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The Craft

The ultimate resource for alcohol beverage news, trends and reports for bars, distributors and suppliers.

  • by: The Provi Team
  • 6 min read

How to Hire Kitchen Staff

The hospitality industry sees one of the highest rates of employee turnover of any field (hotels top the charts at a whopping 300 percent.) And in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing a restaurant, bar or other public-facing service-oriented business has gotten increasingly complicated and difficult. 

The service industry offers limited upward mobility, and this in part causes higher-than-average employee churn as workers quickly take off in search of more growth-oriented positions. And this makes owning and operating a restaurant a special flavor of challenging as you are almost constantly in a state of hiring or training, and the margin of error for bringing on dedicated, quality staff becomes more and more narrow. 

How high turnover rates affect restaurants

Turnover is a bane in any industry, but felt especially hard and incredibly quickly in the restaurant world. High turnover rates take their toll in a number of different areas, including:

  • Time: hours you might otherwise have for expanding your business or writing exciting new recipes is spent sourcing and recruiting candidates who may or may not work out.
  • Expense: turnover costs a business between 150 - 200% of an employee’s salary, on average.
  • Morale: constantly having to train new employees, or constantly being understaffed, means your workers who do stick around will be exhausted, frustrated, and less motivated to do their jobs well.
  • Quality: your food, beverages, and service may be executed quickly or sloppily and the quality of your product and delivery will suffer.
  • Guest experience: green employees or an understaffed team means your service will lag and guests may not have the standard experience to which you normally hold your establishment.
  • Stress: all of this adds up to a mountain of stress for both you and your employee base. 

While there are no quick fixes that will tackle all of these problems, the first thing you need to do is hire a high-quality team of competent and reliable employees who are as invested in the success of your business as you are. Here are some tips and best practices to engage in order to find and keep high-performing candidates. 

How to hire quality staff

Kitchen staff hiring for your service industry business is easier said than done. But it can be done! Here’s how to make it happen. 

Know where to look for kitchen staff

The best way to find reliable, hard-working staff members is usually by word of mouth. Who else do you know in the field? Do they know someone looking for work? Does this person come highly recommended? Are you able to sample some of their work before they’re onboarded? Even if you’re hiring blind, be sure to call every reference an applicant may have listed on their resume.

If you find yourself without insider tips on where all the best employees are hiding, don’t worry. Looking at a reputable and industry-specific kitchen staff jobs site is the next best thing, and will give you access to a wide pool of candidates with a variety of skills and competencies so you can pick and choose the perfect employees for your open roles. Look for options which are area specific, too. Kitchen staff job hiring in Manila will be very different and come with different resources than kitchen staff hiring in Paris.

Here are a few sites to check out for both front of house and kitchen staff only:

  • Culinaryagents.com
  • Restaurantengine.com
  • Goodfoodjobs.com

Change what you are doing to hire kitchen staff

If you just can’t seem to find a good employee to fill your kitchen staff position, no matter how hard you look, it might be your hiring practices that need adjusting. Take a look at your current strategy and ask yourself if you’re doing all of these things:

  • Providing accurate and comprehensive job descriptions. Candidates should have a solid understanding of what you need from them before they even apply. Writing out a description will also allow you to better understand what skills you should be looking for during an interview.
  • Looking at personality as well as technical skill. A bad apple spoils the bunch, as the saying goes, and a worker with a belligerent or simply unhelpful personality or attitude will prove a detriment to your entire staff, no matter how much of a culinary genius they might be. You can’t afford to have your good employees chased out by a bad new hire.
  • Doing practical interviews. Make sure you give candidates a “trail” or “stage” run so you can see them in action. Have them cook you something, work a service shift, and see whether their actual abilities match what they say they can do. 

Attributes to look for in kitchen staff

Here are a few key qualities you should look for in candidates during the interview process.

  • Personality. As we discussed earlier, a positive attitude and a team-oriented outlook can be a huge asset to your business. And a good personality can make up for an initial lack of technical understanding. You can’t teach a good attitude!
  • Accuracy and quality control. Your staff should care about the product they’re putting out, and the service they’re giving. Look for people who will prioritize quality over speed.
  • Multitasking. Your people have to be able to juggle -- whether that’s tickets, tables, or extra drink orders. Make sure you hire employees who can keep a number of plates spinning while still providing exquisite service. 

How to retain good staff

Now that you’ve hired all the right kitchen staff, here’s the tricky part: getting them to stick around. 

  • Train them well. You’d be surprised (or not) at how many employees are never really trained when they start a new job. Give your latest hires a solid foundation to stand on with comprehensive training and access to a solid manual.
  • Encourage a good work/life balance. We get it. People call out. Staffing is tight. But you need to respect that your employees have lives outside of your establishment. Be generous in awarding time off and kind when people call out, and do your absolute best to respect the boundaries of off-days (your employees should not be calling managers on their days off unless absolutely necessary.)
  • Offer living wages. It sounds scary, but paying more than you need is one sure-fire way to keep your staff around. Be as generous as you possibly can with the wages you offer and your staff will never leave.
  • Make room for growth. Promote internally whenever possible and create upward mobility among your staff. Room to grow is a priority especially among millennials and you can keep your workers happy for longer by letting them stretch their wings. 

Final thoughts: How to hire kitchen staff

Finding dedicated employees for your hospitality company is tricky business, but we promise they are out there. Trustworthy, hard-working service people with great personalities are worth their weight in gold, and worth the extra effort it takes to find them.

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