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Getting It Right: How to Hire In Foodservice

Oct 23, 2019

How do you define a "good employee"? Different management styles mean different qualities, skills and performance often stack up differently for different managers. But, in general, good employees:

  • Show up for work on time, regularly
  • Make guests feel welcome, creating loyal customers
  • Genuinely like the food you serve so their recommendations to guests drive sales to satisfied diners
  • Go the extra mile because they want to be of service

Finding, and retaining, these good employees is worth investing time to be able to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly, because your employees can make—or break—your reputation.

Attracting the right candidates

Step one: Attracting the right candidates
To get the right kind of candidates for jobs you want to fill, you need to be a good employer. Word gets around when employees aren't happy. Just like your customers, employees spread the word about working for you, what it means, and why they do (or don't!) like.

Talk to your current employees about what they do—and don't—like about working for you. Just having that conversation will make them feel more included and get you some honest feedback. That will help you know what kind of employees will fit into your operation as well.

If your restaurant has a good profile in social media, you can start there to look for new employees. Social media has the advantage of reaching many people quickly and can help you build your reputation as a good employer, as well as a place for great food.

Try advertising and posting for jobs in a way that:

  • Reflects the ambience of your restaurant
  • Uses the good things your employees said about working for you
  • Emphasizes the qualities you want in your staff
  • Shows you care about your employees

Another way to find good talent is to ask your current employees for referrals:

  • Provide an incentive such as a gift card - or just plain old cash
  • Make sure there's a requirement that you only pay that incentive if you hire the person and that person stays in the job for certain period of time

Your current employees understand what the job entails, and the extra incentive will help them focus on finding the right people to fill it.

Step two: Sorting through applications
Know what you are looking for. Compare the job requirements to each person's qualifications and make three piles, noting on the application in two which pile each person fits:

  1. Meets the requirements
  2. Meets some requirements
  3. Doesn't meet enough/any requirements

Start with the first pile sort out your top candidates, checking references if available, and scheduling interviews. If you work all the way through the first pile and don't' find a perfect fit, you can come back to the second pile for another review.

Step three: The interview
We've all been through the usual questions… how long did you work here or there… why do you want this job… what are your strengths and weaknesses? Yup, been there, done that.

How about asking some different questions, designed to predict what kind of an employee your candidate will be, previous behaviors predict future behaviors. See below for ideas on how to use "behavioral-based interview questions". These questions work whether the candidate has previous restaurant experience or not:

  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to help a customer.
  • A first-time guest has just come into the restaurant. In your role, what would you do to make sure their first visit was a great one?
  • Can you think of a brand or store or restaurant you are loyal to? What makes you want to support it? How would you apply your loyalty standards to guests at my restaurant?
  • Describe a time when you disagreed with a co-worker on a work matter. What did you do?

Be sure to ask each candidate the same questions, and take notes of their responses, so you can compare the candidates later, on equal footing.

Step four: Selecting the right candidate
You've reviewed their applications, talked to them, reviewed your notes from their interviews, now you need to choose.

Since the service experience is part and parcel to the restaurant experience, having employees that reflect your values is the key to success.

  • Which will provide the kind of experience you want for your guests?
  • Which would you want working in a restaurant you visit?
  • Which will fit into your environment?
  • Any alarm bells go off during the interview?
  • Who has growth potential in your organization?
  • Who is a team player?

Step five: Onboarding your new employee
Have a plan to start your new employee off right.

  1. Clear understanding of the employee's job, title, start time/date, parking
  2. Training lined up
  3. Hiring documents sorted and ready for signature
  4. Onboarding Materials gathered: Restaurant menu to study, employee handbook, time-off policies, contact information for staff
  5. Locker or space ready for their personal items
  6. Make sure the uniform is ready, or the employee has a clear understanding of what to wear
  7. Name tag prepped, if needed

Make sure your new employee's first day is great, because just like in your restaurant, first impressions count! Start off right to have and keep that good employee.