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Hiring and retaining top talent is tough in the restaurant business. For casual and mid-tier restaurants, the talent pool is often full of candidates who aren’t really committed to the business. For fine-dining establishments, it can be even harder to find the qualified, highly trained talent necessary at an affordable price.

And once a restaurant does make a hire, it has to worry about keeping that talent on board. According to the National Restaurant Association, the average employee turnover rate in the restaurant industry is a startling 66.3 percent.

It is impossible to enjoy positive, long-term results in the restaurant business if you aren’t intentional about how and whom you hire. Below are five tips to help restaurant owners find and retain the talented employees they need:

1. Always Be Looking

Many restaurants don’t start looking for new hires until there is an opening to fill. By this time, there isn’t a lot of room for error. The opening needs to be filled quickly, or else the restaurant will begin to feel the negative effects of being understaffed.

You might not always have openings in your restaurant, but you should always be looking for potential employees. Keep building your talent pipeline, even when you’re fully staffed. If you have a list of pre-screened, ready-to-hire candidates at your fingertips, you’ll be able to move quickly when the time comes.

2. Encourage Employee Referrals

People tend to hang out with peers who have similar traits and skills. If you have an exceptional employee on staff, don’t be afraid to ask if they know of anyone who might be a good fit for an open role at your restaurant. Since the referred candidate’s competencies and behaviors will reflect on the referring employee’s reputation, your employee is unlikely to refer someone who would be a bad fit. You are the ultimate judge, of course, but referrals give you a nice place to start.

3. Always Run Background Checks

You might think you’re a good reader of people, but anyone can be duped. Even the meanest or least qualified of candidates can put off a magnetic personality during the interview stage.

In order to get a better idea of who a candidate is, be sure to do your due diligence. In addition to asking for references and speaking with previous employers, run a background check on each candidate. These checks are generally simple, fast, and cost-effective, plus they can save you a lot of trouble down the road.

4. Adopt the Best Technology

Good employees know they’re good. They don’t have trouble finding jobs, and they’ll have multiple opportunities to choose from. To attract the best talent, you need to wow them.

One trick is to arm your business with attractive features like advanced technologies that make the employee’s job easier. For example, something like a state-of-the-art point-of-sale (POS) system will make your restaurant more attractive than your competitors who are using outdated equipment.

5. Offer Attractive and Practical Benefits

A competitive salary is a must, but what other benefits are you offering your staff? Healthcare and retirement plans are nice for full-time positions, but you don’t have to go all out.

Sometimes the most practical benefits are best. Things like flexible scheduling, additional vacation days, longer than average breaks, and free meals are really compelling in the restaurant industry.

It’s also valuable to discuss your restaurant’s approach to upward mobility. When employees know they have the potential to grow and advance at your company, they’re less likely to jump ship.

Hire poorly matched and unqualified workers, and you’ll end up with a poorly run restaurant that ultimately fails. Hire talented people who are disciplined and ambitious, and you’ll find that growth is inevitable. You can’t tie restaurant success to one single factor, but the right talent is surely one of the most crucial ingredients in this particular recipe.

Anna Johansson is the founder and CEO of Johansson Consulting. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.



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