Restaurant Staffing: 15 Tips For Building The Best Team

You’re restaurant is decorated to the nines. Your bar is stocked with only the best. And your menu is a study in perfection. But even the best decor, liquor, and food in the world is nothing without the staff to serve it and show it off. Unfortunately, restaurant staffing is an oft-overlooked aspect of running a successful restaurant.

Getting the right person for the right job can help your restaurant stand out from the crowd by giving you a reputation for quality service. And that doesn’t just apply to the servers. Quality service includes everyone from the head chef all the way down to the dishwashers and everyone in between. Without each person doing their job—and doing it well—your restaurant can flounder. So to help you maximize your restaurant’s success, we’ve compiled the 15 best tips for getting the most out of your restaurant staffing.

Ideal restaurant staffing

1. Look For Passion Over Experience

Yes, experience is very important. But an inexperienced-yet-passionate server who is willing to learn and grow can often make for a better hire than someone who’s just been around for a long time. Remember, experience can be accumulated just by showing up. It says nothing about attitude. Passion, however, can’t be taught but can make a huge difference in the attitude of the employee. The ideal employee will have both passion and experience. But we suggest you don’t dismiss a passionate applicant just because they don’t have years of experience.

2. Lead By Example In All Your Restaurant Staffing

Your behavior sets the model for everyone else’s behavior. If you want your front-of-house staff to treat the customers cordially and with respect, you need to treat the servers and hosts with that same cordiality and respect. And that doesn’t just apply to the server/customer relationship. How you treat your staff will be reflected in how they treat each other. So if your chefs are snapping at the servers or vice versa, it might not be them, it might be you. That’s why we recommend leading by example in everything you do. Behave the way you want your staff to behave and they’ll follow suit.

3. Present Your Restaurant As A Great Place To Work

Restaurant staff working

How you present your place of business to potential employees has a lot to do with restaurant staffing success. Find your brand and then sell your restaurant as an exceptional place to work. We recommend communicating to potential employees how you can help further their skills. Whether it’s on-the-job training, continuing education, or the opportunities to learn something new, this can be a great way to motivate good employees to work in your restaurant.

4. Reward Your Restaurant Staff

When you see an employee doing something right, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it and reward their efforts. This positive reinforcement will encourage all your employees to go above and beyond just getting it done. And rewarding your restaurant staff doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. You could give movie tickets or gift cards as a reward. You could also go old-school and just commend them one-on-one or single them out during a staff meeting. This type of recognition goes a long way to making your employees happy.

5. Work To Pull Good Employees From Other Cities

This may sound like a daunting proposition, but it doesn’t have to be. Job posting boards like Monster and Culinary Agents allow you to post jobs and search for candidates across multiple cities. And lest you think that no one would want to change cities just to work in your restaurant, don’t discount the fact that there may be someone out there who’s ready for a change of scenery. Present your restaurant as a unique and fun place to work, offer them what they need to excel, and you can pull great employees from other cities.

6. Build A Sense Of Team At Your Staff Meetings

Staff meetings don’t have to be boring. Simple things like opening with funny story or taking a few minutes to play a team-building game, can go a long way to setting a positive, fun tone for your meeting. You’ll be more engaged and your employees will be more engaged. That’s a win-win for everyone.

7. Recruit From All Types Of Restaurant Schools

Sure, we all want the cache that comes from hiring someone who attended the Institute of Culinary Education. But names and titles don’t have to be the be-all and end-all of your restaurant staffing decisions. Smaller, less-well-known programs can turn out some truly passionate people. We recommend keeping an open mind when it comes to recruiting for your restaurant.

8. Give Your Staff The Freedom To Make Customers Happy

Restaurant staff making customers happy

Customer complaints are going to happen. It’s inevitable. But when you give your servers and staff the freedom to solve these problems, everyone wins. The customer is happy and your server is happy. And the nice thing is, it often comes down to nothing more than offering a free dessert or drink from the bar. But knowing that they have the freedom to do what is necessary to improve the dining experience, can give your employees the permission they need to handle problems before they get out of hand.

9. It’s Not Just About The Money In Restaurant Staffing

While money is an important factor in restaurant staffing, it’s not the only thing to consider. Employees want opportunities to learn and a sense of fulfillment from their job, not just another $0.25 an hour. Are you giving your staff the opportunity to try new things? Are you showing them that you care? These things can often make up for a lower hourly wage and bring in some truly good employees.

10. Don’t Let Problems Fester

Problems between staff are going to happen. It’s another one of those inevitables in the restaurant business. The trick is to address those problems sooner rather than later. If you let a problem between two staff members slide, it could fester and spread to other employees. Then you’ve got an even bigger problem on your hands. Put out the fire while it’s small so it doesn’t engulf the whole restaurant.

11. Have Fun At Work For A Change

Yes, running a restaurant is a serious business. But it doesn’t have to be all stuffed shirts and starched collars (unless that’s your brand). You can have fun. And your staff should be allowed to have fun as well. Of course, you don’t want employees hurling food around the dining room on a busy Friday night. But you, and they, shouldn’t be afraid to joke with each other and especially with customers. Diners are there to have a good time and a bit of levity can only make things better.

12. Your Staff’s Opinion Matters

Think of your staff as the voice of your customers. Your employees interact with the customers a lot more than you do. They hear things and see things and, in the process, figure out better ways to do things. It could be something as simple as how you set the table or something as complex as the color of the paint on the ceilings. Whatever it is, encourage your staff to voice their opinion on the matter. Who knows, it may be a great idea. And remember, if your staff sees something that needs to be changed or has a great idea to make your restaurant better, chances are, your customers have seen it or had it as well.

13. Value Every Member Of Your Staff

Man working on restaurant staffing procedures

Every employee is an important part of the successful operation of your restaurant. What would happen if your dishwasher didn’t show up one day? I wouldn’t matter how great your chef is or how efficient your servers are. If you don’t have any clean plates and silverware, you may as well close. Sure, you probably have someone who could step in as a dishwasher, but this illustration shows you how integrated each and every job in a restaurant actually is. One job may require more skill or experience than another job but that doesn’t make the less-skilled job any less important. Be respectful to every employee and show them that you value their work. And demand that your employees do the same.

14. Get To Know Your Staff

At its heart, a team is like a family. And families know what’s going on in each member’s life. So don’t be afraid to get to know your employees. Ask them about their interests. Ask them about their hobbies. Find out what’s important to them. This will help your employees feel like more than just a server or more than just a dishwasher. It will make them feel like a member of your family.

15. Encourage Healthy Competition

Encouraging healthy competition is another way to bring a little fun to the restaurant business. Perhaps pull your servers aside and challenge them to see who can come up with the highest check average in a certain period of time. Or challenge your dishwasher to see how fast he can go from dirty to clean or how many loads he can do in 30 minutes. Your employees have fun with a new challenge and your restaurant can benefit as well.

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