Last Updated:
April 19, 2022

Key strategies for hiring restaurant staff: Promote jobs, find referrals and offer incentives

As the pandemic continues to restrict restaurant services, hiring staff has become a challenging task for owners.
Key strategies for hiring restaurant staff: Promote jobs, find referrals and offer incentives
Pamela Romano
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Table of Contents

As the pandemic continues to restrict restaurant services, hiring staff has become a challenging task for owners.

With unemployment rates on the rise, it is difficult for business owners to find qualified employees, offer them living wages, and retain all of their current employees.

The key strategies for hiring new staff comes with promoting jobs, finding referrals, assessing skills during interviews, and offering incentives to decrease turnover rates.

Leisure and hospitality industries added 4,800 jobs last month, which is nearly 74% of all jobs lost in that industry in March and April last year. With growth opportunities given to staff members, hiring reliable restaurant staff becomes much easier in return!

Key strategies to hiring staff

Promote your job openings

Use social media to post your opening, and make it clear what the job entails. Promoting jobs is easier if you post on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter as well as LinkedIn or other professional networks and search sites.

Advertise in newspapers or find magazine partnerships for a wider audience as well. You may also need to put up posters within the vicinity of your restaurant to attract customers to you.

If you’ve been doing this but have not had much success, try advertising at community colleges or other schools with students who may be looking for employment before graduation.

Job postings should include the title of the position, job description, required qualifications/skills or experience, and a competitive wage.

You may also include what your restaurant can offer and what atmosphere they should expect once they are hired. Postings must be updated as requirements change.

Find your core values

Some important core values of restaurants include that they are open for service at all times and that they have enough staff to serve these needs so the wait time is not long.

Some other core values that are important to hiring restaurant staff is a living wage, benefits and growth opportunities.

When hiring new restaurant staff, it is important to have an open mind about hiring people of different backgrounds.

This can help with creating a well-rounded team and increase the diversity in your workplace which will lead to more creative thinking from all employees.

It is essential that you offer all potential employees room for growth within their position and offer them a living wage.

This will also help you keep your staff, as they won't need to look for other opportunities because of their income or benefits being unsatisfactory.

A good hiring strategy comes from understanding what potential employees are looking for in an employer - including the money that is offered, what kind of work environment is provided and how hiring new staff is encouraged to progress.

Be open to new ideas and hiring people with different skill sets. You never know what they might bring to the workplace and when hiring restaurant staff, you'll need all hands on deck for the busy season.

Do not assume your audience knows anything about hiring restaurant staff or even have a background in it - as an employer of these individuals, you will need to provide them with a hiring process that will help you find the best fit.

Make the time for interviewing, hiring and training. This will help you assess skills, ensure that they are a good fit for the company and hire reliable restaurant staff.

Change up your menu from time to time to keep your restaurant interesting and to give chefs the opportunity to showcase their skills.

Provide a uniform or a set color code which is accessible for everyone to wear. Sometimes, certain items of clothing, such as dresses, may not be comfortable for everyone to wear while working.

Therefore, be open-minded and be flexible with what your employees can wear as a uniform. This may be as simple as offering logo t-shirts or letting them showcase their style while still following restaurant guidelines.

Dress codes help in the identification of staff and provide a more cohesive atmosphere. It will also show that your restaurant is diverse and willing to change as your staff develops over time.

Know the role you are recruiting for

When finding the right candidate for a job, it is all that much easier when you have a strong idea of what you are looking for.

When you don't, it may be overwhelming when the hire misunderstood the role you set them out to do.

Be clear in describing the job description and give concrete examples of what would be their role in your restaurant on a day to day basis.

When conducting an interview, make sure you are asking not only yes or no questions, but questions that have the person elaborate more. These questions will give you an indication if the person is a right fit or not.

Keep in mind that even if they might not have experience, people can learn on the job. It is more important to focus on their personality and their assets, not so much the skill involved in the specific role you set out for them.

Some of the best candidates are not those who fit your job description to the T, but those that have the energy and motivation to learn and provide great service.

Scheduling and conducting interviews

The hiring process is one of the most important aspects of running a successful restaurant. It can make or break your business. This step may take from one week, to several weeks or even months, so be prepared.

It is important to make the effort for interviews and be flexible in scheduling them according to each candidates availability or needs.

Find a time that works well with both parties, but also try not to set it too far out from when you want their employment start date as this can lead to job offers being accepted by another employer - something that is not uncommon in the restaurant industry.

