Business Resources

Guide to Hiring Quality Restaurant Staff

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Guide to Hiring Quality Restaurant Staff
Table of Contents

With reliable and skilled employees, a restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. However, flaky staff and discord among team members can damage efficiency and have ripple effects on the experience of diners. 

When running a restaurant, finding qualified employees is an ongoing struggle. It’s especially difficult during a labor shortage like the one brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, we’ll discuss how to hire restaurant staff while avoiding the typical pitfalls and strain on company resources.

From advice on filtering candidates to helpful restaurant recruiting tools that take the load off your plate, this guide offers what you need to search for quality restaurant staff. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

  • Why Quality Restaurant Staff is Vital
  • Four Ways To Find Quality Restaurant Staff
  • Best Practices for Hiring Restaurant Staff
  • How To Hire Servers
  • How To Hire a Hostess or Host
  • How To Hire a Bartender
  • How To Hire Cooks
  • Alternative Hiring Solutions

Why Quality Restaurant Staff is Vital 

Some restaurants make the mistake of viewing staff as expendable. This thinking leads to poor hiring decisions that hurt productivity and increase costs for the business. 

According to the National Restaurant Association, 90% of restaurants have fewer than 50 employees. This means that the vast majority of restaurants rely on a relatively small group of people to ensure operations run smoothly. From line cooks to dishwashers to servers, each member of the team has the power to influence the dining experience of guests. Because of this, reliable, dedicated staff is an absolute must-have for a successful restaurant.

When hiring quality restaurant staff, you add members that benefit the team, allowing coworkers to feel supported by each other. Team cohesion translates into a positive guest experience. 

Head chefs, line cooks, servers, and all staff members must work in conjunction to deliver an optimal guest experience. Even one new hire that doesn’t align with the restaurant’s core values, is underqualified, or is apathetic about the role can throw off the whole team dynamic.

High-performing employees are also a benefit to a restaurant’s revenue. With an increasing number of individuals turning to online reviews before dining out, online ratings impact your restaurant’s traffic. According to Indoor Media, 88% of consumers consult ratings before making purchasing decisions including where they will dine. 

Research from Harvard Business School reveals that restaurants that experienced a one-star increase in Yelp ratings saw revenue rise by 5-9%. With food and service being two of the most common focal points of online reviews, quality restaurant staff can lead guests to write positive online comments. Restaurant staff such as chefs and line cooks control the quality of the meals prepared, while hosts and servers can provide an excellent dining experience. A boost in reviews is great for your restaurant's image and the bottom line. 

Four Ways To Find Quality Restaurant Staff 

We understand that finding and hiring restaurant staff can be a huge challenge for many restaurant owners. Read on to learn about how to find restaurant employees in four different ways.  

Save Time Staffing with Qwick

Staffing challenges demand an innovative solution that addresses your needs in a timely manner. The problem with many restaurant recruiting tools is that they can’t provide an on-demand solution to staffing issues. Enter Qwick–the professional platform at the heart of the hospitality industry connecting businesses in need to qualified hospitality talent

Qwick matches you with experienced hospitality professionals to fill shifts when you need them most. Simply post a position you need to be filled, and Qwick will match the shift with the best possible talent for the job. 

The platform is a saving grace when you need some extra hands last minute, or want to spend less time constantly having to hire. You get to bypass the interviewing and vetting process, so expect major time-savings. All Qwick professionals are guaranteed to have at least one year of role experience and are vetted for professionalism and necessary certifications so you can staff confidently. 

Plus, there’s no fee to hire a Qwick professionals to your team full-time. That’s right—you can use Qwick to source and test out potential new hires! These are just a few of the reasons Qwick is the best place to find top-tier restaurant staff.

Your Website

Another way to find restaurant staff is to update your website’s careers or jobs page. When potential applicants consider your restaurant, they’ll likely head to the website to do some research. Your “About Us” page should make clear the mission and core values of the company. Consider adding employee reviews and quotes to the careers section of your website to entice people to apply. You can also create a frequently asked questions page within the “Careers” tab for interested candidates looking to learn more about working at your restaurant.

Make sure the job openings on your website are easy to find and that you highlight the benefits of working at your restaurant. Upscale steakhouse chain Ruth’s Chris uses its “Why Work at Ruth’s” section to emphasize the benefits of a staff position, including professional development opportunities. The more information you provide about working at your restaurant, the easier it is for people to become interested in working there.

While posting job opportunities on your website is a good starting point, it will only attract candidates that are actively seeking positions at your restaurant. To find more qualified employees, widen the net with job postings in other locations.

Job Boards

Job boards, such as Indeed or LinkedIn, are another place to turn when hiring restaurant staff. The appeal of these online platforms is the ability to connect with many individuals actively seeking the role you are offering. To use a job board: 

  1. Sign up for an account and select your monthly plan. 
  2. Post job openings with detailed descriptions. 
  3. Sift through candidates to find the right fit.  

