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Hospitality and Tourism

Panera franchisee hosts on-the-spot interview day

Hospitality and Tourism
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Within a span of four days, Panera Bread was able to meet, background check and hire 140 candidates in eight states after only one day of interviews.

Like so many food and beverage businesses, Panera is experiencing a severe staff shortage.

To remedy that, Covelli Enterprise, a local franchisee with 315 bakery-cafes in the U.S., including locations in Charleston and Columbia, hosted an on-the-spot interview day April 26.

The inaugural event led to 22 hires in South Carolina alone by Thursday of that week.

Danielle Covelli, regional marketing director at Covelli Enterprises, said on average 20 candidates showed up to each market, though attendance varied in different areas. The turnout wasn’t overwhelming, but far exceeded the company’s expectations — enough so that Covelli said they’d do it again.

“Since it was our first time we really didn’t know what to expect,” Covelli said. “There wasn’t any bar. We thought maybe we’ll get nothing from this and will never do it again, maybe we’ll get something great from this.”

Recruiters were on-hand that Monday, ready for anyone who walked in for an interview. They then circled back with managers about each candidate, reviewed applications and followed up with a phone call to let the individual know whether or not they were hired.

“Last year was a little scary for all businesses with our dining rooms being shut and operating at 50% capacity for a while — and we still are in most areas,” Covelli said. “But we’re lucky to be a large brand and have processes in place.”

Prior to the pandemic, Panera offered rapid pickup, drive-through and apps, which combined with curbside pickup and delivery to help the franchises weather 2020, the company said. Covelli said that sales have slowly climbed back to where they were in 2019, pre-pandemic, and each week is getting better and better.

“We’re experiencing a lot of growth right now and have a need for all positions, including managers and associates,” she said.

The franchisee had never tried an on-the-spot hiring event but marketed it at a grassroots level with social media, word of mouth, signage at each cafe, news releases and flyers stuffed in to-go bags.

Given the success, Covelli could see another hiring day in the future, and added that the company would consider putting marketing money toward a second effort.

“It takes only a day, if that, so it’s pretty quick for everyone,” she said. “We want to allow people looking for jobs to get back into the workforce a safe way to do that.”

Covelli Enterprise operates more than 315 Panera Bread bakery-cafes in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Reach Teri Errico Griffis at 843-849-3144.

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