Business Resources

Finding and Attracting Top Restaurant Talent: Tips for Recruiting in a Competitive Market

Finding and Attracting Top Restaurant Talent: Tips for Recruiting in a Competitive Market
Table of Contents

Executive summary 

  • Building a strong brand and positioning your restaurant as a positive environment to work in makes your restaurant more attractive to top talent.
  • Candidate experience, skills, culture fit, and value alignment are all important factors to consider when recruiting talent.
  • Creating a detailed interview process with skills assessments and thoughtful questions helps you assess talent and choose the right candidate.
  • Offering benefits like health insurance, professional development opportunities, and incentive packages makes candidates more likely to choose your restaurant.
  • Using a platform like Qwick can connect you with qualified freelance talent to fill open shifts.

Hospitality and food service feature some of the highest turnover out of any industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the monthly quit rate in accommodation and food services was well above the national average at 5.1% in June 2023

These high turnover rates can make it difficult to juggle open shifts and manage customer demand with reduced staff. Still, you don’t want to just hire anybody to fill open shifts—you want to find talent that is going to make your restaurant function well and provide the best experience for your guests.

Attracting top talent in the restaurant industry isn’t always easy, but there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of finding the right fit. This guide will cover how to position your restaurant as a prime place to work and provide tips for finding skilled restaurant employees so that you stay well-staffed and running strong.

Building a strong employer brand

Your brand matters to your customers, but it also has a large impact on how prospective employees see your restaurant. Building a strong employer brand will make your restaurant attractive to potential employees.


Define your restaurant’s unique selling points.

You may have an idea of what makes your restaurant stand out, but it’s important to put that into words. Understanding your tangible selling points helps you communicate them to prospective employees and guests alike. 

As you narrow down your unique selling points, you should consider the following factors:

  • Your unique menu offerings
  • Your restaurant’s ambiance
  • Your location
  • Any sustainability efforts
  • Community involvement

Decide what factors are most interesting about your restaurant and make it marketable to potential customers and employee candidates.


Showcase company culture and values.

Many prospective employees want to work for a business that aligns with their values and demonstrates a positive company culture. This culture and value alignment not only attracts prospective employees to work somewhere but also encourages them to stick around long-term.

You can showcase company culture and values by carrying out team-building activities, charity events, or community involvement initiatives that reflect your business’s culture.

Highlight growth and development opportunities.

Many job seekers are drawn to the idea of expanding their skills and receiving personal growth in the industry. You can highlight growth opportunities by making them clear in the job description. Mention any opportunities that your restaurant provides for growth, including opportunities for advancement in the company and whether internal promotions are common.


Craft an engaging job description.

For many candidates, the job description is the first interaction they have with your business. An engaging job description can reel in strong candidates and lead them to want to learn more about your restaurant and what they can gain from it. Highlight your unique value and the key selling points of your restaurant in the description to pique the interest of potential candidates.

Also, don’t be afraid to share a bit of personality with the language you use in your job description. After all, you want a skilled candidate, but you also want to attract a candidate whose personality will mesh well with your team.


Utilizing online job platforms

Online job platforms are a great resource across industries. These platforms allow you to access a wider network of prospective candidates, especially when you know which ones to use.


Leverage industry-specific job boards.

Using industry-specific job boards makes it easier to find candidates who have relevant skills and experience. These boards can narrow the search down for you, as candidates searching the boards are more likely to already have the desired skills and experience you’re searching for.


Use general job posting platforms.

Although industry-specific job boards are valuable, plenty of quality candidates search through general job posting platforms, too. These platforms are a great place to start your search for hiring quality staff, allowing you to reach a broad pool of candidates.

Qwick uses postings on these job boards to connect with experienced candidates when building our network of qualified hospitality professionals. Businesses that post shifts on Qwick can connect with skilled talent, saving time and energy in their search. 

Popular job-posting platforms include: 

  • Craigslist
  • Glassdoor
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • ZipRecruiter

The role of niche websites for culinary professionals

Niche websites designated solely for culinary professionals are a great way to connect with potential candidates. These websites allow you to interact solely with culinary professionals and avoid doubt that candidates have experience in the industry.

Qwick is a great example. The Qwick platform is one of the only staffing platforms dedicated solely to the hospitality industry. This allows Qwick to connect experienced freelance talent with hospitality businesses, and businesses to trust that the Qwick network features only the most qualified industry-specific professionals.

Find top talent with ease.

Qwick’s intuitive platform connects you with skilled and qualified professionals to fill open shifts as soon as same-day.


