10 Tips for Hiring a Kick-Ass Restaurant Staff

As we navigate through this new life veiled in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to keep our eye on the ball. Yes, the closing down of bars and restaurants has been devastating, but for those who have found a way to survive, the pendulum is soon going to start swinging back in the other direction, and when it does, we all need to be ready to move forward smartly.

A big part of that will be properly staffing your restaurant with rock-star employees. In an industry where employee turnover is at its highest, there will be challenges when it comes time to hiring bartenders, servers, barbacks, bussers, cooks and more.

So let’s not mess around with any more pleasantries. Let’s jump right in.

Tip #1: List the Top Traits You’re Looking For in an Employee

There will be times when the hiring process will become exhausting and complicated. However, it doesn’t always have to be. More often than not, entrepreneurs get dazzled by an employee’s glamorous resume and forget that they’re looking for someone who will best represent their business. 

Listing the top traits you’re not willing to compromise will give you a standard when reviewing resumes and applicants. In this way, you don’t get side-tracked by the variety of resumes and focus on what works best for your company. This will also help you narrow down all the candidates who fit your ideal employee.

While past experiences are also important, candidates with the right kind of attitude and personality is, in our opinion, paramount to experience. Remember, skills can always be taught. Character and personality, on the other hand, is very difficult to change. 

Tip #2: Use Word of Mouth to Spread the Word About Your Openings

restaurant word of mouth marketing

There’s a saying that goes, “birds of a feather flock together,” and this perfectly fits this tip. It seems that people who often come from a recommendation of a friend or staff always somehow perform better than those who aren’t. Maybe it has to do with the pressure of being recommended, but either way, it definitely helps when you’re in the process of hiring. You could also incentivize the recommendation by creating a “bonus” program for each successful hire they recommend. Knowing the people they’ll be working with will also be an added bonus since your staff will form a community within themselves.

Using the word-of-mouth for your openings will also give you a bigger chance of having people walk-in. Walk-ins are definitely rare in an era of emails and social media. However, walk-ins often indicate that these people really want the job and are willing to get it. E-mails can easily be formatted and sent in bulk. 

Another way of getting the word out is by properly relaying to the various channels. Agencies, job boards, and websites are important in the recruitment process when hiring a restaurant staff. These are the best places to look for employees because it already contains the people who need and want the work. Posting about your job opening will let candidates know who you’re looking for and whether or not they fit the bill. 

Tip #3: Be Upfront About What You Want and the Job Description

There is nothing worse than applying for a job and being accepted, only to find out that you’ll be doing an entirely different one. As the restaurant owner, it is your responsibility to be upfront about what your restaurant needs. If you post about needing a server part-time, it had better be part-time. 

Your job posting should always list exactly what the job duties will be because this is what your future employees will expect. One of the reasons why the hospitality industry has a large turnover rate is because of the lack of clarity during the recruitment process. More often than not, the job description and hiring conditions differ from what is given to the employee once they are hired. 

Improper hours and shifts, a large difference in the expected salary, and multiple job roles for a single person can easily discourage the employee from staying. In an industry with the worst turnover rate, the newly hired employees won’t hesitate to quit, or worse yet, speak about it. A bad reputation as a bad employer could damage your business in more ways than one. 

For one, your restaurant’s turnover would be costly. Remember that losing an employee is more expensive than finding and training a new one. In addition, your bad reputation could affect the number of people who apply for the roles you’ve posted. Lastly, the people who might apply to the job postings may not even be quality applicants. It’s better (and more cost-efficient!) to stay honest and upfront about your job postings during the hiring process. 

Tip #4: Vet Your Candidates Properly and Thoroughly

Vetting your candidates should always be a priority during the hiring process. You don’t want to hire people who will ultimately do more damage than help, would you? To properly and efficiently vet your candidates, you need to check their references. References truly make the hiring process more efficient because it gives you an idea of the candidate’s background. Of course, it’s also important to remember that references put in the candidate’s resume are often going to give nice comments. 

That being said, it’s also important to read and check their resumes thoroughly. Check their work history and how fast they shift from job to job. It is common knowledge that burning through a lot of jobs in a short period of time could indicate that the candidate is a flight-risk. You wouldn’t want that. 

