Cultivate a stellar restaurant staff with these hiring and management tips

Editorial Team

5 min read
Bartenders behind bar

Record unemployment is making it hard to find reliable, talented people. In fact, industry data collected in 2018 found that three-quarters of restaurants experienced more difficulty recruiting hourly employees than in years past.

That’s a serious challenge, especially as competition in the sector remains stiff. Landing great people can be the secret weapon that restaurants need to stand out.

To learn about best practices for hiring and managing employees, see Clover’s quick guide for getting people on board and keeping them motivated. For extra tips and tools on cultivating a stellar restaurant staff, read on.

Build a stellar reputation.

In a tight labor market, employees have choices. Candidates will evaluate you before you evaluate them. They’ll turn to customer reviews on Yelp and employee comments on Glassdoor, which can tell a one-sided and unflattering story.

Stay on top of your online presence and resolve any ongoing problems that reviewers might note. For specific customer complaints and concerns, follow up online in a professional manner.

You can even prompt people to add their own reviews simply by creating a solid Yelp profile. Remember: the better your online reputation, the stronger the applicant pool will be.

Hire people with the right attitude.

Not everyone will come with years of experience. Of course, you want your chef to have a great track record, but your next host might come with no formal work experience at all. Look beyond the traditional resume to search for indicators that the candidate is reliable, ready to learn, and pleasant to work with.

Volunteer experience, a referral from a current employee, or a can-do outlook can be enough to take a chance. To save time in the hiring process, consider using pre-written job descriptions. Here are some sample restaurant job descriptions for hosts, servers, prep cooks, chefs, dishwashers, and other essential players in the operation.

READ: 15 restaurant interview questions to ask job candidates

Offer a competitive package.

State laws vary significantly when it comes to minimum wages for tipped and regular employees, but establishments that go beyond the baseline gain an edge.

What are your competitors paying their people? Consider matching or exceeding their rates. Think beyond base pay to include paid time off, bonuses, 401(k) plans, tuition assistance, gym memberships—any kind of motivating tool for getting and keeping employees.

If finances are lean, consider low-cost perks like transportation passes or spa vouchers. Long-term strategies include offering pathways to advancement and giving people the flexible schedules they need to balance their lives.

Feed your people well.

For the ultimate perk, consider adding or improving upon a time-honored tradition in the restaurant world: sharing a meal together. In the lull of the early evening, the crew comes together to enjoy a tasty meal and fuel up for the evening rush.

While catered food often replaces staff meals prepared by chefs and cooks, some restaurants still enjoy providing employees with the same great dining experience that customers receive.

The Michelin Guide website profiles two establishments in Singapore that have perfected the staff meal—reducing wastage and forging bonds in the process.

Turn servers into connoisseurs.

Managing employees isn’t about controlling them. It’s more about empowering them. At restaurants, that means helping customer-facing employees become product experts.

Customers depend on servers for suggestions and tips. An employee who can respond knowledgeably and authentically is an asset. By organizing regular tastings of menu items, employees can gain that knowledge.

Explain where ingredients are sourced, how the chef prepares the dish, and what to suggest for customers who are vegan, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, or have other special requests. Be particularly vigilant to coach staff on menu items that include nuts, shellfish, and other foods that can trigger allergic reactions.

Teach them to subtly sell more.

Knowledgeable employees don’t just know the menu inside out. They also have a repertoire of scripts and sales techniques to help customers make good decisions and order more.

One tactic is encouraging customers to upgrade their purchases or buy additional items. Be careful, though. Unless it’s done subtly and with the customers’ best interests in mind, this tactic can backfire.

Effective upselling techniques focus on alerting people to special offers and offering personal (not canned) suggestions. You can even bring upselling to call-in orders or checkout. A little training and practice help employees serve customers better—and sell more.

Break down barriers between the front- and back-of house.

In busy restaurants, getting orders filled quickly and accurately is critical. But many common situations—special requests, incorrect items entered into the POS, or large parties strolling through the door—can break down the process.

Restaurants need communication systems that link the kitchen with the servers. This free webinar offers tips on improving communications, including listing ingredients on your POS, clearly posting availability of items on the POS, cross-training staff, and empowering servers to resolve customer problems.

Use technology to simplify employees’ jobs.

POS technology can help in others ways as well. For scheduling staff, software such as Time Clock by Homebase, which is pre-loaded on the Clover POS, provides a simple way to build schedules and share them with the team. Other apps streamline payroll, table management and bar tabs, waitlists, and more.

Check out the Clover App Market for simple solutions to managing people and helping them create great experiences for customers.

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