Making the most of local community forums

Local forums make it easier to find prospects through word-of-mouth, which can help you find more well-rounded and proven candidates. Local community forums also create an environment for more direct interaction and conversations with potential candidates, helping you narrow down those who may best fit your restaurant's culture.


Harnessing the power of social media

Social media is another great recruiting and publicity tool. Posting on social media boosts your brand for both potential customers and prospective employees. It provides a great chance to create an image of your restaurant as more than just a place to eat.

Posting behind-the-scenes insights into your operations humanizes the team and also positions your restaurant as a positive environment to work in, generating interest for talented candidates.

Social media can be a great first touchpoint for prospective employees, as they can interact with your business through comments or direct messages. Be sure to have a designated staff member or members who are ready to respond to social media messages and comments. When hiring staff, have a plan for where to direct potential applicants when they reach out on social media.


Creating an effective interview process

The interview process is an excellent opportunity to assess a candidate’s skills, personality, and professional mindset all at once. However, it’s important to have a strategy for structuring the interview so you can make the most of it.


Structure interviews to assess skills and cultural fit.

The ideal candidate fits your restaurant by bringing the right skills and aligning with your company culture. Depending on the role, you should create an interview structure that assesses both.

For example, for entry-level positions, include questions that address both a candidate’s skill set and personality to maximize what you learn during a single interview.

Meanwhile, for a higher-level or management position, you may consider a multi-stage interview process that enables you to assess technical skills and cultural fit more in-depth. 

A potential interview stage structure for a management role might include:

  1. An initial interview to determine qualifications and experience
  2. A second interview to ask practical and behavioral questions and understand how they approach real-world situations
  3. An interview with multiple staff members to assess cultural fit

You may also consider incorporating skill demonstrations or simulations into the interview process to assess a candidate’s capabilities. For example, you might ask a chef to prepare a meal or a manager to compile a weekly staffing schedule.


Ask thoughtful and relevant questions.

Consider focusing on open-ended questions that encourage candidates to share their thought processes, showcase how they approach problems, and demonstrate how they handle customer service. Some examples of thoughtful questions include:

  • What have you contributed to previous roles?
  • How have you grown in your professional career?
  • How do you manage stress or challenges on the job?
  • What does success look like to you?


Encourage candidates to share their experiences.

Encouraging candidates to share their experiences and previous challenges in a conversational interview environment gives you better insight into their abilities and overall personality. Maintaining a conversational interview environment will often lead to more genuine answers that provide a better picture of the candidate and how well they may mesh with your culture.


Offer competitive compensation and benefits packages.

Although it’s not the only thing that matters, pay will always be a significant deciding factor for prospective employees. To recruit top talent, it’s essential that your compensation and benefits packages are competitive within your market.


Research industry standards for pay.

Even with a great company culture and strong brand image, candidates will likely overlook your job posting if the pay isn’t competitive. Before posting a job, research industry standards for pay depending on the position you’re hiring for.

You should also compare the wages you’re offering against your local market. Offering fair pay in combination with a positive work environment will encourage prospects to choose you over the competition.


Offer performance-based incentives.

Performance-based incentives offer great motivation for top talent to apply to your restaurant. These incentives also encourage current staff to perform their best. For many businesses, incentives are a small price to pay for the amount of value they see from improved employee performance in creating a better customer experience. 

Some incentives can include:

  • Bonuses
  • Annual bonus plans
  • Additional paid time off
  • Profit-sharing bonuses
  • Merit-based raises


Prioritize flexible scheduling and work-life balance benefits.

In addition to respectable pay, many employees covet the opportunity for a strong work-life balance. Offering benefits like flexible scheduling allows employees to work within their hours of availability so they can handle other responsibilities, creating higher morale and focus when at work. This is especially important for talented candidates who have families or are pursuing education.

Other valuable benefits to prospective candidates include paid time off and parental leave. Be sure to communicate these benefits upfront in your job postings.


Providing health and wellness benefits.

Health and wellness benefits are another key way to attract talent to your restaurant, as people value health insurance as an important factor in choosing job positions. According to one survey, about 46% of people said that their health plan was a positive influence in deciding to take their current job.

Other supplemental wellness benefits that may positively influence candidates include:

  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Emergency healthcare
  • Discounted gym memberships


Ongoing training and development

Ongoing training and development programs offer great potential for both your staff and the restaurant as a whole. By implementing programs that encourage professional development, you can improve your current operations and attract new talent interested in personal and professional growth.

