While great food is vital to a restaurant’s success, it’s not necessarily the most important aspect of keeping the restaurant running smoothly. What keeps a restaurant humming and the customers coming, regardless of the type of restaurant, is the staff. From the dishwasher to the head chef, the staff is responsible for selling, preparing, and serving the food–as well as cleaning up before and after it is served.
It’s incredibly important to have the right people in the right positions in your restaurant. But what kind of candidates should you be looking for, and what kind of experience should they have? Here, we’ll discuss the art of hiring people with the right strengths that fit each position.
Hiring for your restaurant: how to fill positions. Here is a rundown of some of the key positions which need to be filled in a restaurant, and an explanation of the qualifications and what type of person would be the best fit for each.
Chef / cooks: When hiring staff for cooking positions, one of the most important things to consider is experience. While enthusiasm is also important, “I love food and I love to cook” isn’t quite good enough; you are looking for people who are not only passionate about food, but are familiar with a kitchen and know how to cook under pressure without sacrificing quality.
Ideally, a good chef or cook has varied experience in the kitchen, an eye for precision and cleanliness, and the ability to work well with others and move quickly at a moment’s notice to re-cook an item or make sure that various dishes will all be ready to serve at the same time.
Certification from a culinary school can be a good indication that the chef or cook in question has been properly trained; years of experience in successful restaurant kitchens is even better.
Waitstaff: The waitstaff acts as the restaurant’s gateway to the public. They are often the face of the restaurant and the ones selling the food. Like hiring chefs or cooks, experience is often one of the best indications that someone will make a fine server.
A good server has to be many things: they have to have a good knowledge of the food on the menu, and be able to offer suggestions and answer questions about items. They have to have a good memory and the ability to multitask, as a lot of information will be flung at them from both diners and from the kitchen. They have to handle all of this with speed and grace, without getting flustered. It’s tough work!
If you have a candidate who seems to be a good fit but who does not have tremendous experience, consider hiring them as a host first, or adding them to a slower seating such as lunch to start, where they can slowly begin to gain the skills necessary to perform well when the restaurant is at peak capacity, say on a Friday night.
Host: Like the waitstaff, the restaurant host acts as a sort of ambassador of the restaurant, and is often the first impression that diners will get of an establishment.
A good host is well groomed (no ragged nails or unbrushed hair!), poised, tactful, and organized. They have to be able to juggle tasks such as answering the phone, managing reservations, and checking in guests. An ability to put people at ease, especially when there is a wait at the restaurant, is also key.
While experience is a good thing, it is not as vital as when hiring waitstaff. In fact, hosting is often an entry level position which leads to serving or bartending.
Bartender: A good bartender is key to the success of a restaurant. Alcohol is often the highest profit margin item in a restaurant, so it is important to the bottom line. Plus, drinks keep customers happy.
A good bartender needs to have an extensive knowledge of mixed drinks, beer, and wine. They have to be able to make drinks quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality. They have to multitask, making drinks both for bar customers and for servers to take to tables. But most importantly, they have to manage the crowd. They have to be attentive, friendly, and open.
When hiring a bartender, experience is important, and so are references. The bartender is going to be handling a lot of cash and a lot of expensive alcohol, so it is important to hire someone with integrity who is not going to steal or take advantage of this responsibility for their own gain.
Dishwasher: while dishwasher is considered one of the lowest-ranking positions in a restaurant, this should not imply that it is an unimportant position. Quite literally, all business in the restaurant will halt without clean dishes.
While it is not necessarily a skilled profession, it requires a skillful and responsible individual who can quickly and efficiently wash dishes and keep them ready to go for the cooks and bartenders to serve their wares. This responsibility should be rewarded: treat a dishwasher well, and they will treat you well. Often, a good dishwasher will work up to other kitchen positions from here; it’s the position in which some of the finest chefs got their start in the kitchen.
Bussing staff: Like dishwashing, this isn’t the most glamorous position, but it is highly important. The bus staff is responsible for “bussing” tables–cleaning them off and getting them ready for the next guest. But even more, the bus staff acts as unofficial assistants to whatever part of the house needs assistance. They might be asked by the kitchen to fetch more ingredients from the fridge, or they might be asked to help a server bring out dishes of food to a table.
A responsible individual who can multitask and maintain a smile under pressure is ideal for a bussing position. It is often a position for entry level individuals who want to work up to hosting or serving.
Delivery person: if your restaurant offers delivery, a good delivery person is key to your success. If they deliver dishes which have been mangled in transport, that is not good for business; nor is it good if they arrive late and have a bad attitude.
A good delivery person knows the geographical area well, and can deliver in a timely fashion while maintaining the integrity of the food. An individual with their own transport, be it bike or car, is ideal.
A great staff is the key to a restaurant’s success. It’s what keeps the restaurant running and the customers coming. By taking the time to hire the individuals who are best suited to the job, you are making a powerful investment in your restaurant’s success and livelihood.
What is the most important characteristic of a good employee?