(CNN) - With unemployment rates near record lows, workers have plenty of options. Taco Bell hopes that "hiring parties" with free food, swag and Instagram-friendly photo props will lure in new employees.
"The tight labor market has made hiring more challenging for Taco Bell and the restaurant industry as a whole," Frank Tucker, Taco Bell's chief people officer, said in an email. "We are excited and optimistic that the Hiring Parties will help increase applicant flow," he added.
The fast-food chain said Thursday that it is planning to host nearly 600 parties across the country from April 22 to 27 to help fill thousands of open jobs.
In addition to the free food, people will be able to interview for open positions on the spot.
To try to attract talent, the brand is offering other perks, like one free meal per shift for employees at company-owned stores, leadership development programs and tuition discounts. The starting salary at corporate-owned stores is above $10 per hour on average, according to the company, which noted that it doesn't set the salary at franchises.
Taco Bell first tested out hiring parties in Indianapolis last year. Over the course of two days at four different restaurants, the company got close to 75 applications in person, it said. It also received more than 300 online applications thanks to virtual promotion of the events.
Brands like Taco Bell need to get creative to help maintain an edge in a tight labor market. In March, the unemployment rate fell to 3.8% There have been fewer unemployed people than open jobs since June 2018.
To bring people into the fold, companies are offering a number of new perks. Over the summer, Starbucks announced that it is testing a program that will let some employees spend half of their work week at a local nonprofit. Papa John's launched a free tuition program in February that covers all tuition costs for undergraduate and graduate online degrees from Purdue University. And McDonald's said last week that it will no longer lobby against raising workers' pay alongside the National Restaurant Association.
Taco Bell, which is owned by Yum Brands, wants to create 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2022.
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