Temporary Restaurant Staffing: How to Hire Quality Seasonal Employees
When you’re running a restaurant, employee turnover and temporary staffing is something you’re going to need to effectively manage—and that comes with its own set of challenges.
A recent report found that 68% of restaurants felt that hiring for managerial and service staff positions has become increasingly difficult, not to mention financially risky. The average cost of turnover for a front-of-house worker is $2,000 and for a manager, it’s a whopping $14,036.
Yet, there’s no way around it—the restaurant industry has one of the highest turnover rates of any industry, clocking in at 70% in 2016. Restaurant owners and operators will constantly need to address staffing needs for their front-of-house, kitchen, and management staff.
Whether you’re preparing to cater for a private event or trying to find servers and cooks to support the additional tables on your patio over the summer, knowing how to find candidates that are both competent and a good cultural fit is key.
Below, learn how to find temporary staff that will be successful in their role.
How to attract great candidates
Before we cover how to determine whether or not a candidate is a fit during the interview (scroll down if you want to get straight to that part), let’s cover how to attract great candidates.
The general rule for hiring temporary restaurant staff is to not start your search too far in advance. Candidates for temporary roles see the role for what it is—temporary. They aren’t heavily invested and won’t be looking for temporary roles months in advance. Start your search no earlier than a couple of months before you need the role filled.
Note: If you’re hiring for a full-time role, however, you should start looking as soon as possible. Candidates are more invested in the process and it might take time to find a rockstar full-time hire that stays onboard longterm.
Write a killer job ad
You need to draft a compelling job ad to attract as many candidates as possible. Once you have a decent pool of prospects, you can filter through them and determine which ones will make it to the interview phase.
A solid job description should be two things: honest and accurate.
Ensure that whoever reads your job description effectively communicates the role’s responsibilities and the timeline of the contract. It needs to be clear enough that potential candidates know what to expect, but not too long. A lengthy job description can turn off a lot of quality temporary hires. Here are the basic things you should include in your job ad:
- A few sentences that describe your establishment, highlighting what makes it unique
- No more than four sentences describing the role
- A list (bullet points are easier to scan) of the role’s day-to-day responsibilities
- A list of the required qualifications and bonus skills
- A link or email address where the candidate can send their resume
Be clear and honest with your job description. This helps candidates make an informed decision, which ultimately increases your pool of serious potential hires.
Additionally, mention whether or not there’s an opportunity to be hired in a full-time role after their temporary contract expires. Great candidates may see a temporary role as a gateway to a longer-term gig.
Post your job ad
Next, post your job ad on relevant sites. We suggest starting with these:
If your establishment has a Facebook and Instagram account, consider publishing a post or story to let your followers know you’re hiring. They’re your biggest fans and might be interested or know someone who’s interested. Make sure your posts can easily be shared and let your followers spread the word for you.
Ask for referrals from your employees
Good employees know other good employees. Ask your staff if they know people that are qualified and might be interested. Encourage your staff by offering a referral bonus if the candidate they refer sticks around and is a good fit.
How to screen your candidates
Drafting and distributing a solid job ad is only the first step. The next step—screening your candidates—is the most important. To find a candidate that’s both competent and a strong cultural fit, you need a game plan and listen to your intuition.
When looking through the resumes, spelling mistakes should be an immediate red flag. If someone doesn’t pay attention to how they represent themselves, how can you trust that they’ll pay close attention to your guests and their needs?
Next, look for relevant work experience and any extracurricular mentions that give you an idea of what kind of person they are. Once you’ve got a list of potential candidates, it’s time to move to the interview process.
Cater your interview to the role you’re hiring for
The personality traits and skills needed vary from role to role in the restaurant industry. Whether you’re hiring a chef, bartender, server, host, or manager, you should structure your interview so that you get a clear idea of how the candidate will perform in that role.
For example, servers typically need to be outgoing, strong multitaskers, and able to work under pressure with a smile. Ray Camillo, CEO and Founder of Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting, suggests putting a potential candidate for a server role through a timed assembly test.
“Replicate Friday night pressure and see whether or not they handle it gracefully,” Camillo says. If they get flustered or frustrated, there’s a chance they can’t handle the role. If they take the pressure in stride and stay positive, they could be a fit.
Once you think you’ve found the right person, do your due diligence and run a background check. Ask for a few referrals from previous employers to get an idea of how they performed in past roles. If everything checks out, you may have just found your ideal candidate!
Things to do before extending an offer
Figure out the legalities
Each country has its own unique rules, regulations, and laws for temporary and part-time hires. If you’re not too sure of those requirements, do your research and also check out these resources:
- USA labor laws and issues
- United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division
- Major laws of the United States Department of Labor
- Canadian federal labor standards
- Canada’s Labor Standards and Regulations
Don’t make the mistake of arbitrarily picking a number. Pinpoint a salary that’s competitive and that you can afford.
What are other restaurants in your region and category paying employees in similar roles? Typically, temporary staff are paid an hourly rate plus tips, which can vary based on the type of establishment you run. The more expensive your dishes are, the higher the expected tips can be.
Offer a wage that’s competitive with what others are offering to maximize how many qualified candidates you attract.
Plan out your training
After you’ve extended your offer and the candidate accepts, you need to train them and teach them everything they need to know to be successful in their role at your establishment. Of course, training varies based on the role you hired for, but there are several commonalities with how you train the majority of your hires.
When it comes to your establishment’s processes and workflows, fixed menu, and guidelines, an educational pamphlet that your new hire can take home and study is a great tool. It enables you to standardize how each hire works and the information they know. In your educational pamphlet, focus on the following:
- Restaurant facts: the type of food you serve, your busiest hours, most popular menu items, most profitable menu items, how and where your food is sourced, as well as the head chef and owner’s information. This helps your staff create a narrative around your restaurant that they can use when serving guests.
- Operational instructions: This is where you can explain how the front and back of house communicate and work together, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each team member. This helps new hires know who to refer to when they need something.
2. Demonstration and shadowing
Especially for kitchen staff, servers, and bartenders, having one of your top-performing staff members show them how things are done can go a long way. Assign your new hires to shadow one of your full-time hires in that role to see how things are done. Some people are visual learners, and this is a great way to get them up to speed fast during their first few shifts.
3. Learn how to use your tech
Your establishment’s point of sale (POS) and kitchen display system (KDS) are at the heart of your operations. While your newcomers are shadowing one of your more experienced employees, have them demonstrate how to use the appropriate tools.
For hosts, consider showing them how to check in a guest that made a reservation and how to pinpoint where they’re sitting in your floor plan. Additionally, show them how to adjust the floor plan to accommodate last-minute walk-ins and reservations.
For servers, show them how to input orders and fire them to the appropriate workstation, check on a table’s status, and process payments.
For kitchen staff, teach them how to properly use the KDS, particularly how the color codes for a plate’s preparation status. For example, Lightspeed’s KDS uses the following:
- Grey: new orders
- Orange: cooking
- Green: done
Whenever they start preparing a dish or it becomes ready to serve, their first instinct should be to change the dish’s status so that your servers know when it’s ready for your guests.
How to hire quality seasonal employees
The way you approach finding, interviewing, hiring, and training your temporary restaurant staff will absolutely determine the quality of your applicants and whether or not they’re successful in their role.
Use this guide to ensure that your hires, whether they’re full-time, part-time, or temporary, are a fit and that they have a positive experience working at your establishment. Remember, your employees are your strongest advocates. If they enjoy their experience, they’re more likely to stay on board long-term if the offer presents itself, recommend your establishment to their friends, or apply for another seasonal role down the line.