Hiring, managing, and retaining staff is one of the biggest challenges of running a restaurant.

The restaurant industry has a high turnover rate of around 73%. The high attrition rate means that restaurant managers spend significant time and resources in finding, hiring, and training new staff only to see them leave after a few months.

In addition, seasonal variations in demands convert into changing restaurant staffing needs. Restaurant owners find it difficult to hire and recruit staff as the demand surges during the summer months and the holiday season.

Another major challenge is the composition of the restaurant workforce; according to a survey, 82% of the Generation Z workforce have taken up their first jobs in a restaurant. This younger workforce has little-to-no work experience and most of them are students who usually work part-time or as their academic schedules allow. With a declining young workforce in the coming years, it is going to be even more difficult to find suitable candidates to fill up the increasing number of vacancies.

Minimal growth opportunities, lack of flexibility, and a poor work environment are a few of the reasons for restaurant employees changing jobs frequently. So, how do we overcome these challenges? 

In this article, we will discuss how to find and hire and the best staff for your restaurant.

How to Find And Hire The Best Staff For Your Restaurant?

1. Streamline The Recruitment Process

The responsibility of hiring and training restaurant staff usually falls on the manager. However, restaurant managers already have a lot on their plate and are not able to devote enough time to the recruitment process. One way to overcome this problem is to seek support and assistance from one or more senior employees or management. One or more department heads can take care of the initial screening process leaving the final interview and selection of candidates to the manager. 

Streamlined recruitment focuses on sourcing candidates that are the best fit for your restaurant. Your hiring process should be specific and detailed. Start by defining the stages of the hiring process and work on reducing the number of steps involved in the interview and selection cycle.

Before you begin the actual recruitment process, gain an understanding of the best approach for writing job descriptions, screening, and interviewing. 

2. Determine The Roles You Need To Fill

Before you can build a well-performing restaurant team, you’ll have to determine which roles need to be filled. Generally, there are three types of staff required in a restaurant.

  1. Kitchen staff– Kitchen staff comprises the cooks, food preparation staff, support staff, etc.
  2. Service staff includes waitstaff, housekeeping staff, busboys, etc. The service staff interacts with customers on a regular basis and must be trained appropriately.
  3. Management staff includes the restaurant manager, chef, cashier, store manager, etc. You should hire experienced staff at the managerial level.
 How to Find and Hire the Best Staff for restaurant? - determining your requirements

Talk to various department heads like the managers, chefs, etc. to determine the nature and number of staff you will need in each department. Some factors that will determine your  staffing requirement are:

  • The nature and concept of your restaurant – for instance, a fine dine restaurant may need more staff than a QSR.
  • The size of your restaurant or the number of tables you have 

If you are just starting out, hire a few skilled staff and go from there as your restaurant grows and you get a better understanding of your staffing needs.

3. Identify Responsibilities For The Different Categories of Staff

The next step is to lay down the responsibilities and requirements and prepare a job description for each category of employee. A detailed job description will not only help you find the right candidate but also enable you to answer applicant questions, and manage their expectations. 

The job descriptions should include details such as

  • Position
  • Daily functions
  • Hours

and also cover details like

  • personal attributes
  • skills, and experience needed for each category of employee (communication skills, leadership qualities, team player, hardworking, passionate).

For instance, you would need experienced staff as managers and chefs, while you may consider less experienced candidates for other positions. Similarly, strong leadership and team-building qualities are a must for managerial positions, while people skills may not be the main criteria while hiring back-end staff or chefs.

How to Find and Hire the Best Staff For Your Restaurant- Writing detailed job descriptions

Everyone involved in the recruitment process should be on the same page when determining the skills and personality traits of the perfect candidate for a given role. This helps your team avoid deadlock in the decision-making process.

How to Find and Hire the Best Staff For Your Restaurant- candidate screening process

Work On Your Advertisements

You have already perfected the job description for each category of vacancy, now all you need is to craft the message for the job posting. You can add details like:

  • Brief description and/or history of your restaurant
  • Information on company culture
  • Type of food you serve
  • What you expect from the employees
  • What they can expect from you (pay, benefits, career growth)

4. Promote Job Listings 

Promote job listings on multiple pages and platforms to reach a larger audience.

