5 Strategies for Optimizing Your In-House Restaurant Staff

Satisfaction starts in-house. Find out how to grow your restaurant business with hiring tips and team-building strategies from DoorDash For Merchants.

8 min read
restaurant staff

A happy, productive restaurant employee will stay with you longer and make your customers feel welcomed and well cared for. In turn, you'll see the result in your bottom line. By optimizing your hiring strategies and developing a strong team culture, you can keep turnover low and morale sky-high. Here are five tips for hiring restaurant employees and maintaining a company culture that's built to last.

1. Seek out the job-seekers

When it comes to hiring restaurant staff, it's important to get the word out. To fill administrative staff and management roles, consider sourcing candidates on traditional career platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor. When looking for culinary talent, post job openings on industry-specific career pages such as Poached Jobs, Culinary Agents, and Restaurant Careers.

But don't stop there. Plenty of people pass by your restaurant each day, andone of them might be your next general manager, star bartender, or another over-delivering restaurant employee whose presence changes everything.

When hiring restaurant employees, take advantage of foot traffic by putting up a "We're hiring" sign. Another way to find top candidates is by hosting an open call for talent. If your restaurant has a track record of attracting student employees, consider hosting a booth at the local high school or college job fair. Or, if you're based in a buzzing theater district, you may be interested in restaurant staff with a flair for showmanship. Here, you could start posting flyers at local acting schools.

2. Write mouth-watering job descriptions

To attract the right candidates, pen job descriptions that grab the right kind of attention.

Yes, you should include concrete details to give candidates a firm grasp of the role. But storytelling is a secret sauce that will make them hungry for more. Share your mission and values so candidates understand what you're really about. Tell job seekers who you are, what you do, and why you do it. For inspiration, consider this sample blurb:

Susie's Diner isn't just a breakfast spot. To our customers, we're a home away from home. We provide hardy helpings of comfort food, just how Mom used to make it. If you're looking to join a team that's more like a family, this job is right for you. 

Missions matter. Make them top-of-mind.

3. Identify winning skills

If you're wondering how to hire restaurant staff, interviewing is an essential part of the process. Don't evaluate candidates on experience alone — soft skills like communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork are key ingredients for success in the restaurant business.

Whether entry-level or experienced, a restaurant employee needs soft skills to handle difficult situations that are inevitable in the restaurant industry. Other soft skills include leadership, adaptability, proactiveness, and problem-solving. Look for grace and a sense of humor, too.

To identify soft skills in a short interview, develop a list of targeted hypothetical questions. For instance, to assess problem-solving, you might ask: How would you approach a busy shift when the kitchen is out of a best-selling ingredient?

4. Build a culture-driven company

Studies show that only 35% of U.S. workers are actively engaged on the job, and only 21% report feeling strongly valued at work. When restaurant staff feel like they're part of a bigger picture, they perform better on the job—and create a positive environment for your customers.

To build a strong company culture, you'll want to do a few things:

  • Share your core values from the start. When interviewing candidates, be transparent about what type of establishment you are. Your staff needs to know what you value most. Make a new hire's first few weeks exceptional by providing a supportive onboarding process that showcases your mission, values, and purpose.

  • Practice active communication. From day one, make sure every restaurant employee is clear on expectations and rules. Establish that any changes are communicated as quickly as possible. If problems arise, address them immediately and diplomatically. Empower your staff by allowing them to be proactive in bringing solutions to you when they are facing a challenge.

  • Get employee buy-in on important issues. Regardless of the role, every restaurant employee has valuable ideas for improving operations and better serving customers. Encourage everyone to speak up to cultivate a community where employees feel like their voices are heard. Be sure to follow through on viable suggestions and communicate if an idea isn't feasible.

  • Provide opportunities for advancement. Get to know your restaurant staff and their career goals. Maybe your line cook dreams of one day opening his own restaurant—your insights and support might help him get there. Invest in your employees, and they'll invest in you.

  • Make work perks a focus. Offer benefits to make your employees excited about coming in to work each day. Consider offering bonding opportunities, like "family dinners." Always be the kind of boss you would want to report to.

  • Consider your restaurant staff's health. Regularly check in to see if employees are satisfied. Handling staff issues may seem like just another item on your to-do list. However, the more available you are to employees, the fewer issues will arise.

5. Retain top restaurant employees

If your turnover is higher than the industry average of 75%, it's time you consider improving your restaurant employee retention. There are multiple ways to address staff sentiment and course-correct before valued team members resign. Here are just a few:

  • Implement regular employee surveys. By sending out anonymous surveys on a monthly, quarterly, or biannual basis, you can gauge how staff members feel about their role, the team, supervisors, and the overall restaurant environment.

  • Hold one-on-ones with employees. One-on-one meetings can uncover valuable insights into how effectively your organization is supporting its staff. During these meetings, be sure to let employees speak without interruption, interjecting only as needed. Doing so will help employees feel valued as they express any feedback or concerns.

  • Give praise where praise is due. Practice recognizing accomplishments both big and small. Try to give positive feedback in real-time — or write compliments down to share later. Employees will feel encouraged and appreciate that their hard work is being honored.

  • Make performance reviews count. Let go of the traditional review structure where employees are told how they're doing. Instead, open up a dialogue about how staff members see themselves contributing to growth. Have a two-sided conversation about their goals and discuss how to cultivate skills in order to get there.

At the end of the day, the food business comes down to people: the employees that clock into work every day, the owners that inspire them, and the diners they serve. Satisfaction starts in-house, and investing in company culture is one of the smartest decisions you'll ever make.

Employees love your restaurant—and with DoorDash, customers will too. Sign up today and find out why.


Suzanne Tran

Suzanne Tran

Growth Marketing Lead

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