How to Hire and Retain the Best Restaurant Staff

How to Hire and Retain the Best Restaurant Staff

This is part three in our four-part series with culinary consultant Jenny Dorsey on her best advice on building a killer restaurant brand, unique menu, top-notch restaurant wait staff and a secure financial plan when owning a restaurant.

Now that you understand key components to your restaurant’s brand and menu, it’s time to look at hiring and retaining the best staff for your restaurant. Dorsey shares with us how to write the perfect job description, conduct a great interview, properly train your restaurant staff and then offer the right incentives to keep great employees in a competitive market.

Building Job Descriptions

When crafting job descriptions for your restaurant, you want to include two important items. One, very specific job duties and two, what the employee gains from working for you. Specific job duties are important because they set expectations. If you want to hire someone who will understand your wine selection, but also spend time cleaning wine glasses and the restaurant after their shift, you need to state this. Otherwise misaligned expectations will create unhappy employees.

It’s also important to get job descriptions right for legal reasons. Job descriptions and essential functions could effect a number of legal statues for your business, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and more. Additionally, to find high-quality employees who believe in your restaurant and put in hard work, you need to highlight within the job description how you’ll invest in your new employee. Will you give them ownership and leadership opportunities? Will they get holidays off?

“You’re the owner, so of course you care about your restaurant,” Dorsey says. “If you give no one else ownership, no one will feel about your restaurant the way you do. If you really trust your employees, then you can expect something better from them. The latter is really hard for people, but it’s your choice.”

Interviewing Staff for the Right Qualities

After reviewing and selecting respondents to interview, it’s important to conduct interviews in-person, and not just over the phone. When you’re able to interview people in your restaurant, you can better understand if candidates fit into your restaurant concept, space and brand.

When interviewing your new candidates, there are three important characteristics to look for:

  • Punctuality;
  • Attention to detail
  • A hospitable attitude


“You can teach everyone technique, but you can’t teach them attitude,” Dorsey says. “You can teach your server to sell the beer, go and say hi or ask for water refills. But you can’t teach them HOW to do it. If they don’t generally understand what hospitality means and how that feels, then they’re never going to do it the right way. And no amount of money will make them more hospitable.”

Training Your Staff to Carry Out Your Concept

After you hire your new staff, the next important step is to focus on training your employees properly. Dorsey recommends to start training on the big ideas — be clear on your restaurant brand, concept, values and mission. If your employees understand the big picture ideas, then everything they do – from up-selling to greeting customers – will keep these key concepts in mind. However, it’s also important to train on job duties as well as the bigger picture. Make sure to hold consistent training sessions for your employees. Cover all the basics from menu changes and specials to the wine selection and closing duties.

“Training is hard and training people consistently is often overlooked,” Dorsey said. “Training is something that should be constant, you’re always training as a restaurant owner. You should always be learning and so should your staff.”

Keeping the Best Restaurant Employees

Once you have restaurant staff you love and have invested time into hiring and training, it’s time to keep them around. Giving employees ownership and genuinely listening to their concerns are two big areas tied to employee satisfaction. Dorsey recommends steps to ensure your employees have someone to talk to and know their concerns are being heard and worked on. Simple ways to do this are to offer peer-to-peer reviews, leave an anonymous suggestion box in the break room and/or hold regular feedback meetings. But, the number one way to retain quality employees is to pay them well.

“You need to pay for top-notch restaurant talent,” Dorsey says. “Your restaurant is going to have bad service and obviously unhappy employees if they’re not paid well. Take care of your employees and they will take care of you. It’s pretty simple.”

Get Started Today

Let’s get you the financing you need to grow your business. Whether you’re looking to expand, purchase equipment, fulfill an order or stabilize your cash flow, we can get you the right type of financing for your needs. If you’re still not sure which type of financing is right for you, you can use our matching tool or give us a call at (800) 780-7133 to speak with one of our financing specialists.

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