired about 2,800 people a day since July, mostly in warehouse roles.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at [email protected].

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