Be mindful of timing when scheduling interviews for other staff members as well, as it may lead to a conflict with their work schedule or personal obligations.

Be sure not to over schedule interviews, as it will decrease your chances of hiring someone on time. It is better to conduct one or two interviews at any given time and avoid interviewees from seeing each other or waiting next to each other.

When you are interviewing people for your team, be sure that they will meet all requirements needed - including any special considerations such as accommodation needs (i.e. a good work space or parking, etc.)

Be sure to be available and answer questions during the interview process. Sometimes people will feel more comfortable speaking with you if they have some time alone in your office before moving onto the next step of the hiring process - such as conducting an interview for another staff member.

Be on time for the interview and try to have a list of questions ready in hand or by memory.

When interviewing for restaurant staff, you want people who are enthusiastic and willing to work hard - so be sure to ask the right questions. You can also introduce some people from your restaurant to the interviewee to see if they would work well together.

Offer your interviewee a glass of water or a coffee - they will be more comfortable and you will have time to evaluate their demeanor.

Some quick interview tips:

1) Introduce yourself, give some background on your role, and be sure to provide an overview of the company.

2) Keep interviews to short durations - allow 15-30 minutes for an interview.

3) Ask questions that will evaluate the individual's fit for the position.

4) Remember to exchange your contact information if you haven't already.

5) Do not rush the interview and allow the interviewee some time before answering the questions you ask them.

6) Give them a tour of your restaurant and show them where they will focus on working and who they can potentially be working with.

7) Give them a copy of your menu (or make them take a picture of it) at the end of the interview. Once they are hired, they can have the chance to know your menu before their training begins and have a smoother transition when starting to work.

Examples of open-ended interview questions

  • What is your experience with this type of job?
  • How does it make you feel to wear a uniform or follow a dress code in our restaurant?
  • In what ways will you help provide great service for customers?
  • How do you learn on the job?
  • What are some of your tips of tricks when working in the restaurant industry?
  • What are some challenges you may face on the job?
  • Why did you find this job interesting?
  • What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
  • How do you take care of yourself and stay energized on the job?
  • What would you like to try on the menu?
  • What are your main responsibilities that may interfere with work?
  • How long would it take you to travel from your home to work?
  • What is your ideal work environment?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Do you have any health problems we should know about?
  • How do you think you can enhance our team?
  • How do you deal with conflict?

Types of hires

Hiring staff for a restaurant can be difficult for owner's when unemployment is at an all-time high. The restaurant industry has seen a high turnover rate of around 73%.

With hiring employees, it becomes important to promote the job vacancy and find referrals who may know qualified candidates.

By promoting jobs you're more likely to get an increased response rate from applicants! The key is finding out what the applicant is looking for in a restaurant.

During interviews, assess skills while also considering incentives that will offer decreased turnover rates which leads to hiring reliable staff members. Successful referrals thus depend on the job title and the employee engagement within your restaurant.

Temporary staff

Hiring temporary staff during busier times is one of many strategies for hiring new employees. It is important that temporary staff are given scenarios and solutions to them early on in the training process.

Temporary restaurant staff can help prevent turnover rates by hiring qualified individuals and filling vacant positions while the restaurant is hiring. Over the long-term, these temporary workers may replace your staff permanently.

Temporary staff may have negative effects for a restaurant in the long-term if they are not qualified for the position. They may also not be able to work during the busy periods, such as lunchtime, when hiring temporary staff becomes more necessary.

Their schedules may not be as flexible as hiring a permanent staff member for the long-term.


Referrals are not only less likely to quit, but they also tend to be more qualified and understand the culture of your restaurant. Referrals can also help establish a family-like atmosphere among the staff.

Once you find a referral, offer your staff member who made the referral a bonus if their friends get hired - so that word will spread and you can increase your pool of applicants. It will ensure that external hires keep coming if needed and your current staff will be motivated to help.

When looking for referrals ask the following staff in your restaurant:

1. Managers

3. Chefs

4. Bartenders

5. Bussers

6. Delivery drivers

7. Concierge staff

8. Dish washers

Nonetheless, confide in staff which are themselves reliable and hard-working, or have qualities which you think keep your restaurant afloat.

If hiring by referral doesn't work out for the best, then you still have other options in place such as interviewing them or giving incentives.

Types of incentives for restaurant employees

When providing incentives, it's important not to promise too much in the beginning because you want your employees working out of loyalty and not just for the money or perks they have been given at first sight.