Put Up Posters at prominent places in your restaurant.

On Your Website: Add a separate page for careers on your restaurant website to advertise vacancies. Remember to add a contact form on this page with the ability to upload resumes. You could also consider adding a pop-up on your website to promote the current vacancies. 

On Your Social Media Accounts: Post about the current openings on all your social media handles. Instead of the usual lackluster “we are hiring posts”, you should think of creative ways to entice the right candidates to the job. Featuring your staff or restaurant in job posts or creating Instagram/Facebook stories to promote job openings can be an excellent way to attract potential employees. Take a cue from these recruiters!

How to Find and Hire the Best Staff For Your Restaurant- Creating Job Posts
How to Find and Hire the Best Staff For Your Restaurant-Creating Job Posts

Prominent platforms like Facebook and Linkedin allow you to create and promote job posts and accept applications on the platform itself. You can also consider advertising your open positions to reach a wider audience. Also, remember to share and promote job openings on local social media groups.

5. Hiring Through Other Channels

a. Hiring Through Vocational Programs

If there are any vocational schools in your neighborhood, they are likely to have programs that provide job placement to their students after graduation. You can work with these organizations to find and hire the best candidates for your restaurant. You can check culinaryschools.org for the vocational programs in your area.

b. Hiring Through Culinary Programs

There are several organizations that offer culinary programs to train underprivileged students for the food and services industry. Search for the local programs in your area and set up a process through which you can hire their students directly if they meet your requirements. Check out these vocational programs:

c. Restaurant Recruiting Websites 

Most of these websites allow you to promote job listings in exchange for a small fee.

  • Sirvo: A dedicated platform catering to employees and job seekers in the food and services industry. You can post jobs, receive applications, and communicate with applicants to reach a wider talent pool through this platform.
  • Culinary Agents specializes in connecting employers and job seekers in the food services industry 
  • JobsOnTheMenu.com specializes in restaurant and foodservice corporate, management, and hourly jobs. 
  • Poached allows you to publish your job openings and receive applications. You can also boost your job posts to promote them on Poached and their partner network.
  • The Restaurant Zone: Once you post your job opening on this platform, one of their experts shortlists the best candidates in their database for a given job profile and assists you with the recruitment process. 
  • Industry – is another excellent platform to find potential candidates.

d. Hiring Through Referrals 

This traditional method of restaurant staffing still works. Candidates who are referred by friends and colleagues are usually more reliable than those you find from other sources. Also, performing a background check is easier for referral candidates. Encourage your friends, colleagues, current employees, chefs, managers to recommend candidates who they feel would be suitable for your restaurant.

e. Restaurant Recruitment Consultants

One other option available to restaurant owners is hiring through recruitment consultants. You can choose a candidate that meets your requirements from a list of shortlisted candidates provided by the agency. Hiring through recruitment agencies can be expensive but has its own advantages. These agencies obviously have established expertise in the area and access to a wider talent pool, and can help you find  suitable candidates quickly by facilitating and streamlining the hiring process. 

f. Look within Your Team

If you are looking for candidates to fill senior positions, then you should consider your current team. Is there anybody within the team who is most suitable for the position or someone you feel would be up for the challenge?

Your current staff is already aware of the nuances of your restaurant operations and understands how the team works. If they have already established themselves as conscientious workers, they should be the prime candidates for a promotion. Providing your employees with growth opportunities can also be a great way to reduce employee turnover.  

6. Invest Time In Screening Candidates

Invest some time in studying applications to understand the candidates. Screening should be based on skills, traits, and behaviors that are necessary to be successful in a given role. Complete the background check and make it a point to call and talk to at least two of the references before calling anyone for an interview.  

