The restaurant business is a labor-intensive industry. Whether you’re working to keep your Michelin star or wish to build momentum at your booming quick-service joint, your employees have the power to make or break your efforts. Use these best practices to hire the right employees for your restaurant.
1. Turnover Is Not Your Friend
In an industry that’s notorious for high turnover rates, you’ll inevitably lose a few employees along the way. This doesn’t mean that you must resign yourself to perennially high turnover rates. It’s harsh, but the age-old truism still holds: The best managers are “slow to hire and quick to fire.” Fortunately, managers who take their time during the hiring process rarely have to resort to axing non-performers. By emulating your cautious peers, you’ll avoid the stress that comes with turnover-related personnel crunches.
2. Look to Your Star Performers
Before you dive into the hiring process, try to imagine the ideal employee. Since this person doesn’t actually exist, look to the next best thing: your current star performers. Without much effort, you can probably name a half-dozen front-of-house and back-of-house workers who consistently exceed your already-elevated expectations. Whether they go the extra mile with customers or work every ticket like it’s their last, these employees are crucial to your restaurant’s success. Avoid hiring candidates that appear to lack the attributes that make your star performers great.
3. Structure and Standardize Your Interviews
As a busy manager at a high-volume outlet, you’re liable to run through dozens of interviews over the course of a typical month. Ensure that each encounter is productive by creating a standardized interview template and following a strict set of post-interview procedures. If you have the backing of a regional or national franchise, your higher-ups should have a framework for you to follow. If not, subject all new candidates to a minimum of two interviews. Reduce your hiring workload by cutting applicants who don’t provide satisfactory answers to tough first-round questions.
4. Use References and Personality Tests
Most restaurant managers use the first interview to build on the answers that candidates provide to application questions. By doing so, you’ll confirm that some applicants possess key competencies and catch others in outright lies about their skills or work-related experiences. Unless the first interview is a disaster, follow up with each applicant’s previous employers and character references. Use the information that you glean from these interactions to “pass” the applicant through to the second interview.
Many managers also use computerized personality tests to identify honest, competent and hard-working candidates. While these aren’t perfect, they’re a useful substitute for in-depth interviews. If you can’t take the time to speak with each prospect on your own terms, invest in a computerized personality testing system that weeds out obviously unsuitable candidates. You must give any applicant who passes this test at least one face-to-face interview.
5. Audition Future Leaders
Key positions demand excellent employees. While you can probably use personality tests and targeted interview questions to assess the suitability of most customer-contact and prep workers, your high-ranking back-of-house employees are a different story. Subject line cooks, sous chefs, kitchen managers and others to in-depth, trial-by-fire auditions. Since no amount of on-the-job training can teach your key players to perform well under pressure, this could prove to be the most important part of your hiring process.
As a restaurant manager, you don’t have unlimited resources to devote to personnel matters. You’re also obligated to turn out excellent food, provide top-notch customer service, and ensure that your brand is visible and positively represented in your home market. To hire the right employees for your restaurant and avoid being sabotaged by mediocrity, familiarize yourself with these best practices and stick to them. They’ve worked for countless others before you, and they’ll continue to work long after you’ve hung up your apron.