One drawback of job boards is the administrative cost of vetting candidates. The hiring manager will have to set aside time to sort through the underqualified applicants that apply. The additional cost of utilizing the platform is also a factor. Some job boards charge per listing while others charge a flat monthly fee, so renewing a listing can add up. 

Another aspect of job boards to keep in mind is the slow turnaround time. If you need a shift filled quickly, a job board is not the ideal solution. After sorting through candidates and conducting interviews, hiring can take weeks or even months. 

Referrals

Did you know that current employees can act as restaurant recruiting tools? When searching for qualified candidates, ask employees to refer individuals that they think would be a good fit. Unlike job boards, there are no monthly fees associated with referrals, but you can offer an incentive for employees to refer quality candidates. 

In addition to short-term cost-saving benefits, candidates that apply via referrals are statistically shown to stay in the role longer than employees from career websites. Higher retention rates lead to savings in the long term for restaurants.

  

Referrals are also likely to produce high-quality applicants. One survey of employers found that 88% list referrals as the top source for above-average candidates. 

Despite all that referrals offer, they are a limited resource. Not all employees know someone fit for open roles. And those that are willing to refer typically have a limited amount of potential employees in their network. In light of this, depending on referrals alone to fill new roles is not an option. 

Best Practices for Hiring Restaurant Staff  

It’s clear that high-quality restaurant employees are a boon to the team around them and the restaurant as a whole. But how can you attract these professionals to fill your open positions? Here are several best practices for hiring restaurant staff to make your search smoother.

Create a Compelling Job Description

If your goal is top-tier candidates, your restaurant staff job description needs to reflect that. Your job description will be competing with others from restaurants that are also on the hunt for qualified applicants. To stand out:

  • Establish a common value or goal. Finding an employee that meshes with company culture and mission is crucial. Discuss the company culture and core values to attract individuals who align with these core traits. For instance, a brunch place with a focus on sustainability should mention the commitment to eco-friendly practices. 
  • Highlight your offerings. A good candidate will have options. What makes your restaurant special? In addition to discussing traditional employee benefits like healthcare, touch on unique perks that your restaurant offers. Do you offer a gym membership for employees? Is a public transportation pass a perk of the job?
  • List professional development opportunities. Mention options for upward mobility to attract ambitious applicants. You can also speak about company retreats or bonding activities to highlight what employees can look forward to. 
  • Filter out bad matches. If you set the bar too low, you’ll have to sift through unimpressive applicants that don’t fit the bill. Save yourself time and energy by crafting the job description in specific and clear terms. For instance, mention the number of years of experience needed for the position rather than simply writing “experienced.” Be clear about the job duties so that applicants can decide if this is a role they can handle. 

By carefully composing a detailed job description, you narrow down the selection to hire quality restaurant staff and avoid wasting time. 

Share the Job Opening 

With the job description ready to go, it’s time for distribution. Select an option or combination of the methods mentioned above to broadcast your job. 

As you work to attract the cream of the crop, sharing your job with pre-vetted candidates is a wise move. When you post to traditional job boards and social media, anyone can see and apply for the job. This casts a wide net but also increases the time you’ll spend sorting through inadequate applicants. 

Some restaurants turn to traditional staffing agencies for help filling roles. These agencies often charge a substantial fee for their services, so keep this in mind when deciding whether to move forward with one. If you do select this option, understand that filling the position may take weeks. 

For a modern solution that connects you with qualified staff, try an on-demand staffing service.  With this option, you will be able to post your shift to a platform filled with candidates that have already been screened. In other words, only qualified candidates can see and apply for your role. If you opt for an on-demand service, the company will take care of the onboarding process. 

If you opt for another method, you’ll need to move to the next phase—interviewing. 

Schedule & Hold Interviews

One of the most time-consuming parts of hiring restaurant staff is conducting interviews. Fortunately, there are ways to streamline this process. 

Conduct a virtual interview before the in-person meeting. Schedule a 15-20 minute video chat with a candidate. The purpose of this is two-fold. First, it allows you to gain information on the candidate so that you already know a bit about them before the in-person interview.  Second, it assesses how serious applicants are about the job. If a candidate does not show for the virtual interview or logs on late without letting you know in advance about a time delay, you know they aren’t reliable. 

Tailor your interview questions. With standard prompts like “Tell me about yourself” and “What attracted you to this position?” out of the way in the primary call, the interviewer has room to dive deeper for this next step. Your interview questions should not be one size fits all. Instead, ask specific questions that align with the responsibilities of the role, such as for banquet servers or restaurant servers

For instance, someone interviewing for a line cook position should be asked how to keep a prep station organized and the meaning of different cooking techniques. A front-of-house applicant would face more questions about handling difficult customers and menu memorization. 

Enlist help from current employees. Interviewing multiple candidates can be draining. Avoid burn out by sharing the responsibility among team members. A sous-chef can assist in interviewing potential new sous-chefs—the same goes for a hostess, bartender, or line cook. Each professional brings insights about the job and can ask questions you may not think to bring up. This additional perspective is a valuable asset when hiring restaurant staff. 

