Finding Restaurant Employees
It’s a hot topic right now — Restaurant Hiring.
In fact, the question I get asked more than anything right now is, “How to find workers for a restaurant”?
Owners and managers are struggling to find restaurant staff that want to work, will show up to work and do a good job.
This question about hiring restaurant staff is not a new one though. When I started blogging, consulting with restaurant brands and coaching restaurant owners 12 years ago, I got the same questions, “where can I find restaurant employees”?
Is it harder to find good employees now than it used to be? YES!
There’s a lot of reasons explaining why this is (that’s for another day) but I do have good news. The techniques I’ve been teaching for 12 years still work today.
How to Hire Restaurant Staff
In order to properly address hiring restaurant staff, we have to address a bigger question. Why would ANYBODY work for you or your restaurant?
Up until a few years ago, a restaurant would post a help wanted sign (or a digital version!) and people walked, applied for the job, you interviewed them, narrowed it down to a few potential candidates and then selectively hired.
But in the last year, the applications have just dried up for some restaurants.
People who used to have limited options now have a lot more options.
They don’t have to work weekends because they can work at an Amazon Warehouse. Driving for Uber means they can work when they want — not when you want them to be there.
There are seemingly unlimited alternatives to the historically low paying, long hours, late nights, weekends and holidays associated with working in restaurants.
Instead they can work a side-hustle, work at home selling stuff online, or even become TikTok or YouTube famous.
Independent restaurants aren’t known as a rapid and steady path to stable careers, advancing pay, better hours and reliable income. So when you add on that historically restaurants have just not done a very good job advancing people’s careers and it’s a recipe for disaster in today’s climate.
So why would anybody work for you or your restaurant?
In order to hire restaurant staff, you have to be able to answer the question.
Now that your mindset has shifted from the world where you had more applications than positions to a world where you need to sell your restaurant and job opening to potential employees, let’s dig into the more tactical step-by-step process for hiring restaurant staff.
1. Determine what restaurant staff positions you need to fill and their duties.
I see employers hire the right people for the wrong position all too often. A chef walks in and is great at cooking, loves working in the kitchen, creating specials and updating menus so you hire him.
But you need a chef to control your food cost, negotiate with vendors and cook the food you have been serving at your famous restaurant for the past 30 years.
Right chef, wrong position.
You’ll both be frustrated and more often than not, it won’t last and it won’t end well.
2. Write OUTSTANDING Job Descriptions
Nobody wants to work a boring job, and your description is doing a great job of showing them how boring your job is.
Seeking a motivated server with 3 years experience… blah blah blah.
💡 Try this instead…
We’re a bunch of goofy misfits who listen to loud music and don’t really fit in with others. If your hair is purple, your jeans are torn and you‘re sick of pretending to be someone you’re not at work, then come rock out and serve the most bitch’n burgers in the world with us.
3. Look in the RIGHT places
Most cooks on not scrolling through advanced internet sites looking for work and highly experienced G.M. candidates are not trolling craigslist.
Think about who you need and where they are online.
Keep in mind that really great candidates already have great jobs and aren’t actively searching for something new. Go where they are.
If you’re looking for hip, young servers, you won’t find them on Facebook. Try Instagram instead.
If you’re looking for candidates with a little more experience behind them, you’ll have better luck on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Talk to everyone and let them know what you’re looking for. You never know what you might find. Remember, your next General Manager already has a job and is going to need a reason to join your team. But if they don’t … well, in this economy, you might be a bit weary that aren’t working.
We can Certify your Managers in The Restaurant Boss Management Methods for you.
4. Determine what the IDEAL Team Player looks like for you
Great restaurant staff members are more than people who can do a job. You can’t work with a great cook who shows up late, or an awesome bartender who no-shows on a Friday night.
Create a list of your top 5 must have traits and DO NOT hire anybody who does not show you they are a good person first, skilled tradesman second.
Remember, we are in the hospitality business, hire the smile.
5. Ditch the Traditional Interview
There is nothing that will waste more of your time than a traditional job interview. Flip the script, get to the point, find out if they are top notch and meet your IDEAL TEAM PLAYER requirements then explain to them why they should work for you.
Get them begging to work for you…
6. Onboard, Train, Manage and Retain Your Staff
Once your staff have been hired you MUST make this a priority. There is nothing at work more important than onboarding staff properly, training them, managing them and retaining them.
It absolutely sucks to go through so much work finding people, only to lose them because they are not trained properly.
