Hiring Restaurant Staff: Building Your Dream Team
Running a successful restaurant depends on the team you hire. As more restaurants open every day, the competition to keep customers coming continues to grow. It takes more than posting a “help wanted” sign on the door and hoping for the best candidate to walk in. Achieving long-term success depends on your strategy for hiring restaurant staff.
What is your restaurant doing to ensure you’re hiring the best talent and retaining them? Whether you’re a restaurant newbie or veteran, it’s never too late (or early) to create a strategy that eventually turns to your dream team. We’ll guide you through the interview and onboarding process, the personalities to look for, and tips to hiring a restaurant staff that creates a company culture that will have your employees loving their job.
Restaurant Interview Tips
Any savvy restaurateur knows the importance of processes. The first step in successfully hiring restaurant staff is nailing down your onboarding procedures. This is the time to establish interview questions, non-negotiables employees need to know about the job, and set job responsibilities. Each candidate should leave the interview feeling that they have a strong understanding of their potential responsibilities, and with the right screening process, you should have a good idea if the person is a good fit.
Finding the right personality type (we’ll get into this) and evaluating a candidate’s values are crucial in the interview process. You may ask, what do values have to do with finding a good fit? You can have a candidate with years of experience in the industry and if he/her values don’t align with your values it can affect your restaurant’s company culture. You want people that work with others well, keep their cool under stress, and can stay on top of their workload. A person’s values can be much more valuable than their skill set.
Restaurant Roles and Personality Types
It takes many unique skill sets and personalities to run a restaurant. Here’s a rundown of the personality types to look for when hiring your restaurant’s staff.
A restaurant manager will hire the rest of your staff so it’s important to start with this position. The manager will deal with a little bit of everything on a daily basis, from customer complaints to talking to vendors. You’ll want to look for these qualities: level-headed, great customer service skills, stress management, ability to multitask, responsible, systemized thinking, data-driven, and trustworthiness. Since food cost and the cost of food waste is so important to restaurants, look for an individual that’s analytical and numbers-oriented.
A restaurant starts at the top; finding someone that has strong leadership skills is crucial for this position. Management can make or break your culture, so fill these positions with individuals that are people-oriented and effective listeners and communicators. It’s also important to consider someone that motivates, encourages, and inspires your staff.
This is the first and last face customers see in a restaurant. When looking to fill the hostess position, above all, finding someone that is friendly, professional, calm under pressure, good at organizing, and detail-oriented are the most important qualities for this job. Although this is usually an entry-level position, finding the right person is extremely important, as they’re commonly in charge of managing waitlists and reservations, and serving as a critical touchpoint to the guest experience.
Servers will have the most interaction with your customers, thus looking for the same qualities as a hostess would be ideal. Your servers are your sales team. Sales and everybody else don’t always mesh – but management needs to avoid this confrontation and define roles/expectations because everybody plays a part in your success. They should also be organized, well kept, and knowledgeable. Those traits will help them upsell unique daily specials, remember the drink list, and keep track of orders with several customized items.
Similar to restaurant managers, chefs will have an impact on morale and the overall operation of your company. Chefs don’t necessarily have to be quite as people-oriented as a restaurant manager but should have experience with effective management so that they can keep the kitchen and its staff running effectively. Your chef should be the visionaries for the menu and its ingredients. Someone that is more analytical is a plus in this position, as consistent attention to food cost and inventory plays a key part in this role. Furthermore, an individual experienced with vendor relations is also an advantage, especially considering all of the points of contact a restaurant has.
Restaurants, naturally, employ a very diverse set of skills. The back of house is the technical team that’s strong with technique, precise in detail, and pretty much error-free. Things will go wrong though and they have to be creative problem solvers too.
Age diversity is also very important in restaurants. David Fairhurst, senior vice president, chief people officer at McDonald’s UK & Northern Europe stated that, “While the majority of our employees are under 30, it’s good for our people and good for our business to have a diverse range of ages in our restaurants. I urge employers across the sector to realize the benefits of an age-diverse workforce.”
