Landed's Vivian Wang on Using Tech to Help Restaurant Operators Staff Smart

An interview with the company's founder and CEO about building a digital marketplace where workers and employers make great matches.
April 26, 2021, 09:00 PM UTC
Landed's Vivian Wang on Using Tech to Help Restaurant Operators Staff Smart

Welcome to BOH Banter, an interview series designed to introduce our audience of independent restaurant operators to the Verified Vendors on our Solutions marketplace. Have suggestions for who we should interview next? Pitch us: tips@backofhouse.io!

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As restaurants reopen and restaff, employers are feverishly trying to restock their team with quality talent. Suddenly finding — and retaining — that talent has become the latest pandemic problem. And no, it's not just the annual 130% turnover rate (yikes!) and the abundance of employee "ghosting" that constantly occurs in the industry, but also just flat-out finding the time to actually do it.

Suffice it that hiring managers are busier than ever. A full-service staffing solution these days would identify potential candidates and then actually vet and on-boarded them. Well, that's Landed, a hiring platform custom-built for the food and retail industry. It uses video and AI technology to reduce the manual processes for hiring managers and to provide better long-term candidates.

We chatted with Vivian Wang, Landed's founder and CEO, to find out more about what, quite literally, this platform brings to the table.

Back of House: Tell us who you are and your role at Landed.

VW: I’m Vivian, and I am the founder and CEO at Landed. We are the first mobile app that connects hourly food and retail workers with local employers to help them find and hire better-quality candidates. Guided by the app, candidates create these video profiles and are then matched with employers instantly, like your restaurant operator, using our proprietary AI-based technology.

BOH: Tell us a little more about how it actually works.

VW: Landed has one app for candidates, where they create a profile and then match with employers. And then we also have an employer app where we match candidates to employers using that same AI-based technology. So we evaluate candidates on 50-plus data points like communication skills, body language, work longevity, etc., to determine fit for specific jobs.

Landed can prioritize different attributes in candidates depending on each employer’s focus. For example, each of your restaurant operators might have different things that are looking for and we can prioritize that accordingly. Right now we focus on restaurants and retail. We work with customers like Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, Grocery Outlet, Taco Bell and the like.

BOH: What's important about having a platform or solution that specifically addresses this part of the staffing challenge rather than a broader, more general audience staffing solution? What does Landed do differently?

VW: We specialize in restaurant retail hourly hiring, from team member roles up to our district manager roles. And we have a two-sided marketplace — our customers are both the job candidates as well as the employer. For the candidates, we help them find a job that's a great fit ASAP. A lot of candidates on our platform are from the retail and food worlds, and when the pandemic hit they were furloughed. These are blue-collar workers that need a job and financial stability, and with Landed candidates were able to land a new job within a week, so that's extremely valuable for them.

On the employer side, the pandemic has really shifted how companies execute their hiring process. And because of the added risks that Covid brings, employers need to limit who they actually meet in-person for interviews. Landed will actually bring them qualified, vetted candidates using that proprietary AI tech. Our candidates have video profiles, which allows you to get a sense of candidates’ personalities and attitudes before you even meet them — there's no time delay that comes with scheduling a video interview. It’s not meant to take out the in-person piece — as we know, that is very important to restaurant operators. It’s just meant to make sure the time you're spending is time well spent with the best-quality candidates. Our customer Grocery Outlet, for example — they went from hiring one in 10 candidates interviewed to one in three candidates interviewed while saving about a five hours a week on hiring. So our aim is to reduce those manual processes for hiring managers and provide better-vetted candidates through our technology.

BOH: What is Landed’s process of refining that success rate and increasing that hit rate?

VW: Two things we really want to get rid of for restaurant operators. One, a slow manual process — hiring managers are super busy and they don't have time for this back-and-forth or to review every single resume. And the second thing we want to get rid of is ghosting. A lot of ghosting happens in the restaurant world. The best candidates slip away while they're waiting for those hiring managers to respond.

We address those in three main ways. We automatically engage candidates the second they respond via dynamic two-way text messaging, because candidates are not checking their emails, and text message is where they're going to be more responsive. Restaurant operator clients will say “I get back to candidates within five days” and we tell them that the best candidates are gone by then. The second candidates indicate interest we automatically engage them so that it buys more time for your hiring managers.

We also pre-vet candidates on those 50-plus data points, and only the qualified candidates move forward to an interview. So rather than going through 300 resumes, which no one has time for and especially time to do well, we can sift through and find the 20 that you should really be spending time with based on those data points that we evaluate.

And then lastly, to the ghosting piece, we send automated text reminders before interviews. So, when an interview gets scheduled, we make sure that everyone gets a calendar invite. But we have to keep in mind text messages, as I mentioned, that’s how candidates like to communicate. So we send them a confirmation to their phone as well as a reminder the day before and the morning of. And if there needs to be a rescheduling, there's actually two-way texting that we facilitate to reschedule. Again, it’s taking all that work off the plate of the hiring manager.

BOH: When you say two-way texting, are you saying that the hiring manager is in direct text dialogue with the candidate? Or Landed is texting with the candidate?

VW: So each employer has their own Landed employer mobile app, and we have a single unified inbox for them. When you send a message through Landed employer, we're going to send a text, email, and push notification to the Landed jobs app. But if no one responds, that's going directly into that unified inbox. So your employers don't have to share their phone numbers, but each of our employers gets a custom phone number attached to them that acts as a Landed phone number.

BOH: Did you start with texting or is that something that you moved to once you realize that the people you were trying to reach weren't using email? How did you come to that mode of communication for Landed?