Beyond the in-person interview, a trial run is a great place to see how the candidate carries out their duties in real-time. Under the guidance of a trusted employee, the candidate can complete a trial shift as the final step before joining the team.

Onboarding & Training 

Once the person accepts the position, the onboarding process begins. 

Due to orientation and training expenses, a new employee can be a drain on restaurant resources for the first weeks or months on the job, depending on the role. In fact, a loss of revenue ranging from 1-2.5% is common when taking on new employees

Once the employee learns the ropes and is efficient, they become an asset to the restaurant. It’s vital to provide support and encouragement to new employees during the training period to increase retention. An unsupported employee may leave soon after they’re hired, which results in a waste of time and funds spent on bringing them up to speed. 

Panera Bread heavily invests in the first 90 days of an employee’s journey at the restaurant to decrease turnover. This ultimately saves the company in restaurant labor costs.  

Job-Specific Hiring Processes

Next, we’re going to dive deeper into how to hire for several common restaurant positions. Read on to learn tips for how to hire servers, hosts, bartenders, and cooks.

How To Hire Servers

When hiring a server, it’s important to know how many servers are needed in a restaurant. On average, an individual server can handle 4 to 5 tables at one time during any given shift. This does, however, depend on the server’s experience and the size of the parties. You can use this average to calculate approximately how many servers you need.


Once you have determined the number of servers you want to hire, it’s time to craft an epic job description that will hook potential candidates right off the bat. For the restaurant server job description, be specific about what skills candidates should have. Remember to outline your company’s values as they relate to the server role so you draw candidates that are like-minded. 

Hiring a server typically requires an interview as well. In the interview process, you should ask behavioral questions that show the candidate’s thought process for managing multiple tasks and solving problems during shifts. If the candidate does well in the interview and aligns with your restaurant’s core values, it’s time to hire the server.

Once you hire the candidate, be sure to provide ample training to set them up for success in their role. Even if they have been a server before, there may be certain nuances specific to the restaurant that they will need to learn. Set up a couple of training sessions where they can work with a current server to learn the ropes. 

How To Hire a Hostess or Host

Hiring a hostess or host is pretty straightforward. This restaurant position is generally one of the more entry-level positions that many people are suitable for. Hosts greet guests at the door, seat them, distribute menus, take reservations, and sometimes manage to-go orders. 

One tip for hiring a host or hostess is to conduct a phone interview. This will give you insight into their phone etiquette since the role often handles customer phone calls for reservations, questions, or orders. Pay attention to their tone, professionalism, and level of comfort to help you determine if the candidate is suitable. 

Hosts need adequate training before working on their own. Since the host position controls the flow of the tables, it’s vital they understand the table rotation and other responsibilities. Set up several training shifts for them to work with a current host(ess) to learn the ins and outs of your restaurant.

How To Hire a Bartender

Hiring a bartender can be a bit nerve-wracking since they are such an important part of many restaurants’ staff. Bartenders mix drinks for guests and are expected to know a wide variety of drink recipes. 

When hiring a bartender, it’s a smart idea to have them come into the restaurant to interview. Then, after the questions have been answered, bring them behind the bar and run them through a quick test of some popular drinks. The candidate should be able to make common drinks with no issues to succeed as a bartender. 


Personality is also an important aspect to consider when hiring a bartender. The best bartenders are personable and can easily connect with customers without talking their ears off. They are able to make people sitting at the bar feel comfortable and taken care of with their fun attitude and excellent customer service skills.

How To Hire Cooks

The first hurdle to jump is knowing where to find cooks for your restaurant. There are several different avenues you can go when hiring cooks. You could post on job boards, get referrals, work with a recruiting agency, or post shifts on Qwick

Restaurant cooks need to be skilled in the art of cooking, at various levels depending on their role — chef, line cook, prep cook, etc. When hiring cooks, it’s recommended that you have the candidates do a cooking demonstration after they ace an interview. 

Give them the recipe to one of the meals on the restaurant’s menu to cook for you to taste test. Watch them cook the meal for skill, efficiency, cleanliness, and more to ensure they are a good fit. If they complete the cooking test, you can feel confident in hiring them.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into finding and hiring restaurant staff. Thankfully, using Qwick can make the process of filling open shifts much easier and less stressful on you and your team.

Find the Stress Free Staffing Solution For Your Restaurant

Sudden resignations. Employees failing to show up for shifts. Busy seasons that demand more staff. All these challenges leave restaurants scrambling to find quality restaurant staff. Luckily, there is a hassle-free way to fill open shifts. 

Qwick matches you with top hospitality talent at the touch of a button. When you list an open shift on Qwick, you don’t have to worry about sifting through lots of candidates and hosting multiple rounds of interviews to find your next set of helping hands. Qwick handles it all so you can focus on other business needs! 

Create an account post your first shift on Qwick today!

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