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Many restaurant owners and managers would agree that staff is a company’s most important asset. All restaurant operations stem from the people working there. Picture your staff like the engine of your car. It is the most vital part of your car, and without it, you couldn’t drive. Just as you rely on that car to get you from point A to point B, you need your staff to do the same.

When it comes to business decision-making, hiring restaurant employees is one of the most important decisions you will make. After all, your staff is the livelihood of your restaurant. Restaurant customer service is the foundation of your business. When was the last time someone commended you on a waiter or waitress? Think about how much you owe to your chefs and kitchen staff when a busy night runs smoothly. One good employee and you can create a customer for a lifetime; one bad employee can lead to a potential reputation problem.

That’s why your staff needs care. No matter if you are managing a skeleton crew or a fleet, it takes time, effort, and care. But first, you need to know how to hire employees for restaurant success.

Hiring Challenges Facing the Restaurant Industry

When it comes to hiring great restaurant employees, from servers to management to chefs,  there exists a universal truth: It is not easy. Even harder than that? Employee retention.

Recent restaurant statistics show that restaurants are facing hiring challenges.

  • 50 percent of restaurants cite employee turnover as a problem.
  • The average turn rate for employees is two years. After two years, only 25 percent of the staff you spent the time to recruit and train will still be employed with you.
  • The cost of employee turnover is high. Some reports cite as much as $3 billion in recruiting and training spent for restaurant employees.
  • There is a 73 percent turnover rate in the restaurant industry.

Now, more than ever, a strong restaurant hiring process and interview strategy are your best strategies for overcoming these challenges.

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How to Hire Restaurant Employees

Restaurant employees can make or break your ability to improve customer retention and increase sales. When it was time to hire the folks that you trust today, how did you go about the process? We bet there was an interview process, but did you think it through as it related to your restaurant specifically? 

Time constraints in a fast-paced environment like yours can make it hard to feel like you have the ability to maintain consistency. But with the right interview process and questions in place, you can consistently hire high caliber restaurant employees.

Top Three Questions for Hiring Restaurant Staff

There are a number of insights about how to identify candidates that will be a great fit for your restaurant, but we have three key questions that we think can help spot the winners:

1. Can you give an example of how you provide assistance to someone in need?

Someone who is applying for a job in the industry likely has some experience as a server or restaurant employee. This person will know how to handle customers; but asking them how they handle providing assistance, in general, can provide insight into their temperament.

2. What is your strategy for bringing back loyal guests?

Building relationships, being approachable, and providing attention is one way to bring back loyal guests. What’s better is knowing which menu items to recommend based on client preferences, understanding special events, and upselling items that will bring high satisfaction.

3. When you approach the table and learn a customer is a first-time guest, what do you suggest?

An employee that might suggest a low-cost item or an item that is not a hit with everyone (simply because they enjoy it), is not going to have an easy time with building customer loyalty or driving sales.

Other than specific answers, you want to be sure that you get a good vibe from your interviewees. Namely, your ideal candidate should have a positive attitude and friendly demeanor. They should be easy going and kind so they will be able to take care of customers with diverse backgrounds, and stay cool and collected should a problem arise.

Hiring for restaurant staff? Check out this guide. 

Be Open-Minded When Hiring

While strong interview questions can help you get a feel for each applicant, you should also be aware that restaurants often attract the young and inexperienced, and that’s OK. Bringing in young talent and having the ability to shape them into ideal employees who can grow with your restaurant is great, as long as you can invest time and provide them with ample training. Here are some candidate types you might consider:

The College Kid Who Needs Money

This type of candidate will pick up any shift and will be one of the hardest workers on your team. Just prepare for them to need time off for midterms and finals. As long as you’re accommodating, you’ll have a loyal worker you can count on.

The Seasonal Celebrity Shifter

This guy moves around the country picking up the coolest shifts in the most exotic locations. He will be in the Hamptons in the summer, and either Miami or Colorado in the winter. He knows how to make money, and he knows how to work. He won’t need much training, and will add a flare to your staff, but it will be for a fleeting period of time.

The First-Timers

These employees may be in high school and trying to pick up their first job. They will take some training, but remember, these aspiring employees are an investment. They will power your restaurant if you train them and treat them right since you may keep them for the duration of their schooling and beyond.

restaurant servers

Think Ahead About Your Hiring Needs

If you know that your business ramps up in the summer, don’t wait until July 1 to put up a Help Wanted sign. By the spring, you should already be looking for additional help. You also want to allow yourself time to be selective about who you are hiring, and be able to get new hires up to speed before the busy shifts start rolling in. To get ahead of the game, you need to know how to recruit restaurant staff.

By actively recruiting new hires instead of waiting for people to come to you, you can stay one step ahead. You might start by reaching out to previous seasonal help, since those people already know your business and can hit the ground running on day one.

Next, ask your current staff for referrals. They are the ones working side by side with new hires, so they are already invested in wanting good people. If they like working at your restaurant, they’re your best advocates. Consider adding an incentive like a bonus for each person who gets hired from a recommendation.

Before bringing in anyone to interview, plan out a rough schedule so you have a clear idea on what type of hours and schedules you have available. Being clear about this at the interview will help you match with potential hires who have the availability and flexibility you need.

Check out Upserve’s Guide to Staff Management!

Restaurant staff management just got easier, employee turnover just became a thing of the past.

Download The Guide
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In a perfect world, Theresa would spend her days reading good books and writing all the time... and she'd own all the shoes her heart desired. When she's not on the hunt for shoes, you can find this Rhode Island transplant on the hunt for food that comes close to "Long Island". Her favorite? Caffe Dolce Vita in Providence's historic Federal Hill.