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3 steps to manage restaurant hiring like a pro

Strategies and technologies to attract, retain and empower employees

You don’t need to be in the restaurant business to realize employees are constantly coming and going. Waiting tables, bussing, hosting– these are classic first and part-time jobs that many people cycle through at various points in their careers.

In fact, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) estimates that the restaurant industry had a turnover rate of almost 75% – more than 50% higher than the U.S. private sector in 2018.1 The NRA also predicts that employee tenure will remain static or shrink by 2030, meaning turnover is not going to improve anytime soon.2

If this issue isn’t on your radar, it needs to be. Luckily, emerging tools and strategies are making turnover a solvable problem. To help you with this perennial challenge, we’ve put together three steps for hiring and retaining restaurant employees in today’s job market.


Be a boss at hiring

Did you know the average small business hiring manager spends an estimated 20 hours to find one successful hire?3 When you break down the investment that goes into a single hire, you start to recognize the need to be as efficient as possible. Here are a few tips to help guide your hiring process.

 
Make hiring a regular routine
Even when you don’t have an open position, do yourself a favor and screen some applications. Make hiring part of your weekly routine so that you can develop a healthy pipeline of candidates you can call on when the need arises. As we’ve already established, the restaurant industry has some of the highest turnover around, so you’ll need that pool of candidates sooner rather than later.
 
Be quick to interview
One of the best ways to ensure you spend your time on interested candidates is to schedule interviews early and often. While you’re reviewing their application to make sure they’re qualified, go ahead and set a date for them to come in.

Once you’ve done this for a while, you’ll start to get a good idea of how many applications and interviews you need to find the right employee. On average, for most small businesses, out of 100 applications, 40 meet the requirements, 20 are contacted, 10 are invited for an interview, four show up and one is hired. It’s a numbers game.3
 
Be upfront and systematic with candidates
New hires want to know what scheduling is like, what their responsibilities will be and what the perks of working at your restaurant are versus the one next door. Do you offer free parking or a free meal per shift? Paid time off? Be sure to lay it all out to make your position as appealing as possible.

To help you evaluate candidates, try asking everyone the same set of questions. You’ll be able to easily compare their answers, and over time, you’ll even be able to compare candidate responses to what your best employees said during their interviews.
 
Onboard the right way
A new hire’s first week is crucial to their success. Provide as much training as possible, and clearly define their responsibilities and your expectations. Some tactics you may want to consider include offering an employee handbook, helping with food safety and alcohol certifications, implementing a shadow/mentor program and setting up formal check-ins after 30, 60 and 90 days of employment.

Step 2: Make it easy to stay

This next step is just as important as the first, and that’s because it’s often cheaper to retain employees than hire new ones.3 When looking at the key variables that influence restaurant employees to stay, compensation, scheduling and opportunity for advancement are the three most important areas to focus on.

 
Pay competitively
While you might think you’re creating a reward system by starting new employees off at introductory wages with the option for raises, you could actually be hurting yourself. More qualified applicants will go where their services are rewarded the most. Start employees off at the rate they will eventually be earning.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Your POS system can simplify tip management
A smart point-of-sale (POS) system lets you pull reporting about shifts and table assignments to make sure you’re properly reporting tips for tax purposes and distributing the best sections and shifts equitably.
 
Make scheduling predictable and transparent
Would you have guessed scheduling is just as important as pay? Based on a recent survey of hourly employees (most of whom work in food service), 46 percent of jobseekers preferred a predictable schedule to a 10 percent raise.3 On top of that, predictable schedules can lower turnover by as much as 25 percent.3

It really comes down to time management. Restaurant employees tend to have a variety of competing responsibilities, from school to family to another job, so they value the ability to predictively plan for those priorities.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Use your POS system for scheduling
Smart POS systems are often compatible with cloud-based employee management applications that can let employees see their schedule when they’re remote, swap shifts from directly within the system or pick up extra shifts across all your locations.
 
Provide professional growth Employees with greater responsibility tend to last longer than those without. Now, obviously every employee can’t be a manager, but when you set clear paths for advancement, provide cross training that grows employee knowledge and experience and have regular, individual check-ins to discuss employee interests and abilities, you create a culture of growth and improvement that promotes retention.

Not only that, when you get to know your employees’ ambitions and actively encourage and mentor them, you foster trust and loyalty, which can make your job more enjoyable and your business more profitable, as we get into in the next step.

Step 3: Respect and empower your employees

How you manage your employees has the power to improve your business. A recent study by Gallop showed that workplaces with happy employees outperformed the competition by 20%.3 When you care about your job, you do it better. How can you get your restaurant employees to care more? Here are some strategies:

 
Model the behavior you expect. This demonstrates shared goals. You become more than the boss who issues orders and decrees. You become a member of a community with a mission to serve your customers to the best of your ability.
 
Give employees the power to make important decisions. Within reason, of course. But the ultimate goal of any restaurant is customer satisfaction. How can you empower your employees to better achieve this goal?

TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Mobile POS devices help improve employee productivity
Mobile POS devices let servers take orders directly at the table, reducing risk of manual error and making table and order management much quicker and easier. They also let servers send orders to the kitchen on-the-spot, helping them focus on keeping customers happy.
 
Show appreciation and create moments of fun. Thank employees for a job well done; celebrate birthdays and milestones; create lighthearted competitions with fun prizes. All these are ways to create a place that employees want to be a part of.
 
Keep a steady pulse on the employee engagement. Above all else, get to know your employees on an individual level. If you foster an open dialogue of respect and understanding, your employees will return the favor.

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