How to Hire (and Keep) Restaurant Staff

March 28, 2024

A strategic, proactive approach is key to attracting and retaining top talent for your restaurant.

Blog Post

Finding the perfect recipe for hiring and retaining top-notch restaurant staff is like mastering a complex dish — it requires the right ingredients, precise techniques, and a dash of creativity.  

The food service industry is plagued by one of the highest quit rates in the U.S., sitting at 5% as of January 2024.  And when it comes to attracting the right talent, challenges like fluctuating customer demand and a competitive labor market present a distinct set of hurdles.  

However, armed with strategic approaches and modern technology solutions, restaurateurs can navigate these obstacles effectively and build a talented team that enhances customer experiences and drives success.

Why is Hiring for Restaurants so Challenging?

Hiring for a restaurant comes with unique challenges that make it particularly demanding compared to other industries. 

For one thing, restaurants must compete for talented and experienced employees against both a growing number of other businesses and an attractive gig economy that offers greater flexibility with weekly or daily pay. In fact, 79% of restaurant owners say they have open roles that they've struggled to fill.  

Seasonality also plays a major role. The dynamic nature of fluctuating staffing needs requires a strategic and measured approach to hiring (and retaining) restaurant staff.

Tackle Today’s Challenges for a Stronger Tomorrow

In the service industry, there never seems to be enough time in the day to manage challenges like tight margins and high turnover. Download our eBook to discover how to leverage modern technology to overcome the top HR challenges facing restaurants.

How to Hire Great Restaurant Staff

To give your guests the best experience, you need the best people who will keep your restaurant running like a well-oiled machine. This can necessitate a few upgrades to your hiring strategy: 

1. Understand Your Hiring Needs

In most cases, restaurants are often understaffed because they didn’t take the time to understand their staffing needs before diving into the hiring process. 

Before posting any openings, first assess and understand where your workforce gaps exist. Determine the roles and responsibilities you need to fill (e.g., servers, hostesses, back-of-house, front-of-house, etc.), and tailor your hiring approach around the corresponding skill sets.

Learn More: Strategic Workforce Planning: Laying the Groundwork

2. Diversify Sourcing Channels

To attract a diverse pool of candidates, use multiple sourcing channels and those that cater specifically to the restaurant industry. Additionally, consider implementing text-to-apply or QR code solutions to both streamline the application process and reach a broader audience.

3. Craft Compelling Job Descriptions

A well-crafted job description is your first opportunity to attract qualified candidates, so clearly outline job responsibilities, qualifications, and any unique aspects of your restaurant's operations. Highlighting competitive benefits — market-based wages, employee self-service, on-demand pay, and comprehensive benefits packages — can significantly enhance your appeal to potential hires.

4. Emphasize Company Culture and Values

In a competitive labor market, showcasing your restaurant's culture and values can set you apart as an employer. Emphasize a positive work environment, growth opportunities, and employee appreciation initiatives while addressing any turnover and toxic workplace concerns.

5. Optimize Your Candidate Experience

Streamline your recruitment process to provide a positive candidate experience. Communicate promptly with applicants, provide feedback, and keep them informed about the hiring timeline. A seamless and transparent hiring process demonstrates professionalism and respect for candidates' time and efforts.

6. Invest in Onboarding and Training

While they’re technically post-hiring activities, onboarding and training are critical components of the overall hiring process. Develop structured onboarding programs to familiarize new hires with your restaurant's operations, policies, and procedures. Invest in ongoing training to enhance skills, improve job satisfaction, and foster employee retention.

Top Strategies for Hiring for Your Restaurant

Hiring for your restaurant doesn’t have to be daunting, especially when there are so many ways to make your talent search easier.  

  • Use referral programs. Encourage employee referrals by implementing a referral program. Current employees are likely to refer candidates who align with your restaurant's culture and work ethic, leading to higher-quality hires.
  • Leverage technology. Modern human capital management (HCM) solutions streamline your hiring processes with tools for workforce planning, candidate sourcing, applicant tracking, and employee engagement. Job board integrations, market-based wage analysis, and communication tools can optimize your hiring strategies even further.
  • Tap into social media. Leverage the power of social media platforms to promote job openings and engage with potential candidates. Create engaging content that showcases your restaurant's culture, values, and employee experiences. Engage with followers, respond to inquiries promptly, and use social media as a tool to showcase your employer brand.

But it doesn’t stop at hiring. Once your new employee has walked through the door, you need keep them on board.

How to Retain Restaurant Workers

While restaurant worker retention is a topic that warrants a more in-depth discussion, here are a few quick tips for keeping the talent you worked so hard to attract:

  • Offer competitive compensation and benefits. Provide competitive wages, benefits packages, and opportunities for advancement to incentivize employees to stay long-term. Offer early wage access to help retain workers who might be looking for the financial flexibility of gig economy jobs.
  • Foster a positive work environment. Cultivate a positive and inclusive work environment that values teamwork, respect, and open communication. Actively solicit feedback and conduct regular employee pulse checks to uncover and address issues promptly. 
  • Provide ongoing training and development. Invest in continuous training and development programs to enhance skills, improve job satisfaction, and empower employees to grow within the organization.

Learn More: Best Employee Retention Strategies & Techniques

Hire Smarter with a Modern HCM Solution

Why is hiring for restaurants so challenging? The service industry faces high turnover and low profit margins, which make the normal trials of hiring even more stressful. That’s why a strategic, proactive approach is key to attracting and retaining top talent for your restaurant.

But you don’t have to navigate it alone. By partnering with a modern HCM solution provider like Paylocity, you can revolutionize your restaurant's hiring and retention strategies. This innovative, all-in-one platform offers comprehensive tools to optimize your talent management processes and build a high-performing team. 

Request a demo to see how Paylocity can remove HR challenges from your menu, so you can get cooking.  


Grow Your Talent with Better Training

Now, more than ever, employees want more career development opportunities from their employers. The right Learning Management System (LMS) can help develop new skills while training your workforce on company policies, products, and more. Empower your employees to grow professionally with LMS, a modern, mobile solution that fits different learning styles and connects to your existing systems and processes.

Start Training Talent