How to Open a Restaurant, Part 3: How to Hire the Best Staff for Your Restaurant

If you don’t hire the right people, you won’t be successful. It really is that simple. Your people are your biggest asset, and in our industry they’re often the scarcest resource, so you need to have a strategy in place for identifying them before you begin the hiring process.

Developing and executing a hiring strategy requires a significant investment of time and energy, but skipping it will cost you big time in the long run through frequent turnover, negative guest experiences, and brand inconsistency. This article outlines 10 keys to bringing on the best opening team for your new restaurant.

1. Define greatness. Never assume that all of your managers have the same definition of what makes a good employee. Sit down with them before conducting the first interview to collectively establish the core values that all employees will need to possess.

2. Post specific and informative job ads. The ads that you post should include keywords describing your company culture as well as your restaurant’s concept, style of service, projected opening date, and any relevant specifics regarding job description and schedule requirements. Ads should be professionally presented and shared through multiple channels (online, word of mouth, and social media).

3. Have at least two managers interview every candidate. Passing over a great candidate can be as big of a loss as hiring a bad one, so make sure that you’re taking more than one person’s opinion into account. Managers should sync up between interviews to highlight any areas of concern for others to further investigate. This practice also ensures hiring managers all have buy-in, so no staff members are brought on board because one manager lobbied for them.

4. Develop a core set of interview questions. Assembling a thoughtful list of questions designed to determine whether a candidate shares your values and uncover details of their professional experiences will eliminate haphazard interviewing and keep the process objective. It will also ensure that your interviews are efficient and will immediately demonstrate your level of professionalism to the applicant.

5. Take notes. This is particularly important when you’re interviewing for an opening team because you’ll be meeting with applicants constantly. It is very easy to forget how you felt about someone or mix them up with a different person when you’re in the throes of pre-opening onboarding.

6. Attitude is king. Skills and information can be taught, but a person’s attitude usually cannot be altered. Don’t let yourself be wooed by an impressive resume if the applicant is missing any of the core values your team has collectively established as critical. Remember that an interview is a controlled, deliberate presentation of a person; if they are not projecting positively in this setting, how will they behave under pressure?

7. Train managers to assess physical cues. If an interviewee is describing how friendly and warm their service style is, but they’ve barely cracked a smile since walking through the door, don’t assume that they will suddenly change when they are on the floor. When you ask why they left their last position and they avoid eye contact, dig deeper.

8. Make interviewing a two-way street. Interviews are, of course, about identifying great candidates, but you can never overlook that candidates are also evaluating you. This means being on time, reading their resume beforehand, and dressing appropriately; it will go a long way to creating a strong impression of what can be expected if they come on board. You’ll want your managers to always be putting their best foot forward to ensure that when you come across great candidates, you’re able to hire them.

9. Check references without exception. Ask every candidate you’re seriously considering to provide you with three professional references. Let the applicant know up front that you will need to hear back from at least two of them in order to move forward with the hiring process. No matter how great someone seems or how strongly you connected with them, do not skip this step. You don’t want to learn this lesson the hard way…trust me!

10. Aim for balance. When it comes to assembling a team, diversity is your friend; this applies to knowledge, skill set, past experience, and personality. Pay attention to balance as you bring people on board, as a diverse and dynamic staff helps everyone to learn from one another. Be wary of hiring too many people from the same restaurant or company. You want to develop your own culture, not adopt someone else’s.

In order to select great people, you must first decide what essential qualities an employee should have to deliver the best iteration of your brand experience and positively contribute to your company culture. Restaurant openings are a rare and valuable opportunity to hire a group of aligned people from the get-go, so it’s crucial that your leaders are using an organized process to determine which candidates are the right fit for your opening team.

Posted on May 1, 2015 .