How to hire the best staff for your restaurant

Finding staff for a restaurant can be a big challenge in the hospitality industry. Knowing how to hire employees can make or break your restaurant. A reliable, dedicated staff is your biggest asset, but high-quality employees are hard to find—especially when the industry is still feeling the effects of a labor shortage. Whether you’re staffing a new restaurant, looking for seasonal employees, or streamlining your interview process, you always want to know the best way to hire restaurant employees.

Set your restaurant up for success by figuring out your hiring strategy and making a plan. A solid hiring strategy can help you hang onto great talent, keep branding consistent, and ensure a fantastic guest experience. Here’s how to hire great employees, with tips for recruiting and retaining staff for a restaurant.

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Define your hiring strategy
Before the interview
During the interview
After the interview
Your recruiting strategy

Define your hiring strategy

The first step in staffing your restaurant is creating a strategy to recruit, interview, and hire your ideal candidates. Think about the roles and responsibilities needed—everything from line cooks and dishwashers to servers and marketing. The next step is making a plan to find restaurant staff and vet qualified candidates.

How many workers do you need for your restaurant?

This depends on the size of your restaurant. A tiny spot with a dozen tables and no bar might be able to run smoothly with a dishwasher, a few cooks, a chef, and a single server. On the other hand, a 100-seat operation will need many more employees to make things run smoothly.

What roles do you need to fill?

Consider the different restaurant roles needed to cover the different aspects of hospitality work at your restaurant. Along with kitchen and service staff, you’ll need workers for your restaurant to handle responsibilities like operations, management, administration, and communications. Your business may need specialized roles like a sommelier, reservationist, or private events manager.

What are the requirements for those roles?

Once you’ve figured out how many staff you’ll need and the roles to fill, nail down the responsibilities each of those employees must fulfill. You’ll also want to think about what makes a candidate qualified to excel in their role.

For example, a general manager must be familiar with the jobs of the people they’re managing. A quality candidate should have several years of experience in different front-of-house roles. But entry-level jobs like barback, cashier, and prep cook only require a positive attitude and the willingness to learn.

Positions like these can start hospitality careers for young people looking to break into the industry. Note that although teens as young as 14 can legally work in all 50 states, rules and regulations restrict when and how much they can work and the duties they can perform.

Before the interview

Hiring staff for a restaurant begins long before a candidate drops off their resume. As you begin the hiring process, you and your management team should discuss and agree on your hiring strategy. Getting on the same page will help the process go smoothly and increase your chances of finding employees for your restaurant.

Establish core values with management

Never assume your managers all have the same definition of what makes a good restaurant worker. Sit down with them before conducting the first interview to establish the core values that team members will need to excel.

Be sure to consider soft skills like empathy and the importance of building a diverse, resilient team. You’ll also want to talk about how management can support each staff member at work and in their careers.

Post specific, informative job ads

Job ads should include keywords that describe your company culture to help candidates find you. Being specific will help you find the best workers for your restaurant. Here’s some of the info to include in a restaurant job description:

Don’t forget to ask candidates to provide three professional references in your job description.

Recruiting for restaurants works best when you can reach as many potential employees as possible. Knowing where to hire restaurant staff is half the battle. Post job openings on your website, in your email newsletter, on job boards, and on social media. Reach out to industry contacts and ask current employees for referrals. Forbes has some great tips for writing job descriptions, plus recommendations for job boards to help you recruit from diverse communities.

Choose at least two managers to interview each candidate

Passing over a great candidate can be as big of a loss as hiring a bad one. Make sure you’re taking more than one person’s opinion into account for these important decisions. Have managers check in with each other between interviews to go over any concerns and reach a consensus. This ensures hiring managers agree on decisions and no team members are brought on because a single manager lobbied for them.

Develop a set of interview questions

Work with management to create a thoughtful list of questions you’ll ask each interviewee. Questions should determine whether a candidate shares your values. You’ll also want to gauge their attitude and discuss their work history. Using the same set of questions each time will help keep the process objective, efficient, and professional.

Train interviewers on physical cues

A good interviewer will do more than ask questions. Watch facial expressions and body language to gauge an applicant’s attitude. If an interviewee describes their warm service style but they’ve barely cracked a smile, don’t assume that will change when they’re on the floor. When you ask why they left their last position and they avoid eye contact, dig deeper.

Dress and prepare appropriately

Job seekers should dress their best and act professionally during an interview, but the same goes for hiring managers. Remember that candidates are also evaluating you. Be on time, read resumes beforehand, and dress appropriately to signal your expectations for new hires.

During the interview

Once you’ve followed up on standout resumes, it’s time to meet with job seekers. This isn’t just a high-pressure moment for interviewees. Hiring managers should use this opportunity to find great restaurant staff and catch any red flags. Follow these tips to conduct a thorough, professional interview that will help you make smart hiring decisions.

Take notes

There’s a good chance you’ll meet with several applicants for a single position, especially if you’re interviewing for an opening team. Take notes during interviews to track relevant details, potential concerns, and other observations and impressions to refer to at decision time.

Assess attitude

You can teach new skills, but it’s tough to change a person’s attitude. Don’t be persuaded by an impressive resume if the applicant falls short of your restaurant’s core values. An interview is a job seeker’s chance to make a great first impression. If they’re not presenting positively in this setting, they probably won’t perform much better under pressure.

Encourage questions

After you’ve asked your questions, invite the interviewee to ask questions about the job or anything else you’ve discussed. It’s important for candidates to determine whether you’re a good fit for them, too.

After the interview

Once you’ve conducted all the interviews for a position, it’s time for management to gather some final information, consider qualified candidates, and make a decision.

Confirm references

It’s time to give references a call. You’ll want to hear back from at least two of those three references to move forward with the hiring process. Remind interviewees to give those references a heads up and answer your call.

Aim for balance in DEI practices

Diversity builds stronger, more resilient restaurant teams. This applies to knowledge, skills, experience, and personality as well as race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexuality, gender expression, and ability.

Pay attention to balance as you bring people on board, because a diverse and dynamic restaurant staff helps everyone learn from each other. Reach out to your networks to attract diverse candidates, and seek out resources for creating and maintaining a supportive, welcoming workplace culture.

Consider a new recruiting strategy

If you find that candidates aren’t meeting your requirements, it may be time to change your recruiting strategy. Try asking family and friends, see if loyal customers know anyone looking for hospitality work, or post flyers around the neighborhood.

Another strategy for finding and hiring the right people is to promote from within, then bring on new staff for entry-level positions that can be easier to fill. You’ll also want to conduct exit interviews with departing staff to see what you can learn to improve the hiring and onboarding process.

Knowing how to hire good employees and find staff for a restaurant is one of the most important aspects of running your business. Before you can hire outstanding team members, you’ve got to determine your business’s core values and the responsibilities each role must fulfill.

Use a thoughtful, organized process to evaluate candidates and find the best fit. Remember, your team is an extension of your brand. Knowing how to find restaurant employees—and having a strong hiring strategy—is an essential part of your business’s success.

Read more about hiring and retention tips for restaurants