Some great ways to provide development opportunities for your employees include:

  • Investing in skill enhancement programs – Invest in professional development opportunities like culinary workshops, leadership seminars, and customer service training. This investment offers high returns, as it attracts new employees and expands the skill set of your current employees.
  • Mentorship and coaching opportunities – Create a system where more experienced team members guide newer employees. Mentorship programs influence employee growth and encourage a positive work culture. These programs also make new employees more comfortable adjusting to your restaurant and its routines. 
  • Cross-training for career growth – A reputation of cross-training employees makes your restaurant attractive to talented candidates wanting to diversify their skill set. Examples include training front-of-house staff in the kitchen or offering staff barista training. You get more versatile employees as your employees gain a wider skill set, which will serve them well for career advancement in the future.
  • Supporting continuing culinary education – Many prospective employees are excited by the opportunity to expand their skills. Employers can support continuing education by subsidizing courses or offering time off to attend school. This education will also make your staff stronger in the kitchen, improving your restaurant's output for customers.


Engaging candidate assessment techniques

Strategic interviews are just one way to determine a prospect’s fit for your restaurant. Ideally, you want multiple points of input when assessing a candidate’s qualifications. You can take a few key steps to complement the standard interview process and get a more comprehensive picture of a candidate’s capabilities.

To gain a firm assessment of a candidate’s skills, consider using the following practices:

  • Skill assessments – Assessments and practical tests give you a direct understanding of how well a candidate performs in situations within the context of a specific role, allowing you to verify a candidate’s capabilities.
  • Behavioral and situational interview questions – Hypothetical questions that ask how a candidate will react in contextual scenarios are insightful for assessing a candidate’s temperament, problem-solving skills, and decision-making abilities.
  • Reference checks – Checking a prospect’s references allows you to verify a candidate’s background and work history, giving you confidence in their qualifications.
  • Trial shifts – Paid trial shifts and temporary employment periods give you the opportunity to see how skilled a candidate is within the context of your restaurant’s work environment and the specified role.


Simplify your search for top talent.

Qwick’s platform makes staffing easier by connecting you with qualified professionals who meet your business needs.


Showcasing your restaurant’s unique value proposition

A unique value proposition is a statement that highlights how your brand benefits your audience and what makes it stand out from the competition. Every brand should have one. By communicating your restaurant’s unique value, you can attract both new customers and prospective employees.


Communicate why your restaurant stands out.

With so many factors that contribute to job seekers choosing a position, it’s important that you communicate what makes your restaurant unique. This may include characteristics like your location, unique menu offerings, origin story, mission statement, and more.

Being upfront about your restaurant’s unique value proposition improves your ability to resonate with prospective candidates and increases your chances of attracting talent that shares your views. Whether it’s in your marketing or in a job posting, leading with your unique value proposition will go a long way.


Highlight awards, recognitions, and press.

Awards are more than just a feather in your cap—they show why your restaurant is special. They demonstrate the value that your restaurant has to offer and boost your reputation amongst your potential audience. Highlighting your accomplishments also makes it more likely that you attract skilled candidates who want to be a part of a culture of success.


Share stories of employee success and advancement.

Everyone loves a good success story, and sharing stories of employee success and advancement can be a great way to boost morale amongst your current employees as well as spark interest among prospective candidates who see your restaurant as a place that achieves and celebrates success. Sharing success stories shows outsiders that your restaurant values and appreciates its employees, which is a big consideration for job seekers.


Create a connection between the brand and talent.

Marketing your restaurant is more than just sharing ideas—it can lead to true connections with potential candidates and create a genuine interest in your restaurant and the roles you have to offer.

Storytelling is a powerful tool in fostering connections. Consider sharing stories like how your restaurant came to be or some background about the restaurant’s founders, either in marketing materials or on social media. These stories spark emotion, demonstrate authenticity, and encourage real relationships with customers.


Use Qwick for your hospitality staffing needs.

With high turnover rates and the desire to create a positive experience for every guest, there is a lot of pressure on restaurants to recruit great talent to fill their roles. Although finding qualified talent can be challenging, restaurants that offer a positive work environment and market themselves accordingly will stand out to prospective candidates.

For an even easier way to connect with top hospitality talent, businesses can turn to Qwick. Our easy-to-use platform connects you to qualified professionals to fill open shifts as soon as same-day. Qwick takes the stress out of staffing—all you have to do is post a shift you need filled, and our algorithm will find you the best fit for your business.

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