5 Restaurant Staffing Tips for Recruiting an All-Star Staff

Mar 8, 2018

restaurant hiring

“Find me some A-players.” These were the instructions I overheard a GM in a restaurant say to someone on her team. I began reflecting on the state of restaurant staffing these days, and wondering whether there are there truly such things as “good hires” and “bad hires.” Is our job simply to weed through the applications with the profiling techniques of a senior FBI agent to identify the good ones? Is hiring really that black and white?

I’d like to suggest that, except for some edge cases, most people take their performance cues from their surroundings. The culture and energy in your restaurant feeds into future performance, so it’s critical you find employees that will be a good cultural fit. Read below for some essential tips to simplify restaurant staffing efforts and attract the kind of people who will be most successful at your location.

Get clear on greatness for your brand.

restaurant hiring

Each restaurant has an entirely different vibe. Great service at Michael Mina’s Ramen San is going to feel different than great service at Nancy Silverton’s Pizzeria Mozza. It’s not to say that great service doesn’t always include a friendly demeanor, a customer-centric orientation, or a welcoming experience. But how the team carries themselves in the funky vibes at Two Boots Pizza is very different than the team at The French Laundry.

Before you start the interview cycle, make sure you can identify exactly what success looks like on your floor. What types of things do your most successful people do? What point of view does your most successful server have? How could you look for that in an interview? Get clear on the profile for a great team member.

Use social storytelling.

The “help wanted” signs of yesterday have gone digital. Savvy restaurant hiring managers know that the kinds of candidates who will be successful at their brand are probably not walking by looking for signs in windows. These days, restaurant marketing is as much for prospective employees as it is for the prospective diners. Make sure that your social media stream tells the story of what it is like to work with you. Some brands like Ian’s Pizza and Rick Bayless’ XOCO do a great job of not only highlighting their pizza on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat — but also at giving a glimpse behind the scenes of their fun & playful workforce.

Ask core questions.

Operationalize your interview process by having a core set of questions you can use with every interview. This standardization will help keep things consistent and will also help you measure candidates across the board. Your questions need to be legally compliant and should be focused on the work and style that you need at your location — keep out anything that isn’t related.

Pro-tip: To “super-size” this idea, create a document with your 5-10 questions and some space to jot notes. You can even add a column to score the responses. Use this template every time you interview.

Keep interviews conversational.

I’ve seen far too many interviews that look like an interrogation scene from a Law & Order episode: the nervous candidate tries to crack a smile while being suspiciously questioned by the manager. That’s not how this process should play out. If you are truly looking for “talent” — act like it. Put your best foot forward in the interview. Make sure the candidate leaves really wanting to work with you.

Do the little things:

  • Offer them water.
  • Give them a comfortable place to sit.
  • Don’t be late for the interview.
  • Read their application and resume ahead of time so you can talk about it.

Never start an interview late or read their application for the first time in front of them. In this intense labor market, it’s critical to make sure candidates leave with a positive idea of working for you. Make sure to take time to find out what they are looking for in their next position and how they best like to receive feedback from managers.

Look for a sense of humor.

hiring for restaurants

It takes a great sense of humor to make it in this business. That doesn’t mean you need a comedian who might be cracking jokes at the customer’s expense, but you should be looking for someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Try to keep your interview positive and casual to see if you find moments of the “real” person coming through.

People will pick up on your cues, so if you are approaching the interview with the old school “prove-it-to-me” mindset your interviews probably won’t lend themselves towards your candidate dropping their guard and really connecting with you. If you are looking at two candidates, the one with the sense of humor is almost always the better choice.

I hope these tips are helpful or inspire other ideas to help you hire better staff and create a stellar restaurant culture. Are there any other tactics you’ve found success with? We’d love to hear. If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some feedback on your hiring tactics, schedule a call — we’re happy to help. If you don’t already have online ordering at your restaurant, now’s a great time to get started. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today!