How to Train Restaurant Staff
Training your restaurant staff is actually quite simple. Simple isn’t always easy, but let’s keep this simple and think back to how you learned to do something you didn’t know how to do, or were not very good at doing.
📢 First, you have to want to do it.
If you don’t want to do it, you won’t, it’s that simple. There are things your team will not want to do and it’s your job to turn that around.
If you don’t take the time to explain why it’s important to their success (not your success) you will never successfully train them to do the task.
It’s important to note that no one cares about your success. When explaining WHY is it important to do this task, and do it this way, it has to be about them.
Once they get it and their desire has increased to a point they want to learn, then tell them how it will be done. Give them the steps they need, the instruction manual, the guide, the pictures, the cheat sheet.
Just having the instructions sometimes is not enough.
You can’t just give a 5-year-old the instructions to put together a baby Yoda Lego set. It won’t work.
You have to demonstrate how the pieces fit together, show them how to match up the pieces, how to read the instructions, and how to keep the parts organized.
After you show them, you wouldn’t leave the room, you’d stay with them and do some steps together.
Isn’t that how you learned to play soccer or baseball?
Didn’t your coach give you a hitting drill, demonstrate the drill, then watch as you did the drill so they can provide feedback?
At some point you have to play they game without a coach putting your hands on the bat. You won’t be very good and you’ll make mistakes but you have to play the game. The next day, the coach will let you know what you did wrong and help you work through it.
Lastly, at some point, you move on. You’ve passed all the tests, you graduate school and the school gives you a diploma that for the rest of your life you can show as proof you graduated high school.
If that is how we learn, why don’t we do that in our restaurants?
Why do we use the Magic Apron training model instead of the proven 5 step model I just laid out above?
Watch this video for more details on how to properly train your restaurant Staff.
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How to Manage Restaurant Staff
Training and managing your restaurant staff are two very different things.
Managing and leading your restaurant staff are two very different things.
Let’s first address that — the difference between managing and leading.
Managing your staff is transactional.
It’s task by task, day by day.
Leadership is transformational.
It’s not about getting a task done today or tomorrow, it’s about developing and inspiring people, improving their lives, and putting a dent in the universe with new ideas.
But here’s the rub, people hate being managed.
Did you like your managers when you were working?
Even if you did, did you like being managed?
Did you ever wish they trusted you more, left you alone
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When we become managers we say, “I’m going to be the manager my team likes”. We are going to be nice and only ask our team to do things we would do ourselves.
So you become the cool boss. You’re nice, let people take the day off and never micro-manage them. The team loves the result (getting what they want) but one day you’ll have enough of being Mr. Nice Guy because things aren’t getting done the way you want them to.
I have two hard facts for you about managing your restaurant staff.
1. You can be strict and enforce standards and rules while still being nice
2. You absolutely SHOULD be a micro-manager.
Just not a micro-manager of people. Since everyone hates being managed just as much as you always did you will always be fighting an uphill battle and you will lose.
Instead, you are only going to (micro) MANAGE THE SYSTEMS and DEVELOP YOUR PEOPLE. That’s how you get what you need done and ensure that your team still likes you.
How to Retain Restaurant Staff
If you’re not able to retain your restaurant staff then all the work you’ve put into the hiring, onboarding, training and creation of systems in an effort to build the best team possible is all for nothing.
There are three parts to effectively retaining your team and it all starts with building a system that is designed to NOT keep them very long.
If our goal is to retain them, why would I build a system where they leave?
Good people don’t want to stick around doing the same things very long, they want to grow and make more money. So unless you are opening a bunch of restaurants quickly, you are going to lose team members who outgrow your opportunities.
You can be angry about it or you can prepare for it.
I teach my clients to build hiring funnels where they are always, non-stop hiring for entry level positions, then through great training, systems and leadership they are able to quickly develop these entry level team members to higher positions.
📢 There are ALWAYS more people looking for entry level work than advanced work.
Secondly, in order for this model to stick, you need a path to promotion. You need methods for growing people from host, to serving, to bartending, to shift leaders, to managers.
It has to be documented and clear.
When team members ask for more money, instead of saying no, offer them the next step in the path. If you hired properly and have been developing your team along they way, they will want the opportunity.
Lastly, when your team members are struggling, great coaches work with them. They don’t just tell them what they are doing wrong and what they need to work on; they do it with them, they guide them, the coach them.
Motivated, hard working, exceptional restaurant team players come from great coaches, get on the field and teach your team how to win at restaurants, every single day.
If you are feeling frustrated, stuck or want some assistance in achieving your goals of hiring, managing and developing the BEST team players in your restaurant, please consider some of the following options.
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