November 22, 2022

Creating Culture: Tips for Hiring The Best Restaurant Team

In this article: What to think about when hiring new team members for your restaurant, and how the people you hire create the culture of your venue.

It’s 2022, and hiring (in any industry) has become a full time job.

I talk to restaurant operators all day long, and hear the same thing over and over: It’s hard to find good talent right now.

The Labor Crisis has affected primarily entry-level industries. People took the opportunity during the pandemic to leave their jobs and start new careers, and many with health concerns decided that working in food service was not a good option for them. Now, restaurants are scrambling to find and retain solid talent.

Even though things feel a little grim going into the busy summer season, I don’t believe hope is completely lost. There are lots of restaurant teams that are fully staffed and able to retain their talent, even grow and refine their venue, during this crisis. Do they know something the rest of us don’t? Not necessarily, but there are a few things that they’re doing to stand out.

Related: “I Don’t Want To Work...For You” How Successful Restaurant Managers Are Navigating The Labor Crisis

I’ve put together a list of the top 4 things successful operators are doing, and how you can do the same in your restaurant.

#1: Pay higher wages

We’re just going to jump right in here with the fun one - paying higher wages.

This should be pretty obvious, the more you can afford to pay your team members, the more competitive you are going to be when they’re making a decision on where to work. After all, no matter how much they love working for you, they’re not going to be happy unless they can afford a roof over their head and food on their table.

Labor cost is always something that restaurant operators are trying to reduce, especially with low margins and the relentless struggles over the past few years. However, your staff is your business. They are the ones interacting with your guests, cooking your food, and providing service. If you want your restaurant to be successful, you have to pay for high quality talent.

If we’re talking about ways to improve or build a great culture, paying well is also at the top of the list. Your team members feel appreciated, safe, and are more likely to go out of their way for a guest instead of feeling like it isn’t worth their time. You may think that a team member should go the extra mile “just because,” but the truth is that it’s your restaurant, and their job.

#2: Be open minded

The hiring process is exhausting. And stressful. You’re building your team, what’s more important than that?

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to hire only the perfect person for the job. However, I think it’s important to have an open mind and realistic expectations when hiring the best team.

Sure, if you’re hiring a server it would be nice to find someone with 10 years of experience and the best customer service skills around. But you may be pleasantly surprised by the young girl with no restaurant experience who grew up working on the family farm.

Related: Investing in Your Best Assets: How Training and Organization Improve the Employee Experience

Hiring is all about finding strengths and weaknesses. Yes, there are specific skills that each person on your team needs to do the job, but most of those are teachable. What isn’t teachable is personality, work ethic, and common sense. Be open to someone who may be a diamond in the rough.

This also ties in to creating a better culture in your restaurant. Taking a chance on someone who may not be the perfect candidate shows leadership, and trust in your team.

#3: If you like them, tell them

Too often I see managers miss out on a great hire because they’re waiting on the person to follow up, and basically beg for the job. There seems to be this almost unspoken rule (and not just in hospitality) that the person doing the hiring is offering an opportunity to the employee, and it’s the employee’s job to either accept or deny it. That’s true, but I think there’s another way to look at it.

With the current hiring climate, the people you are interviewing have TONS of options. They are able to shop around for a job, so you have to make yourself stand out. If you like someone and truly want them to join your team, express that! 

When you offer them the position, explain in detail why you want them on your team. Highlight their strengths and what you see as a great asset to your venue. Of course the flattery helps, but they will appreciate your honesty and it will help you stand apart. 

Don’t miss out on that great new hire just becuase they don’t know how much you want them on the team! 

Related: Effective Leadership in Restaurants: How Changing Your Message Changes The Game

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#4: Be honest and transparent

The last tip for hiring the best restaurant staff, and for improving your team culture, is to be honest and transparent.

Of course there are things that you don’t need to share with your entire team, but the more open you can be, the better. This starts during the interview, where you should be sure to clearly outline what their experience working for you will be like,

Related: How To Write An Honest Job Description For Restaurant Workers Part 1

Be honest about your expectations, what the culture is like, and what a typical day on the job looks like. I hear it all of the time that managers will hire someone thinking it’s a great fit, and then two weeks in they quit because it wasn’t what they expected. Save yourself the headache by being as transparent as possible from the jump.

Honesty continues to be a major determining factor in the success of your venue well after the hiring process. In my opinion this is the best way to create a great culture and retain talent.

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