How Sprigg Salad Bar Navigated Pandemic Recovery and Mass Hiring

Written by
Hamish Livingston
Last updated:
Created on:
November 24, 2021

First, it was about survival. Then it became about doubling staff overnight.

Tom McDermott, the owner of Sprigg Salad and Coffee Bar in Glasgow, had no idea how he was going to handle recruitment, interviewing, and on-boarding new talent while also managing pandemic recovery and serving customers at his salad bar.

Now that Tom is firmly planted in recovery from the ‘catastrophic’ impact of the pandemic, he explained the pivot that kept his business alive during the pandemic and how he navigated the challenge of mass hiring - twice.

A pandemic nightmare like everyone else’s

Tom McDermott set up Sprigg Salad and Coffee Bar on Glasgow’s fameed Ingram Street in 2018. He worked tirelessly, bringing on employees and building a loyal customer base. Things were looking up at the beginning of 2020 and the business was poised for a solid year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck the business overnight due to forcing the closure of offices, emptying of once bustling streets and removing the business of its core revenue stream. 

“The impact of the pandemic was catastrophic for us,” said Tom. “Lockdown came at the worst time for us as we were a new business, with a model based on trade from office workers who just weren’t there anymore.”

Like many business owners, Tom had to completely rethink his strategy. With no in-person customers allowed, his solid and comfortable year was out the door. He entered survival mode. Like many restaurant owners, he pivoted the business to deliveries and collections as more people wanted takeout food at home. 

Despite high demand, the pivot created an interesting problem: he needed to bring in new staff with a different set of skills quickly, yet remotely. And he was fighting an uphill battle to find talent, facing an estimated shortage of 188,000 workers across the UK restaurant industry.

“There are real staffing challenges, and we’ve had to think and rethink the way we do things a lot over the piece to meet the respective demands of the type of business we’re doing,” said Tom.

Tom looked for a tool that would help him hire remotely, and chose Willo because it easily enabled high-volume hiring. He was able to get set up quickly and start using the platform to interview candidates remotely, keeping everyone safe during the height of the pandemic. 

The Willo process, often used at the CV stage, allows recruiters to assess applications at time that suits them, making the process more efficient and, crucially for hospitality, with minimum impact on other daily duties. 

Willo helped Tom manage recruiting easily as the owner of Sprigg, saving him critical time to focus on business survival beyond recruiting.

A second nightmare: recovery

As restrictions eased, Tom and other restaurant owners rejoiced in being able to reopen. But similar to his survival pivot, another talent challenge emerged: Tom had to double his staff, almost overnight, as the venue reopened.

“Finding somebody with the right skills is the easy part, finding somebody with the right personality to fit into a team is more tricky and arguably more important,” said Tom.

Now, as restrictions ease, offices reopen and streets are again busy, Tom has again turned to Willo to help Sprigg meet surging demand. 

“Willo helps because you can get a feel for who somebody is before you meet them,” said Tom. “As an employer, you can revisit interviews and be sure you want to progress. As an applicant you can ensure the best version of yourself is portrayed out with the unnatural interview environment.”

The power of ease

Having used Willo for two major hiring sprees in the middle of a massive talent shortage, Tom looked back and said that a key reason for Willo’s impact was that the platform is easy to use.

“It’s a very easy to use system,” said Tom.

Because Willo allows applicants to convey three times as much information than in writing, employers have an improved chance of selecting the right people for the interview, and ultimately the job. All the while, it’s much faster than the traditional interviewing process, saving recruiters dozens of hours per week at scale.

“We’ve filled every type of position with it, and it has been excellent from a health and safety perspective too as it’s cut down on face-to-face contact,” said Tom.

Hamish Livingston
VP of Product
LinkedIn profile

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