Aside from those examples, a lot of employers also make use of digital resources like background check software and pre-employment testing tools. Pre-employment testing tools are used to compare the competencies and skills of your candidate to that of your job opening and restaurant. There are a variety of pre-employment testing tools including tests about personality, skills, culture, and cognitive ability assessments. Of course, not all of these are as important as your pre-determined traits. 

Tip #5: Ask Relevant Interview Questions

Of course the interview process is sort of the heart of hiring new employees. This is usually when you figure out whether the candidate suits your restaurant or not. However, in order to fully assess whether they’re a fit, relevant questions need to be asked. When you’re hiring an entry-level employee, the interview basically draws out a picture of whether he or she can be a part of your company even without experience.

When doing the interview, it’s important to stick to questions that will define them as a person, as an employee, and as a co-worker. Ask questions like: 

  • What’s your experience in the customer service industry?
  • What can you bring to the restaurant/company?
  • What are the traits that you think will help you do your job?
  • Once you are hired, how do you think you can echo the restaurant’s vision?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • How would you handle a customer complaint? 
  • What would you do if a customer expressed dissatisfaction with their meal?
  • What made you leave your previous job?
  • How would you respond to customers who have multiple requests?
  • How do you interact with your co-workers?

Questions like these give you a sense of who they are as a person, staff, and co-worker. These questions will definitely narrow down any candidates. Questions like these let you know your candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and traits, as well. 

Tip #6: Offer a Paid Job Trial

Once resumes are read and interviews are done, you still have to find out which of your candidates fit the bill. A great way to test their skills in real-time is through a paid job trial. Although it may seem like an additional cost to the hiring process, it’s important to remember that this paid job trial can either make or break your candidates. 

You can even just do an hour or two of the paid trial just to see how they work under pressure and with an audience. Aside from giving you perspective on which candidate to choose, the candidates themselves can try and see whether the job is truly something they can commit to. 

Tip #7: Have a Systemic Training Program

Of course at Bar Patrol, we are huge on systemizing your business through proper restaurant management. Once you’ve hired your new staff, the next step is to properly train them. Your employees are not robots; there isn’t a program that you can simply install and have them act out immediately. It’s a process. An essential process that will help your employee understand their daily tasks, co-workers, and of course, you. 

The training process doesn’t have to be tedious nor does it have to be stressful. This is the perfect opportunity to show your employees how you take care of them. Teach employees how to work efficiently, smartly, and be patient for any questions they might have. A great way to interact with your staff is asking feedback about the training process. This will let you know which areas need improvement and which ones work well.

The training process will also help you hone your employees into what they could be. Investing time and effort in training them will guide them into becoming the model employees you want. The more time you invest in training your employees, the more they’re likely to invest in your restaurant, too. 

Tip #8: Foster Open Communication 

One of the most important things in running any business, especially the restaurant industry is having open communication. The more you’re communicating clearly and openly, the more comfortable your staff is with working. It’s important that your staff feels comfortable sharing any ideas and concerns to the management. This will let them feel heard and reduce the likelihood of leaving their jobs.

Encourage them to openly talk about how they feel and check how they’re doing at their posts. Check and read any signs of disappointment and communicate with them. One major factor that would help form a community around your restaurant is through open communication. Your staff should always be comfortable and safe with sharing anything they feel isn’t helping their disposition. 

Tip #9: Create an Inclusive Work Environment

Nothing is more important than making your employees feel like they truly are part of the restaurant. Create an inclusive work environment where a variety of people, backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions are welcomed. 

Once you create an environment that is inclusive, your staff will feel safe and comfortable. When your staff believes that your restaurant is inclusive, they understand that respect is of utmost importance. This understanding will then result in better services because they believe that this is what your restaurant stands for. 

Your customers are happy when your servers and staff are happy, too. 

Tip #10: Create a Good Benefits Package

Aside from salary, people now look for a good benefits package that will help them become better. There are common benefits packages such as healthcare insurance. However, companies today try to create competitive benefits packages for their employees. Some restaurants include an education benefit, financial wellness programs, and fitness programs

It’s important to create a good benefits package that will set you apart from other restaurants. This will also entice candidates to join and stay as your staff. 

In the end, finding the perfect employee is like finding a diamond in the desert, but with a proper hiring, vetting and training process, you can mold your new employees into diamonds so you don’t have to wander the desert for years searching for the perfect one.

Thanks for being here.

TheRealBarman Team