While hiring employees can be stressful in any industry, staffing a restaurant is particularly difficult, especially in today’s market. High labor costs, soaring turnover and a labor shortage have made it challenging for restaurateurs to find the right people and entice them to stay.
This restaurant staffing guide aims to ease this struggle by helping you avoid pitfalls and understand the best ways to hire restaurant employees. You’ll learn:
State of Staff Hiring at Restaurants
Labor is one of the most significant operating costs restaurants have. In fact, staff wages usually make up 30% of total operating expenses. The cost of labor alone has always made staffing a restaurant challenging. However, there are currently two additional factors that make staffing more difficult than ever: a labor shortage and high turnover.
Let’s start with turnover. The restaurant industry is up against shockingly high staff turnover rates of 73% annually. That means that if your restaurant starts the year with 10 employees, at the end of the year, only three of those original employees will still be there.
Not only is looking for new restaurant staff inconvenient, it’s also expensive. Between hiring, training and productivity loss, restaurants spend about $6,000 replacing just one employee.
Then there’s the pandemic-induced labor shortage. With workers leaving low-paying, customer-facing jobs en masse, it’s difficult for restaurants to find qualified candidates to fill jobs.
Most Common Challenges for Staffing a Restaurant
We’ve briefly touched on some of the difficulties restaurants face when looking for staff. Here’s a deeper look into the most common staffing challenges for restaurants, and how to combat them, whether you’re hiring a server, bartender, chef or delivery driver.
Hiring the Right Employees
It’s difficult to find people who are qualified for the job and will seamlessly fit into your team’s culture.
The key to finding the right employees is to ask like-minded people for referrals. Ask fellow restaurateurs in your network to refer candidates to you. Ask your best employees to refer their friends and former colleagues. Maintain a list of candidates you can reach out to when it’s time to hire.
High Restaurant Staff Turnover Rates
Hiring is only half the battle when it comes to staffing a restaurant. Retaining employees is one of the biggest challenges restaurateurs are facing right now.
In order to keep employees engaged, you need to offer competitive wages, make work-life balance possible, offer promotional opportunities and hire people whose values match your restaurant’s.
Filling Vacancies Is Difficult During the Labor Shortage
Finding new staff to replace staff members who have left is time consuming and difficult.
Instead of looking for talent when you’re panicking to fill a vacancy, it’s better to hire proactively. Look for people before you need them by using the tactics listed above. At the same time, work on reducing turnover so you don’t have to find new hires often.
8 Tips for How to Hire Restaurant Staff
You’re familiar with the current state of restaurant staffing and understand the challenges you’ll likely encounter. Now we’re sharing eight of the best ways to hire restaurant employees. These strategies can help you find the right people, and keep them happily employed at your restaurant for years to come.
1. Write a Specific Job Description
First things first, you need to be concrete with what you’re looking for in a job description. Vague job descriptions attract lackluster candidates.
Add details about what the role entails, and use some flowery language that will inspire candidates to apply. Extra effort will attract candidates who are willing to go the extra mile.
2. Define Success In the Job Posting
Before you finalize your job description, make sure that you’ve described what success means to your restaurant, and for that specific role. Let applicants know how their performance will be measured.
Will you be looking at sales figures? Tables served? Drinks made for bartenders? Meals cooked for chefs? When employees know what success means, they’ll be able to work towards it more easily.
3. Look for Employees in the Right Places
With so much hiring done on the internet, it might be tempting to share your job posting all over the place. Instead, focus your search on networks that will bring you top-quality candidates.
Post your job listing on restaurant-industry job boards, like Culinary Agents, Poached or Qwick, rather than just general job boards. And, ask for referrals from colleagues and employees who are familiar with your standards and know who would make a great addition to your team.
4. Conduct Screener Interviews
After receiving job applications and before bringing the top candidates in for interviews, it’s important to conduct short, preliminary interviews over the phone. These screener calls will help you make sure the person who applied knows what they’re talking about. Use these calls to narrow down your list of candidates even further.
5. Do More Than Just Asking Questions
Invite the best candidates into your restaurant for another interview. However, don’t just ask questions. Instead, put candidates to the test by having them complete challenges, participate in role-playing scenarios and shadow your top employees. These tests will show you what these potential employees are capable of.
6. Contact References
After identifying the best candidate for the job, contact their references to make sure the person you want to hire is reliable. Candidates won’t volunteer their own flaws, so you’ll have to ask references about them. Ask how that person handles challenges to understand how they’ll act under pressure.
7. Make the Offer
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, tell your favorite candidate you want to hire them. Be ready to negotiate after making an offer.
8. Set New Employees Up For Success
When your new hire arrives for their first day of work, set them up for success by offering thorough job training and shadowing. With proper preparation, they’ll be equipped to do a great job and will therefore be more likely to stick around for the long haul.
Wrapping Up: Guide to Staffing a Restaurant
Hiring and retaining staff are some of the greatest challenges a restaurateur will face. High wages, high turnover and a labor shortage have made 2022 one of the most difficult years to staff up. However, when you define what success means, create a detailed job description and hire deliberately, you can combat staffing problems.
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FAQs About Staffing a Restaurant
1. How Do I Calculate How Many Staff Members I Need for a Restaurant?
Determine the number of employees you’ll have based on how many tables your restaurant serves and how many shifts you have. Typical ratios for one shift is one front-of-house staff members (servers, bartenders, etc.) per three to five tables and four to seven back-of-house staff members (chefs, dishwashers, etc.) per 50 tables.
2. How Can Restaurants Improve Staffing?
Improve staffing at your restaurant by investing in employees and culture. Provide training for your staff so they can advance in their careers, expand skill sets and better handle challenges at work. Hold regular meetings with individuals and teams to understand how employees are feeling and where work can be improved.