What keeps a staff member working at your restaurant is determined by many factors, some which may be personal, while some may be financial.

A restaurant staff member can choose to stay at a restaurant based on the salary and hours they are given. If they enjoy their job or working with co-workers then this is also an incentive to keep them at your establishment longer.

Paying employees a fair wage, offering higher compensations, or offering more hours is one strategy that may make them less likely to leave.

Another strategy is to give them flexibility with holidays, offer paid sick days, allow them to edit their schedule to fit around personal, health, and educational responsibilities, and be accepting of value differences. Some may even benefit from an education savings account or even cash rewards.

What is also important is giving them professional advice and keep them in the loop with the latest restaurant success stories, techniques, and trends to follow.

'Tis the season'

Holiday hiring is a popular choice for hiring restaurant staff.

When Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve are around the corner, many restaurants will be hiring more employees to deal with increased customer demand.

In some cases, hiring seasonal help might be your best option as it can save money on benefits yet still satisfy customers' needs.

Some employees may want to work on New Year's Eve let's say, in this case they should be paid double-time. For those with cultural holidays, make sure they still receive the same treatment - paid holidays, as any other holiday would apply.

Finding which qualities are important

When interviewing candidates, make sure you ask about any previous experience in the type of restaurant or food service industry they’re applying for as well as what expectations they have from this job.

These questions help with assessing whether an applicant is willing to commit to long hours on shift work when it would conflict with other obligations like school, family responsibilities, and extracurricular activities; something not everyone may be prepared for based on life goals and ambitions outside of work.

When finding the right staff for your restaurant, their qualities outside of their duties should be considered.

Make sure that they can work well with the current staff, are a good cultural fit for your restaurant and have an attitude of service excellence.

By assessing which qualities you want in employees before hiring them, it will allow limited turnover rates to take place where everyone is content at their job.

You can find some of the following qualities in reliable staff:

  • Communicates well with current employees
  • Suits the company culture
  • Patient with staff and customers
  • Respectful
  • Tech savvy
  • Keeps the premises presentable (organized)
  • Has a flexible schedule and is ready to work when needed
  • Arrives early or on time (punctual)
  • Has restaurant knowledge and experience
  • Follows duties and rules
  • Takes on tasks to help other staff
  • Gives feedback on how to improve the restaurant
  • Finds tasks to do throughout their shift
  • Stays calm under stress (busy shifts)
  • Can take account for their own mistakes (honesty)
  • Efficiently multitasks
  • Has good memory
  • Is open to learn from staff or train staff
  • Displays helpful and friendly behaviours

Choosing from a pool of applicants

It may seem like hiring restaurant staff is a difficult task, but it's not impossible. Start by reviewing all the applications and narrowing down to those with experience in your specific field of expertise.

Check resumes for accuracy as this will be an indicator that they are either reliable or unreliable employees that pay little attention to detail in their work.

An applicant can stand out by sending in an application that is personalized to the hiring restaurant's needs, such as using up-to-date language like "Skills: Customer Service."

Be sure to look at those who have been with you for a long time. These are proven restaurant staffs and show they can make a commitment. It also shows that your business' environment is attractive enough for them to stay.

It's important to have a variety of restaurant staff so that you don't get tired working with the same people. Make sure to ask hiring restaurant staff what their preferred position is, but always fill open positions with the most qualified applicants.

If you're hiring people who will be working in your restaurant's kitchen, it may take longer to find the right candidate because there is not as much turnover as other positions.

Skilled chefs know:

  • Food preparation and its ingredients.
  • Are able to control the quality of their work.
  • Need to understand the relationship between quality, quantity and cost of ingredients.
  • They also should communicate with staff in a way that motivates them and helps them improve their skills.
  • It's important for chefs to be experienced, have an understanding of customer service, and know how to implement new technology into their kitchen.
  • How to reduce food waste and equally portion out each dish on the menu.

