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How to hire restaurant staff

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If you’re a restaurant owner, manager, or operator, one of your biggest challenges is likely finding qualified staff. 

The National Restaurant Association conducted a survey and found that a shortage of restaurant staff is an issue for 78% of restaurant operators. Turnover is at an all-time high, with nearly 75% of hospitality industry employees reportedly set to leave in the coming years.[1]

To add to all this, the employment vacuum created by the pandemic has led to several experienced employees leaving their jobs. With declining numbers of young people entering the restaurant industry, a talent gap is widening.

Flourishing in the competitive restaurant industry is tough as it is. With 11 million people working in a restaurant in the US alone[2] and many others looking for a job, there’s no need to waste your valuable time and budget on bad hires.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how you can shortlist and hire the most qualified employees for your restaurant, bias-free, with the help of carefully curated assessments.

You’ll also find helpful information on average salaries in the restaurant industry, a sample job description for the role of a server, and a detailed explanation of the different types of roles in a restaurant.

Restaurant staff 101: Types of restaurant jobs

There are three broad categories of restaurant jobs for which you might be hiring: front-of-house, back-of-house, and management.

Front of house (FOH)

This category includes jobs that require people to be in the public areas of the restaurant,l like waiting rooms, dining rooms, bars, and restrooms. 

Front-of-house staff generally work outside the kitchen interacting with customers, but can occasionally stop by the kitchen to pick up dishes or give cooking directions. 

FOH staff include:

  • Bartenders

  • Baristas

  • Hosts

  • Floor managers

  • Servers

  • Bussers

  • Cashiers

  • Barbacks

Back of house (BOH)

All of the employees working in the kitchen and away from the public eye are under the back-of-house category. They handle the kitchen, storage area, back office, prep areas, and walk-ins.

These roles include:

  • Head chefs

  • Line cooks

  • Prep cooks

  • Sous chefs

  • Dishwashers

  • Expeditors

Management

Management handles the back office part of the restaurant. They analyze restaurant metrics, order inventory, and strategize new promotions to keep the restaurant running and profitable. 

They’re also responsible for managing clear and effective communication between the back and front of the house and ensuring the customers are attended to and have a great dining experience.

Management positions in the restaurant industry include:

Hard skills for restaurant staff

A restaurant works efficiently when people with different roles and responsibilities work together. The hard skills you’ll need to assess ultimately depend on the role you’re hiring for, but we’ve compiled a list of top industry-specific skills to consider in your hiring process:

Culinary skills

For any restaurant, how the food looks and tastes is a top priority.

Chefs and line cooks must have strong command over different cooking techniques, knowledge of flavor profiles, and the ability to create visually appealing and delicious dishes throughout the day. People will request various accommodations and your kitchen should be skillful enough to deliver each one. 

Food safety

Your restaurant’s success depends on the safety of the kitchen and that the food coming out of it is contamination-free.

Restaurant staff, especially managers and chefs, should know the dangers of cross-contamination, undercooking, spills, and food allergies. 

Certifications like ServSafe Allergen, TIPS certification, or any other restaurant safety course accredited by a local body indicate your candidate’s expertise in food safety and hygiene practices.

Food and beverage knowledge

It’s not only the chef who should have mastery of food. The entire restaurant staff should comprehensively understand all food and beverage items on your menu. 

Servers should be able to describe dishes accurately to customers, including the ingredients used, cooking methods, flavor palettes, and answers to any health-related queries. Similarly, bartenders should have extensive knowledge about alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including cocktails, wines, whiskey, and more. 

This knowledge will help servers and bartenders understand a customer’s order and provide recommendations or pairings to enhance their dining experience.

Cash and payments handling

Many restaurant roles require the staff to handle cash, process credit and debit card payments, or operate a point-of-sale (POS) system. Your servers, bartenders, and managers need to be proficient in these tasks to ensure transactions are made smoothly and the financial integrity of the restaurant is maintained.

Food tech

The world of restaurant tech is ever-expanding with new software tools and technologies being made available. While the specific technology will differ by role, you should assess the proficiency of candidates before shortlisting them for an interview. 

People in front-of-house roles should be familiar with online ordering systems, POS technology, scheduling, and reservation software. 

Chefs and back-of-house staff should be familiar with inventory management software. 

Along with the software listed above, managers should also be proficient with restaurant accounting software and other tools that make restaurant management easier.

