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Six Hiring Tips To Retain Employees

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The hiring process in the restaurant industry is similar to hiring in other industries, but the restaurant industry experiences higher turnover than most other businesses. Consequently, the hiring objective is two-fold: hiring the right employees and retaining them.

To reduce turnover and get the talent you require for your restaurant, retention should be top of mind during the hiring process. Here are six tips to hiring the right employees for your restaurant business.

1.    Ensure the applicant fits your restaurant’s culture

While the word culture might seem overused in human resources, ensuring that you don’t disrupt your current culture with an employee that doesn’t fit is extremely important to the successful operation of your restaurant business.It requires more than one person’s opinion to determine whether or not an applicant will work well within your restaurant’s current culture.  You should have a minimum of two people interview the applicant to assess culture fit. Beyond the applicant’s hiring manager, another manager and a non-management employee would the ideal mix of interviewers.

2.  Use behavioral based interviewing techniques to match the applicant to the role

Behavioral-based interviewing is usually associated with professional positions, but it can be a very useful technique for interviewing hourly applicants to ensure they fit the positions at your restaurant. Behavioral interviewing usually begin with, “tell me about a time when you…”  When interviewing restaurant employees, examples of these questions could be:

Server:  Tell me about a time when you had a table of rude customers. How did you handle it?

Host:  Tell me about a time when you had a 60-minute wait, and a party of five told you they needed to be seated immediately. How did you handle it?

Bartender:  Tell me about a time when a customer told you that you served less than a full shot. How did you handle it?

Hearing applicants articulate specific examples of how they handled difficult situations in the past will help you determine if they’re right for your restaurant.

3.    Be honest and transparent

Honesty and transparency is absolutely paramount to employee retention. In your job postings and especially when interviewing, you must be transparent. Selling prospective employees a bill of goods about your restaurant, culture, working conditions, etc., will create a serious problem down the line and will certainly contribute to high turnover.

For example, if you’re located in an area that attracts a clientele associated with low tipping, such as near a university or senior center, be honest with applicants seeking server positions. Experienced servers will most likely not take the position if they know in advance that the tips won’t meet their financial needs. But, maybe it’s an opportunity to hire and train less experienced servers to engender employee loyalty in the long run.

You might even go as far as trying to convince applicants NOT to take the job. Did you have layoffs this year? Did you have a high percentage of turnover recently? Have you experienced employee food theft? The hiring process is the time to air your restaurant’s dirty laundry. If applicants want to join your staff after knowing the bad stuff, they’re more likely to stick around longer than those who will inevitably learn these things after they’re hired. To ensure employee retention, it’s extremely important to be honest with applicants about what they’re walking into.

4.    Solicit referrals from current employees

Your long-term employees are your number one recruiting tool and can also be a great retention tool. Referred employees have a lower turnover rate.  Not only do they feel an obligation to their friends to stay at the job, but the connection to existing employees makes them want to stay.

An incentive for referrals could be worth the investment. During this time of cutting costs, a monetary incentive might not be feasible, but consider food credits for takeout meals so the referring employees can feed their families and stay out of their kitchens after a long day working at the restaurant.  A modest monetary bonus at the referred employee’s 6-month anniversary could be an added incentive for existing employees to refer their friends.

5.    Determine what motivates applicants

While some questions are off limits in the interview, getting to know what motivates applicants will be helpful in assessing whether they’re in it for the long haul. Get to know what the applicant has at stake. Is the applicant supplementing a full-time job to save for the down payment on a house? Does the applicant need the money to pay for unexpected medical bills or increased rent? Is there a new baby at home? People who have something at stake tend to be your highest performing employees.

6.    Assess the applicant’s drive and work ethic

Hiring an applicant without a strong work ethic and no drive will be a drain on your restaurant operation and your other employees. It may be difficult to assess an applicant’s drive or work ethic in an interview, so look for cues in their background and training. For example, people with sports backgrounds generally have a strong work ethic because they’re forced into situations where they have to compete.

Drive might be determined by their follow up in the hiring process. Those who follow up after the interview, keep in contact with you and ask for status updates are giving you telltale signs that they’re going to go the extra mile once they get the job.


Loyal, well-trained, long-term employees are more effective in their jobs and increase the efficient operation of your restaurant business. The longer employees stay at your restaurant, the more likely they are to be skilled and successful at their jobs and support the values of your restaurant culture.  Use these simple tips if you’re looking to hire long-term employees for your restaurant business.

Restaurant365 Payroll + Hire enables you to cast a wider net and filter for the best employees faster with an easy-to-use applicant tracking system (ATS) built so you can hire the right candidates. R365 Payroll + HR makes it easy for you to hire, onboard, pay, and support your workforce. Schedule a free demo.