It’s no secret that Boston-area restaurants are struggling to fill positions and retain staff.
“I know this very intimately because my family is in the food service and retail space,” says Rahul Sharma, founder and president of the Somerville startup Jobletics. “My dad knew it was hard to find good people and keep your staff full.”
So he decided there should be an app for that.
“We’ve definitely been called the Uber of staffing restaurant service,” says the founder, but he is quick to point out a key difference: “These are our employees. We give benefits, we give workers’ comp, all of that stuff, and we make sure that the quality bar is very, very high.” Sharma says that only 8 percent of applicants are hired, adding, “We have a lower acceptance rate than some of the Ivy League schools here.”
The company president, who was a graduate student before starting Jobletics, credits the Venture Accelerator at Northeastern University for helping him launch the business. He says the student-run program helped him “think about a more efficient way to control the variability when it comes to staff.”
The Jobletics app has been live for about five months, run by Sharma along with Jad Chahine, head of growth, and Amanda Dupuis, head of people operations. They manage “jobletes” who cover shifts — from the dish pit to the hot line to behind the bar — at restaurants ranging from fast-casual spots like Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Davis Square to more high-end restaurants like Juliet in Union Square, Somerville. They also work with large catering outfits like Rebecca’s Cafe.
Sharma won’t disclose how many employees they currently have, but he says their business model is a perfect fit for millennials. “People want to be more experiential. A lot of folks want to work on their own time, they want to have autonomy in that respect, and they want to hold the employers or the people that they are working for accountable. We are a sort of intermediary solution that allows them to schedule themselves out whenever they want, wherever they want, really. That is a huge value to them,” says Sharma.
Jobletics guarantees it can cover a shift in as little as three hours, which holds obvious appeal for strapped restaurant owners when an employee calls in sick. Sharma says many clients “are finding that it’s much more beneficial to offload a couple of shifts to us per week than to go through the heartache and trouble of hiring someone full-time. They have basically handed off their swing shifts to us.”
If that ongoing temporary work develops into a more long-term relationship, Chahine says, Jobletics doesn’t stand in the way of a permanent hire. “We have had a lot of success matching restaurant owners with some of our Jobletes, so in a sense it’s almost like dating. The restaurants or caterers or food trucks use our staff, and if they want to bring them on full-time, and both parties are happy with that, they have our blessing.”
For more information, go to www.jobletics.com