How to Recruit the Best Restaurant Staff

Recruiting the right staff can mean the difference between success and failure in the restaurant industry. No matter how good your food or how lavish your decorations, if you don't have the right staff to make those things shine, your tables will be empty.

So, yes, there is a lot riding on your staffing decisions.

Though this may make recruiting sound like a difficult job, it doesn't have to be. If you adhere to a few key strategies and use the right tools to pull from the right places, the recruiting process won't be a drain on your time and energy. Just follow these four simple steps:

1. Define Your Brand

Defining your brand may not seem like it has anything to do with the hiring process, but in fact, it has everything to do with the hiring process. Your brand defines what type of restaurant you run and the image you try to portray. It could be an informal image with a laid-back style, or a formal image with a decorous style. Whatever your brand may be, it defines what type of staff you should hire.

Without a defined brand, your potential pool of employees is everyone; with a brand, you can start to narrow down what you're looking for in a good employee.

2. Write a Description of the Perfect Employee for Each Job

Once you've defined your brand, the next step is to write the perfect job description – as well as a description of the kind of person who would best fit the job.

Don't worry if it sounds like no one person could have everything you're looking for – they won't. Just get all your wants and needs on paper first. Then, go back and rank your preferred characteristics from most important to least important. Don't delete any, just rank them. That way, you can see that, for example, passion and a willingness to learn rank above experience and talent. You can then use these preferences to find the employee who fits the most important characteristics for your restaurant.

We suggest writing a job and employee description for each position in your restaurant. Use these descriptions as templates for all your hiring. This is a good thing to do even if you never post them. Writing down these descriptions helps you keep the important traits for each position in your head so you can always be on the lookout for someone who fits the bill.

3. Use the Right Tools to Reach Potential Employees

This is where all your hard work in the previous two steps starts to pay dividends. It is the point at which your brand and your perfect job description combine to bring great employees to your doorstep.

Before you go out and post your job to all the recruiting websites, think about your brand first. Do you really need to pull a sous chef from New York City, or could your needs be filled by a recent graduate of a local culinary program? The answer will be different for every restaurant.

Regardless of the type of employee you need to hire, online job boards and marketplaces like are a great way to reach potential employees. You can focus the search to just your city, widen your view to a few states, or go all in and search the whole country. The nice thing about online job boards is that most of your potential employees are already using them.

That's not to say that you should discount traditional methods like newspapers, magazines, radio, or posting a help wanted sign in the window. Depending on your brand, these types of recruitment efforts can bring in employees who are just as good as those you'd find on the job boards. However you recruit your restaurant staff, we recommend that you clearly communicate your brand in your job posting so that potential employees can tell for themselves if they are a good fit or not.

4. Interview With Your Perfect Employee in Mind

Once the applications start rolling in, simplify the process by organizing them according to how well they match the perfect employees you described in step two. Make it your goal to find applications that fit at least 10 of your top 15 criteria.

Then, invite your top picks to interview. This is the point where you can discern things like how enthusiastic and personable a candidate is. How do the two of you interact during the interview? How does she react when introduced to other team members? Does he get excited when talking about things he enjoys? These little indicators can tell you a lot about how a person will behave on the job. Be sure to note these intangibles on each candidate's application so you can go back and see who most closely matches your idea of the perfect employee.

Always Be Recruiting

The nice thing about recruiting is that, armed with your brand and your perfect job descriptions, you can be on the lookout for great employees wherever you go. Yes, job sites and advertisements are great resources, but few things beat that gut feeling you get when you spot potential. With a little bit of training, that super friendly cashier at the local supermarket would make an excellent hostess or maître d'. Why not offer her an interview?

Don't dismiss referrals from friends and current employees, either. They can be great leads as well. Recruiting all the time doesn't cost you a thing – and who knows, you might just find the next great addition to your team!

Helgi Hermannsson is the CEO of software company Gangverk and shift-scheduling software platform Sling.