VW: We are in constant communication with our employers and our candidates, so we do a lot of user research. We actually just completed a candidate survey with 1,000-plus candidates — hourly workers, so people in restaurant and retail — to tell us what it is they care about in the job process. And they have told us again and again that this is their preferred mode of communication. We have a lot of analytics on our platform, so we see the mode in which candidates are responding to you. We found that the vast majority, literally 90% of communications, even though we send them on multiple channels, come back in through text message.

So we found that this or push notifications within the app is definitely the preferred mode of communication — basically any mobile-based communication, not email. I have good insight into this, as I started the company based on my personal experience in the retail world. I had been working at Gap, Inc. — the parent company of Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, Old Navy — and there was a big challenge with labor turnover, which is about 130% in restaurant and food industries. That’s crazy. We built an entire tech platform to address this issue turnover, and I wanted to build a video solution — which is Landed — that would address this issue for SMEs (small and medium businesses) as well as for franchisees and for blue collar workers.

BOH: How does Landed bring qualified candidates to the platform? How do you make sure that that pool is there, rich and refreshed?

VW: We have two ways that we acquire candidates. The first is digital. Our candidate acquisition team hails from the likes of Lyft and DoorDash, and they are very well experienced in all the digital channels including Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok. And we integrate with 70-plus job boards. When you are working with Landed, we take care of all that digital aspect. So we’re out there marketing Landed but also out there marketing your individual company.

The second thing we do is partnerships. These are community-based partnerships with local workforce development agencies, employment offices, veterans groups. We also work with various organizations like Oakland Housing Project, and Rubicon, which is a training organization for underemployed people. We call them training partners, and we bring their candidates onto the Landed platform so that we can match them to jobs too. It's great because you have a diverse set of candidate acquisition channels, and this is something that an owner-operator of a restaurant doesn't have time to deal with. We can just go in and build all those partnerships and bring the candidates to them.

BOH: What is the process of onboarding with Landed look like?

VW: We source your candidates and we can actually pull your job descriptions and locations. We have template job descriptions if you don't have them for yourself that we have formulated based on best practices. Then we get your account set up — that can happen within a day. And then you just basically turn on the faucet and we start getting candidates ready within that day. All we need to know is when are restaurant operators available for interviews and we can actually auto-schedule those and take care of that process. Then ultimately from a restaurant perspective, they can just hire with one click. Once they have a candidate to hire, we can send them onboarding paperwork.

Although the process is streamlined, if an employer wants us to, we can actually do a tutorial with them at the beginning to walk them through how to use the app as well as answer any questions they may have. We can do that with all of our GMs or district managers. Then the continuous customer service focus is that everyone is going to have a dedicated account manager who is there to answer questions. Also there's a Landed helper within the app. That is a top feature where you're chatting with a real person who can respond to things in real-time. This person is who you can ask to add jobs, change job descriptions, change pay rates, as well as give feedback on candidates or ask for more of a specific type of candidate — all that stuff can be done within the app with Landed helper.

BOH: Where does this solution fit into the challenge of rehiring after the pandemic? How can Landed help restaurant operators meet that challenge?

VW: Retail and food are different than other hiring markets. There's high turnover, and blue-collar coworkers are an underserved market when we think about their hiring resources. So we're not just about creating another hiring platform, we're building Landed with these two customers in mind: the employer and the candidate. We created it from scratch thinking about the biggest challenges they're facing, because frankly, existing platforms don't get to the crux of what matters most, which is finding the best candidate. It's not about finding a body. It's about finding the best candidate for your business — and other platforms are about getting you a body. We want to make sure you get the right candidate and reduce that turnover over the long term.

In talking to some of our clients, their focus is hire, train and retain. Those are all super important, and that is what all restaurant operators should be thinking about. That's why the video aspect of Landed is super important. We're the first app that has candidates create video profiles. This is different than video interviews. The profiles are just these 30-second clips, so candidates introduce themselves and discuss their strengths, challenges they've overcome, and how they would handle difficult customers. This is all rich information for managers in the retail and food world who are hiring employees at the front lines with customers and representing a brand.

I think even after the great rehiring, there is going to be even bigger focus on quality, because today, a bad hire can lead to your restaurant being closed down, for sure. We're kind of getting into that mindset of “how can we be more efficient” and “how can we retain high-quality people” — and that's about finding high-quality people from the get-go. During the great rehiring, you think you have more time, but you will probably have less time. That's why the automation of those manual processes and the reduction of ghosting and those features are going to be so important.

BOH: How do the video profiles work? Are they prompted, or are potential employees allowed to basically record whatever they want?

VW: We ask some commonly asked interview questions on candidate onboarding. Things like introducing yourself, your greatest strengths, any challenge you've overcome, as well as how you handle a difficult customer — I’d say those are the four most common questions that operators typically ask for hourly workers. And then think of Instagram stories. You can view that on Landed and it’s just another great piece of information for you to check out if you're interested in learning more about the candidate.

BOH: Is there anything else you think a restaurant independent restaurant operator or franchisee who's considering a new staffing solution should know about Landed that we haven't already covered?

VW: A few things. Our customers, like restaurant operators, are seeing that they are able to save time and hire better. And our customers are also seeing results and metrics including the number of hires, time to hire, hours saved in recruiting and a reduced turnover rate. Those are some of the metrics that account for success, and we're seeing improvements across those types of metrics. The other thing that people will probably all wonder about is how is this priced. I always like to call out that Landed is free for candidates. Employers just pay a monthly subscription — so for hiring multiple positions Landed starts at just five bucks a day, and is based on hiring volume and speed.