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Restaurant Management Tips: Hiring and Training Employees

Hire and Train Good StaffRestaurants and commercial kitchens have always been relatively high turnover work environments, making new employee recruiting and training a constant chore for management. A few basic procedures can help you maximize employee retention and reduce turnover, which in turn reduces costs and increases efficiency.

Cast a wide net. When you have a job opening, get the word out so that you get a maximum number of candidates.  The more people you get to apply, the more likely you are to find the ideal candidate.

Use multiple media:

Screen carefully. Reading every resume and interviewing many candidates takes time, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.  A little careful screening will save you time and most importantly money later on down the line.

Things to look for during the screening process:

Relevant job experience. The more time a candidate has spent performing a similar job, the faster they can plug in to your operation.

This can be a double edged sword however.

A candidate with many recent jobs may have problems you can’t see up front, or a candidate with a long list of experience may want too much compensation and be hard to train.

References. At least three references can provide a window into a candidate’s background and personality.

Salary requirements. Perhaps the easiest way to rule out a candidate is to ask what their minimum salary requirements are.

Interview. Ask questions that require more than a one word answer.  Get a feel for how the candidate views their prospective job and where they are in their life.  Depending on the position, pare candidates down after the first interview and then conduct a second interview.

Structure the screening process so that everybody who will be working with the new employee is involved in some way, no matter how small.

This will help cohesion when you bring a new person in.

Use your best resource for training your employees. Once you have selected the right candidate, make sure they have all the tools they need to succeed in their new position by taking the time to train them well.

One of the best resources you have at your disposal to accomplish this is your existing employees.

Have the new person shadow one of your top performing staff members for a few days to start.  This will not only help them start to learn the details of their new job, but will also give them your restaurant’s best example of a good employee.

Create clear expectations. Nothing is more confusing to a new employee than contradictory or constantly changing expectations.

This is an easy trap to fall into, since everybody in your company will have expectations for the new guy.  Make clear not only to the new employee but also to the rest of your staff what your expectations are for him or her so that you avoid crossed signals.

Creating Clear Goals For Restaurant StaffSet a positive example. Ultimately, your employees look to you for cues on how they are performing and what their expectations are.  The best way to improve new employee and overall staff retention is to set a positive example for all employees to follow.

Create a positive work environment that values constructive criticism and mutual support.  Such an environment will not only keep morale high, but will reduce turnover and improve customer service.

Check back often for more restaurant management best practice tips from The Back Burner.

Also, please weigh in with your opinion!  What did we miss?  What can be better?

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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  1. Here is a idea Greg. You visit your other restaurants in your area. Order a coke and sit in a place where you can view the staff as they do there job. In less than one hour you will know who is the hard workers and who is the slackers. It is easy enough to find out the name of the employee you are interested in and with a simple Internet search you can establish a personal address.

    Send them a note and let them know you would be interested in filling a new position at your restaurant (you will have to invent a title for the “new” position). Meet them in a neutral location and make them a offer. If you do it right, you will have a hard working employee who is already trained!

    You know you should figure out how much you would have spent on advertising and training of at least 2 people (you would have had to hire and fire at least two to get a hard worker). You take that total (subtract the cost of the coke you bought), divide that total by 2 and pay the person that amount as a hiring bonus.

    Example: You visit Tundra Speciality looking to hire a new employee. You will need to ask to place a order on some off brand part so it will take them a while to find someone to get your order and get you out of there. See if you can sit in a place near the coffee machine. There you would clearly see all the slackers hanging out. Be sure and say hello to Joel (he will be the one with the biggest coffee cup). As soon as the part is located you will have picked Rodney as the hardest worker and can now make him a offer he can’t refuse.

    Disclaimer: all names used in the above example are completely fictional! the fact that there actually IS a Joel and a Rodney that happen to work at Tundra is purley incidental!

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston, Texas
    (Where we have hurricanes; but I am wearing short sleeves in February-LOL!!!)

    • I think that’s a very interesting way to recruit new employees. You’re absolutely right; it doesn’t take long to separate the slackers from the workers with a little observation in a restaurant. And I like your idea of a hiring bonus to replace the hassle of hiring slackers. I wouldn’t want to be running a competing restaurant in your neighborhood though! I’d be losing good staff faster than I could replace them 🙂

  2. What about other employees within your restaurant? Maybe you have a host that knows your software and also your operations or a line cook looking for a change of pace. These employees would require less training and the change in responsibilities would help the employee grow!

  3. Lenny,
    You know that almost never happens. A good employee who is doing a good job i n the position they are in, are not likely to be promoted to another position. It is a undeniable truth of life that a hard worker in this field will rarely get a opportunity to advance (in position) because the owner simply can’t imagine what they would do without that person doing what they are doing. It’s a cruel fact and I have known some frustrated good employees to leave and go to work for the competition in order to advance there position.

    As is said by the grand intelligent habitators of the Southern lands (or, as they say down South–LOL) : “They will work a GOOD MULE plumb to death”

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas (Where every day is a holiday and every meal a FEAST!)

  4. Greg,
    The key to keeping good employees is keeping them happy. If a employee feels that they have a good job working for a good company (or boss) that is committed to them; even offers of grand titles and more money will not lure them away. Every year they do a survey of employees biggest complaints, In all the years I have followed the survey, I have never known the number 1 complaint to be money. Most years the number one complaint is, “the boss don’t listen to me”.

    Want to keep your good employees? You know what to do. We both know the boss spends a lot more time with BAD employees. You have to make a real effort to show at least as much time saying good things to the good employees as you spend trying to correct the bad employees.

    That said, a little more money never hurts–LOL

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas (where money is NO OBJECT, just living here is reward enough! :~)

  5. I have learned about dealing with employees the hard way, I have lost some good ones just from my ignorance.

    I grew up in the restaurant business had my first actual job at 13 years old Got a degree in Hotel Management and culinary arts at the age of 18.

    One thing I was never told was that the forces that drive your business are the people working for you. Listen to them and you are almost assured to succeed.

    I have been in both the restaurant and construction business. There isn’t much difference when it comes to succeeding.

    In both businesses I had a routine the construction business was a little easier because it wasn’t after hours at the bar, but sometimes that lead to addressing and solving hidden issues that lead to be more productive. On Fridays I always showed up early on each job site usually there were no more than three or four, to have the crews roll it up and meet all together on the same site.

    Once we assembled on the last site for payroll and a beer. Now I always turned the conversation to problem solving after the first beer. I learned allot, spent a little extra money once in a while to make people happy but over all they were way more productive. Ever see a carpenter with a new tool? Trust me they want to test it. Having some boredom at the saute station things a little lagging once in a while. try buying a couple new saute pans for your station, not kidding.

    Treat the people that work for you with respect and as equips on some level you will be amazed.

    Brad West ~ onomoney

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