People in the hospitality business burn out fast when their job isn’t the right fit. That may be why you’ve found yourself with a few open waitstaff positions. It’s possible your existing team can cover the gaps, but you don’t want to put the burden on them for too long. Otherwise, you’ll wind up right back in this same spot.

Recruiting and hiring waitstaff isn’t an easy task. There’s a lot of turnover in the industry and training new employees isn’t cheap. You’re looking for someone who is dedicated, reliable, and a great addition to your team. You want someone with experience and someone who will stay on the job for a long time.

So where do you even start?

Getting the Word Out: How to Recruit Waitstaff

When it’s time to hire new employees, be sure to define the job role first. It doesn’t help anybody—you or the candidates—if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Because the waitperson who is a perfect fit must be great with customers as well as a natural fit to the company culture, you need to know what that means beyond the typical employee characteristics.

Is your restaurant family-friendly and a great waitperson must love kids? Do you run a sports-themed pub and want a waitperson who can discuss last night’s match as easily as today’s specials?

After you know what specific requirements you have for a waitstaff position, get technology to do the work for you.

  • Add a job portal to your restaurant’s website. If someone cares enough to check out your online space, they’re probably already a fan. That enthusiasm could make for a great employee.
  • Use your social media accounts to advertise the job. Again, people who are following you on Twitter and Instagram are already fans who might make dedicated employees.
  • Post the job listing on career sites.

If you’re more of a traditionalist, start asking your current waitstaff, especially the ones who are excellent at their jobs, if they know anyone with experience who needs work. Likewise, reach out to your own network. Even if you are new to the restaurant business, surely you have friends who might have experience and need employment.

Another tip to recruiting waitstaff is to check with other restaurant managers to see if any of their employees need or want more hours. By partnering with another manager, you can offer an excellent wait person the opportunity to work additional shifts and you know you’d be getting someone with experience.

Characteristics to Look For

Waitstaff have to be comfortable with all sorts of people—customers, vendors, other employees, and management. You should look for someone with a great personality. Waitstaff needs to balance the line between confident and warm. Customers want someone who will make honest recommendations and steer them in the right direction, but who also respects them and makes them feel welcome in your restaurant.

Waitstaff should be sincere and understanding. Many people are battling food allergies and intolerances. A great waitperson sympathizes with a customer who asks a lot of questions about food preparation and ingredients, rather than feel annoyed and make the customer feel ridiculed.

Assessing Waitstaff Candidates

When you’re ready to start interviewing, the first thing you’ll notice about potential hires is their appearance. Waitstaff candidates should look clean and at least semi-professional depending on your restaurant’s level of business and clientele. The interviewee should understand the atmosphere of your restaurant and dress accordingly.

You’ll also notice if the person is on time to the interview or even early. This demonstrates discipline and dedication. People who care enough to get to appointments early show that they’re probably reliable.

As you begin the interview, notice the interviewee’s handshake and style of communication. Remember, you’re looking for confident and outgoing, but not loud or overbearing. Does she make eye contact when you’re speaking? Does he smile and laugh when he’s telling about his experience? Do you feel like she’s someone you want to keep talking to?

Make sure to really listen to the wait person’s answers to interview questions. Does it sound like he really wants to the job? Is she making an effort to be engaging?

And don’t forget to ask the right kind of questions to learn about how the interviewee fits into your restaurant’s culture and how much experience he or she really has. Give real scenarios about possible customers and ask how he has dealt with the situation before or how he would deal with it if it came up.

For example, “A customer has sent back her meal twice because she felt it was undercooked or cold. Now she’s insisting you compensate her for the meal. Tell me about a time when this happened to you, or if it hasn’t, what would you do in this situation?” The interviewee’s answer will give insight into how she thinks on her feet and if her responses are in line with your company’s values.

Finding the best waitstaff for your restaurant is all about knowing what kind of people you’re looking for and then figuring out the best place to find them.

Model the description for your ideal waitstaff candidate on a current employee who exemplifies exactly what you’re looking for. Ask people you know for recommendations and rely on your company’s social media presence to attract people who are committed to your brand. Be observant during interviews and make sure the person you hire really is a great fit.

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