Restaurant Onboarding Process
While knowing how to hire restaurant staff is beneficial, providing the proper onboarding is, arguably, equally as important. According to 7Shifts, the average tenure of a restaurant employee is one month and 26 days, with managers lasting an average of four months and four days and hosts lasting only an average of one month and nine days. Having an onboarding and training process in place should improve job satisfaction and turnover rate.
Below are a few tips for developing a restaurant employee onboarding process.
Create a Checklist
Create a list for management of all items that must be covered during the onboarding process so nothing is missed.
Review Company Policies and Procedures
This will include restaurant history and mission statement, company policies, scheduling, performance reviews, benefits, PTO/sick time, etc.
Introduce New Hires to all Current Employees
Introduce new employees to co-workers and have each employee give a rundown of what they do.
Setting expectations is one of the most important steps of the onboarding process and helps align team members. For example, who refills the ice at the drink station? Who changes the soda when it’s out? Who runs orders? Is there an expo? Who busses tables – anybody or is that on the servers? What about stocking glasses? All of this stuff can cause a restaurant’s staff to pull their hair out if it’s not clear. And oftentimes, it’s not. Make sure job expectations are set during the onboarding process.
Ensure that any technology needed for new employees to be successful are ready before they start. For example, a front of house employee would need to know how to use the POS or guest management system. A member of the kitchen staff would need to be trained on how to operate a kitchen display system.
Select a seasoned employee to allow a new hire to shadow. This could be over the course of 2-4 weeks, depending on the role. Make sure that the employee who is getting shadowed consistently provides feedback, that way newer employees are prepared when their training period is over.
Once the shadowing window is complete, assign a mentor to the new hire. This will be their point person if they have any additional questions.
Job Specific Training
You’ll want to provide training based on the job the new hire will fill. Here are a few job-specific items you’ll want to cover in training:
Greeting guests, managing waitlists and reservations, off-premise orders, bussing, maintaining tables, FOH software training, break schedules and standards, etc.
Menu abbreviations, menu descriptions, using restaurant software, bussing, alcohol taste test, wine pairings, service during a meal, delivery of a check, POS training, break schedules and standards, etc.
Menu knowledge, ingredients training, cleaning procedure, station training, quality control, BOH software training, prep expectations, break schedules and standards, etc.
Restaurant Company Culture
The best onboarding process doesn’t just get employees oriented but also integrated into the company culture. Your company culture will determine an employee’s attitude towards working at your restaurant and ultimately, whether they continue working there.
Here are a few ideas to create a restaurant company culture:
Your culture values should be authentic, concrete, relatable, and realistic. Pick three to five values and stick with them.
Set an Example
Hold yourself to the same standards that you hold your employees.
Allow your employees to contribute to building the company culture. Encourage suggestions and maybe even consider creating a channel where employees can submit their ideas.
Care About Each Other
Care about your team and their well-being and encourage the same behavior amongst team members.
Revisit Values and Company Culture
Your company culture will evolve over time – continuously nurture it. Conduct annual engagement surveys to ensure their stated values align with the day-to-day actions of employees. These surveys can also serve to identify areas for course correction to keep a great culture on track.
Once you nailed down how to hire restaurant staff, train and nurture your staff to create your company’s dream team. This will help give your restaurant a pleasant vibe and set you apart when looking to fill future roles.
If you want more information on retaining restaurant staff, we have just the article for you. Check out our article ‘Restaurant Turnover: The 8 Best Retention Strategies’ for handy tips on avoiding restaurant turnover and boosting retention.
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Emily Elder was a Content & Social Media Specialist at QSR Automations. Emily was born and raised in Louisville but considers herself a die-hard University of Kentucky fan. For college, Emily attended Indiana University Southeast and obtained a degree in Communications with a track in Advertising. In her free time, Emily enjoys just about every water-related activity but she is partial to kayaking and whitewater rafting.