The Basics of Staffing a Restaurant

Make sure you hire the right kind of people

Restaurant staff including chefs, waitresses and manager, gathering around laptop on a table in the dining area.
••• andresr / Getty Images

An overlooked aspect of many new restaurant owners is the hiring and managing of staff. As the owner, you are in charge of all the HR functions of your restaurant. This includes all the hiring and all the firing, plus everything in between. Therefore, it's important to hire the right kind of people to work for you.

Despite what many people think, not everyone is good at waiting tables or tending the bar. Nor can just anyone cook in a busy restaurant kitchen. All of these jobs take a certain skill set and talent to do them well. Finding good people to fill your vacant restaurant positions will help establish your new restaurant and ensure continued success for years to come. 

Hiring for the Front- and Back-of-House

There are many positions to hire for when opening a new restaurant. Depending on the position, some jobs require prior restaurant experience, while others are perfect for newcomers to the business. The one position in a restaurant where having more experience is definitely a plus is the bartender. While anyone can pour a glass of beer or wine, mixing cocktails is fine art. Even more important when hiring a bartender is their personality. They need to know how to read customers, offering conversation when needed and minding their own business when it’s not.

Just as important as hiring waitstaff and a bartender, hiring experienced kitchen staff is also important. Your restaurant concept will help guide you in what type of chef or cook to hire. More upscale dining concepts will require a chef with ample experience, while more basic concepts, like a food truck, is a good place for someone still learning the ropes of restaurant cooking. Restaurant cooks and chefs come in all shapes and sizes and a wide variety of experiences. Depending on the size of your restaurant and layout of your restaurant kitchen, you may need only two or three chefs or cooks, or you may need 10, 12, or 14!

How to Write an Employee Manual

An employee manual is a good idea for any restaurant (or any business, for that matter). An employee manual outlines all your expectations for job performance as well as job descriptions, safety procedures, and any other communication you want to convey concerning your restaurant. An employee manual helps new restaurant employees start on the right foot, and minimizes confusion and misunderstandings later on.

Employee Training

Food handlers and barkeeps will often need specialized training to do their job. At times, this training is mandated by the state or local licensing authority and many times it requires an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited training program.

Employees who work with food must receive training on handling food items in a safe manner that will avoid the spread of foodborne illnesses. Bartenders, in particular, must have specialized training. They can put the restaurant owner at risk of a liability lawsuit if they overserve a patron or serve an underaged patron.

Many restaurants will have established front-of-house rules that new employees must learn. These can include how to handle reservations to how to seat patrons at tables or process payment. Many back-of-house positions will also have restaurant-specific training. This type of training includes following the restaurant's recipe book, product reordering practices, and bussing and cleaning guidelines.

How to Prevent Employee Theft

Nobody wants to think their employees will steal from them. But the hard truth is that, no matter how well you think you know your employees, there is always a possibility of theft. Whether it is theft in the form of stolen alcohol or free food to friends, employee theft costs restaurants money. Have a system in place to minimize the chances of employee theft—before it happens.

Hiring the right people, and then making your expectations clear right from the beginning, will help your new restaurant staff come together as a team. Being proactive to prevent problems, such as theft, will also help stave off potential difficulties. Remember, your restaurant is only as good as the people who are working there.