Soft skills for restaurant staff

The soft skills of your staff are just as important for the smooth running of your restaurant and help ensure customers return to your establishment time and time again. Some of the top soft skills restaurant staff should have include: 

soft skills for restaurant staff graphic

Customer service

Restaurants are a customer-oriented business. Ultimately, everything is done to ensure customer satisfaction, from the seating and ambiance to the food and service itself. 

Staff with a genuine passion for providing exceptional customer service are an asset to any restaurant. They should be friendly, approachable, and attentive to customer needs to create a welcoming and enjoyable dining experience. 

Customers are likely to have a positive experience when servers offer recommendations based on their orders, address any concerns or complaints right away, and anticipate their needs, willing to go the extra mile to make their dining experience pleasurable.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail is one of the most critical skills for restaurant staff, no matter the role. 

Servers not only need to remember orders from different tables but should also recall individual orders from a single table. 

They should be attentive to customers’ needs during dining as well, such as by keeping an eye on drink refills, promptly addressing any queries or concerns,  clearing tables promptly, and finding opportunities to offer desserts or additional services when appropriate. 

The same goes for the chef and other back-of-house staff. Knowing details like the number of steaks that have been cooked or how many portions of pasta are left will allow the chef to modify the menu according to the remaining ingredients. 

From the front of house to back, attention to detail helps create a seamless and memorable dining experience for your customers.

Problem solving

Problems and restaurants naturally go hand in hand. The fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the service industry unfortunately means there’s almost always something that could go wrong in a moment’s notice. 

Your restaurant staff must possess strong problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to handle unexpected challenges during service. Shortage of staff, equipment not working, missing ingredients, customer complaints, and kitchen errors are all normal issues that require quick resolution. 

Your staff should be able to think on their feet, make quick decisions, and find effective solutions to ensure customer satisfaction.

Effective communication

Excellent communication skills are crucial for the restaurant staff to interact with the customers, their colleagues, and other staff. 

Internal miscommunication makes it even more difficult to keep the always-moving pieces of a restaurant in check. Staff should all be familiar with the best way to pass orders, convey any customer allergy or ingredient requests, and understand what’s been 86’ed and can’t be ordered anymore. 

Effective communication with guests is all the more important as they need to feel welcomed and valued. Any mistakes taking down or understanding orders will lead to a bad customer experience, and that’s not something anyone in the service industry wants.

Teamwork

Positive teamwork creates strong bonds between staff members and is necessary for a restaurant to succeed. The front-of-house and back-of-house members should collaborate and be willing to assist one another when needed. 

Great teamwork cuts down on staff miscommunication, makes ordering more efficient, boosts team morale, and increases the rate and quality of the food coming out of the kitchen.

How to assess the skills of restaurant staff 

Now that you know what skills to look for when hiring restaurant staff, how do you actually assess them? 

One of the best ways to do this is by using skills tests. TestGorilla has an extensive test library featuring over 300 tests for different roles, including positions in the hospitality industry. 

You can combine up to five tests in a single assessment. Each test takes approximately ten minutes to complete and enables you to evaluate specific skills in depth. 

Here are our recommendations for tests you can use to hire restaurant staff: 

  • Customer service test. Strong customer service skills are essential for front-facing restaurant staff. Make sure you’re able to hire candidates who have a customer-centric approach to resolving problems and offering the best possible service. 

  • Communication skills test. All restaurant employees need to be excellent communicators, regardless of their specific role and whether they only communicate with other team members or with clients. Assess their communication skills with this test. 

  • Cooking skills test. This cooking techniques test is ideal if you’re hiring for back-of-house roles, helping you assess a candidate’s knowledge of common cooking techniques in a restaurant kitchen setup. 

  • Hospitality skills test. Ask the candidates to take a hospitality test that assesses their relevant skills, judgment, and applied knowledge to see if they’re eligible for an entry- or mid-level role in your restaurant.

  • Restaurant Management test. If you’re looking to hire a strong and capable restaurant manager who works well under pressure and knows the ins and outs of the restaurant industry, this test is for you. 

Where to find restaurant staff

With knowledge of the common industry positions and their relevant skills under your belt, it’s time to find your new employees! You can find restaurant staff in numerous ways, and you might want to try them all in hopes of finding the best candidates possible.