Skilled waiters know:

  • Know when to take the customer's order (before or after appetizers)
  • Can remember a table's food preferences by name so that they can accurately serve them their dish without having to ask questions.
  • Can cite the menu by heart and remember the specials if applicable
  • Can recommend food and drink pairings
  • Know their way around charming customers
  • Regularly checks up on the customer
  • Makes sure allergies are known and communicated with other food handling staff

Skilled bartenders know:

  • How to mix drinks
  • Have customer service skills
  • Know the drink menu by heart and can suggest food pairings
  • Keep track of inventory and place orders if needed
  • Follow laws pertaining to age restrictions
  • Prepare food for drinks (lemon / lime / orange slices)
  • Efficiently use bartender tools

Skilled bussers know:

  • How to clean tables
  • Know which dishes go on which table
  • Can bus their own section and work as a team with other bussers
  • Know the restaurant's layout by heart
  • Are fast and respectful to customers when handling food and drinks
  • Properly balance heavy trays and avoid spillage
  • Replace the bar ice when possible
  • Can lift chairs and tables to rearrange them / clean them
  • Have low chances of breaking cutlery, dishware, etc.
  • Mop and vacuum when needed

Skilled delivery drivers know:

  • How to navigate the delivery routes
  • Know which restaurant's dishes they are delivering
  • Can efficiently load and unload their vehicle
  • Can drive a manual or automatic car with ease (if applicable)
  • Are able to maneuver in tight spaces for parking deliveries (garages)
  • Will be familiar with various traffic regulations
  • Follow safety precautions if necessary
  • Accept the money from customers before giving out the food

Skilled concierge staff know:

  • How to greet customers
  • Can handle a variety of phone calls, such as reservations and cancellations
  • Know the restaurant's menu inside out (their own section)
  • Know their designated tasks in the hiring restaurant so that they can be efficient with time, avoiding slowdowns.
  • Are able to serve food items at tables by request or following pre-set tables
  • Can handle difficult customers with tact and diplomacy
  • Know the hiring restaurant's hours, policies, etc. so that they can answer questions confidently
  • It will be helpful if concierge staff also know the hiring restaurant's layout in order to serve food items more efficiently at customer requests.

Skilled dishwashers know:

  • How to remove dishware and cutlery from the restaurant's dishes racks
  • Can load dirty dishes into a washing machine or sink without breaking them.
  • Are respectful in handling food items
  • Can keep track of how many times they've washed a dish or its quantity of dirty dishes
  • Know when to restock washing materials
  • Use gloves
  • Organize dishes and cutlery by category
  • Soak items to disinfect them before washing
  • Shine utensils if needed
  • Remove tough stains on glassware (lipstick stains, food streaks, etc.)

Skilled managers know:

  • How to manage staff
  • Can recognize the hiring restaurant's strengths and weaknesses
  • Know how to coach employees on their skills, as well as identify what may need improvement
  • Are able to delegate tasks efficiently so that each person can get them done in time for customer service.
  • Understand legal issues
  • Are familiar with restaurant staffing laws

Costs of hiring restaurant staff

Restaurants have been experiencing higher unemployment rates ever since the pandemic has restricted their services. The industry has a long way to go to recover, with employment down by 2.8 million, or 16.8%, since February 2020.

Hiring restaurant staff can be costly, so it is best that owners are prepared beforehand and know what all needs to be done before hiring employees.

Restaurants hiring staff will have to pay for all hiring related costs such as training, payroll, and taxes. Restaurant hiring staff will also have to pay for the benefits of hiring a new employee such as health care and retirement contributions.

It costs on average $2,000 to hire a new employee. This hiring cost is the same whether a restaurant hires for dishwasher or chef.

  • A large number of restaurants in your area will be competing with you to hire employees, so make sure they know what’s available at your establishment.
  • You also have to consider hiring benefits and salary because this can range widely between establishments.

Therefore, there really is no way to answer this question without knowing what restaurant location hiring for and the wage offer. However, we advise not hiring anyone for less than $20/hour.

Valuing your staff

One thing that managers can do is to provide training for staff to provide them with updated restaurant standards and spend time with them if they do not understand something or haven't mastered the skill just yet.

Managers should also maintain an open communication line with their staff so that they can keep up to date with what's going on and give feedback to make things better.

Reward your staff with paid time off, extra tips, or even a salary increase for a job well done.

You can also give positive feedback to well executed skills and customer service. You need to provide them with opportunities for growth and have an incentive that rewards lower turnover rates.

Note: Make sure you give your staff breaks when working a shift longer than 4 hours, and some restaurants may offer discounted food so that staff wouldn't have to bring their lunch / supper every day of the week.

The more you value your staff, the less likely they are to leave!

It’s important that restaurant owners know what they are getting themselves into upfront so that these hidden costs don't come back to haunt them later on!

With growth opportunities given to staff, finding employees simplifies. As long as you provide your team with incentives (either in the form of salary or other perks) it should be easier than ever before to find qualified candidates who want grow within your company culture.


Taking inventory should not take hours.