7. Prepare For The Interview 

When screening and interviewing candidates—it is useful to have a pre-meditated set of questions tailored for each opening. For instance, if you are hiring for senior positions such as manager or chef – your main focus should be on the level and nature of experience and proficiency in the area of work while for entry-level employees your questions should focus on customer interaction and organizational fit. 

How to Find and Hire the Best Staff For Your Restaurant-Sample Interview Questions

You might want to present candidates with customer service scenarios during the interview to help you access their ability to handle tricky customer situations. 

How to Find and Hire the Best Staff For Your Restaurant- Customer service scenario examples

The restaurant industry is a customer-facing industry where every customer interaction is valuable. You should pay attention to the body language and personality traits of a potential candidate during the interview process. Your aim should be to find the right balance between skills, past experience, and personality. As a general rule, you should look for people who have a pleasant demeanor,  fit well in your restaurant culture, and are willing to go the extra mile to make each experience memorable for your customers.

8. Training Your Employees

 You can maintain service standards at your restaurant by training your employees and keeping them up to date with the latest guidelines for food preparation, healthy kitchen practices, and smart waste management. Start with a simple orientation to introduce new employees to your current team. Familiarize them with the history of your restaurant, best practices, and work culture.

How to Find and Hire the Best Staff For Your Restaurant- training your staff

It is important to have a training manual in place for different departments in your restaurant. The training manual can be divided into two parts.

The first part should deal with general information about your restaurant (restaurant type, brief history, owner information), cuisine(popular items, busy days), and target customers. You can also include information about dress code, restaurant policies, food safety, and hygiene-related guidelines in this section.

The second part should talk about the roles and responsibilities of staff. Lay down structured guidelines for employees in each department detailing their day-to-day responsibilities and your expectations in terms of customer service. 

Make a list of all the tasks that an employee in a particular department goes through in a day and provide clear guidelines for each task on the list.  Front-of-the-house staff, for instance, should be shown how to greet guests, pre- bus tables, take orders, make menu suggestions, serve food, take orders by the phone, and deal with customer complaints and queries. 

Include demonstrations, videos, and role-plays in your training program to facilitate the learning process.  You can also assign experienced employees to supervise and guide the new staff members.

9. Employee Retention

It is not just costly to hire and train new employees, but a high employee turnover rate also affects customer experience as new employees take some time getting accustomed to handling customer interactions smoothly. Reducing employee churn should therefore be your priority as a manager. 

Here are a few tips you can use to keep your employees happy.

Create A Positive Workplace Culture

Establish a clear hierarchical structure within your workforce with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each employee. Using a hierarchical structure establishes authority and a clear line of communication between employees and departments. 

  • Encourage positive interactions between staff members and keep a pulse on employee interactions to nip any conflicts in the bud.
  • Encourage  Mentorship.
  • Lay down well-defined career paths to motivate your employees to perform better

Foster Professional Development

  • Continue on-the-job training by keeping your staff up to date with shifting industry trends.
  • Deliver clear and actionable feedback on job performance.
  • Have a clear and well-defined promotion policy
  • Offer an incentive program based on sales targets achieved or goals achieved. 
  • You can start an Employee of the Month or Chef of the Month program to motivate your staff.

Make your restaurant staff feel valued

Regular interaction with your team helps you build a stronger team. 

  • Check-in regularly with your employees to make sure they are happy in their role.
  • Appreciate your staff at every possible opportunity and highlight each outstanding performance. 
  • Talk to your employees to understand their problems and long-term career goals.
  • Organize activities and social interactions outside work to get to know your staff on a personal level.

Fair Pay and Other Benefits

  • Do your research on the pay offered by other similar restaurants in your vicinity. Make sure that you offer the same pay and benefits to your employees.
  • To reduce the work pressure and increase productivity ensure that you give your restaurant staff adequate breaks in rotation or weekly offs. 
  • Have a clear overtime policy, to motivate staff to give their best.

Wrapping it up

The key to successfully hiring the best staff for your restaurant lies in carefully determining your requirements, and having a structured assessment and selection process followed by adequate training.