  • Referral: According to a survey by Jobvite, it takes only 29 days for a referred candidate to get hired. Restaurants rate teamwork and collaboration highly, so tapping into your existing network to find staff can be a great way of building a team with natural camaraderie.

  • Job sites: There are several job sites where you can look for people actively searching for a role in the restaurant industry.

  • Headhunting: Working with a headhunter for positions like managers and head chefs can be beneficial. Headhunters are experts in seeking out ideal candidates for the role and can expedite the process by cutting out less qualified applicants. Use TestGorilla’s Restaurant Management test to assess the skills and abilities of your next restaurant manager.

  • Social media: Social media is an excellent way of finding local industry talent. Social media accounts allow you to pass information at warp speed so you can get the word out to local people quickly.

Sample job description template

It requires a combined effort of several team members to ensure the dining room operates flawlessly and that customers are happy at all times. 

From the janitor to the owner, everyone is responsible for keeping things in order and making sure customers get their orders on time, the food is delicious, and every dish is correctly prepared, adhering to food safety and hygiene protocol. 

There are several roles inside a restaurant, each with its own functionalities and responsibilities. Whatever role you’re searching to fill, this sample template will give you a starting point to get your job listing posted and on your way to hiring the most qualified staff.

Position: Server

Responsibilities:

  • Greet and seat guests, providing exceptional customer service throughout their dining experience.

  • Take accurate food and beverage orders and promptly relay them to the kitchen and bar staff.

  • Provide menu recommendations and answer any questions or concerns from customers.

  • Serve food and beverages promptly, ensuring proper presentation and adherence to quality standards.

  • Process payments accurately, handle cash, and operate the POS system.

  • Maintain a clean and organized workspace, including setting tables and refilling condiments as needed.

  • Collaborate with colleagues and support teams to ensure efficient service.

  • Address customer inquiries, concerns, and complaints professionally and promptly.

Qualifications:

  • Previous serving experience in a fast-paced restaurant environment.

  • Strong knowledge of food and beverages.

  • Excellent communication and customer service skills.

  • Ability to handle cash and operate a POS system.

  • Flexibility to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Do note that the above listing is for the role of a server. The responsibilities and qualifications will change according to the role.

Salary for restaurant staff

The salary of restaurant staff depends on their position, experience, the country, and even the restaurant concept. 

Many restaurants pay their employees by the hour, but they make a bulk of their income through tips. According to Payscale, here are the average salaries of some restaurant staff positions in the US:

  • Assistant restaurant manager: $37,728 per annum, $11.95 an hour

  • Bartender: $35,005 per annum, $8.05 an hour, plus tips

  • Bar manager: $38,338 per annum, $11.46 an hour

  • Cashier: $21,189 per annum, $9.35 an hour

  • Dishwasher: $19,515 per annum, $9.66 an hour

  • General manager: $45.362 per annum, $12.28 an hour

  • Head chef: $59,743 per annum, $17.17 an hour

  • Host: $20,578 per annum, $9.21 an hour

  • Kitchen manager: $43,234 per annum, $12.32 an hour

  • Sous chef: $43,211 per annum, $14.96 an hour

  • Server: $24,703 per annum, $6.04 an hour, plus tips

  • Restaurant owner: $66,135 per annum, $14.74 an hour

Hire the best restaurant staff today with TestGorilla

It’s essential to assess the role of each employee you’re hiring and the responsibilities they’ll have in your restaurant. Since most roles don’t require a professional degree, there’ll be a plethora of candidates eligible for a single role. Evaluating them and measuring their competence can be daunting and time-consuming, but if done right, you can be sure to make the right hiring decision every time.

With the help of TestGorilla, you can evaluate applicants’ skills objectively and cut down on hiring time, interviewing only the candidates who are suitable for the role. Check out our server interview questions to hire skilled waiting staff.

With a library of more than 300 tests and customizable assessments, you can hire restaurant staff based on their skills, and totally bias-free. To experience better hiring, start a free trial of TestGorilla today.

Sources

  1. QSR Magazine: Where the Restaurant Industry Stands in 2022: 9 Things to Know – https://www.qsrmagazine.com/content/where-restaurant-industry-stands-2022-9-things-know. Last accessed on June 23, 2023.

  2. Statista: Number of employees in the restaurant industry in the United States from 2010 to 2021 – https://www.statista.com/statistics/203365/projected-restaurant-industry-employment-in-the-us/. Last accessed on June 23, 2023

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