Staffing the Foodservice Industry: Best Practices for Hiring in Your Kitchen

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Trust20 Contributors • 7 minute read

Staffing is always top of mind for managers in the foodservice industry, and many learn about how to hire the right people by inadvertently hiring the wrong ones.

You know that your kitchen is only as efficient as the team you have running it, and a cohesive team can save you time and money. But how do you hire the right talent?

In this blog, we will cover some hiring best practices for your kitchen. We’ll discuss:

Why Hiring the Right Staff is Important

What to Look for in a Foodservice Employee

Hiring Best Practices for Food Managers

Why Hiring the Right Staff is Important

As a manager or operator, hiring the best people is one of the most important things you can do to protect your business and run a smooth operation.

After all, foodservice is a high-pressure industry. The right staff can make all the difference, from providing excellent customer service to ensuring the kitchen operates like a well-oiled machine. Moreover, a great team helps to reduce wasted time and resources and keeps the customers satisfied–and coming back for more.

Hiring the right people also plays a crucial role in fostering a positive culture within the kitchen. Good work culture will always attract, retain, and motivate top talent.

Let's not forget about safety. In a kitchen, diseases, plagues, and infections are the most feared entities, and as foodservice professionals, you need to be wary of intentional contamination. Hiring the right staff can help eliminate risks from staff members who may intentionally cause contamination, leading to food poisoning or food-related illnesses.

4 Important Traits to Look for in a Foodservice Candidate

Staffing a foodservice business means finding people with the right combination of soft and hard skills–or a strong enthusiasm for learning. Read on for some traits that are green flags that you should be on the lookout for in your candidates!

1. Adaptability

Every day brings new challenges to foodservice establishments, from the lunch rush to unexpected appliances breaking down. Successful people are agile and willing to pivot their plans at the drop of a hat.

They should take advice positively and be open to criticism to learn new techniques or try different approaches. This attitude helps create a great working environment with a team that collaborates seamlessly to get the job done.

Sample interview question: What do you say to a customer if you find out that the kitchen is out of a particular item they ordered?

2. Attention to Detail

A foodservice business must ensure everything is prepared quickly, correctly, and precisely. This means your team needs people who are detail-oriented and time-conscious.

They need to be organized and able to communicate effectively with their teammates. This will help eliminate confusion and mistakes that can derail orders and leave customers unhappy.

It's also crucial for employees to know how to prioritize tasks, ensuring that the most important tasks are done first, and the secondary ones are still completed before the shift ends.

Sample interview question: You need to roll silverware, remove dirty dishes from your tables, and greet a new set of customers. What order would you approach your work in?

3. Team Player

If one station fails in the service process, it can lead to a chain reaction that affects the whole customer experience. Therefore, working well with others in the kitchen is essential.

This individual should be able to communicate effectively with their workmates, maintain a positive attitude, and be ready to assist others who may require help. Great teamwork requires making individual sacrifices and putting the team's objectives first.

Sample interview question: It’s a busy shift, and customers in your teammate’s section asked you for a refill on their drinks while you were passing by. What would you do?

4. Reliable 

A series of missed shifts, a failed health inspection, or a case of food poisoning can be disastrous for a foodservice business. This means you need people you can count on to show up and be thorough each and every shift.

It should go without saying, but anyone you hire should be able to commit to the schedule that you both agree on. They should be willing to implement the training you provide during onboarding and follow any cleaning guidelines to a T.

Sample interview question: How often does your availability fluctuate? Will you need to adjust your schedule regularly?

Hiring Best Practices for Food Managers

Whether you’re getting ready to do your first round of hiring or preparing to add seasonal staff to your team, zeroing in on a clear hiring process will help smooth out your search. Read on for a few tips and tricks for refining your next round of recruitment!

1. Determine Your Ideal Candidate

Getting extremely clear about the characteristics and experience of your ideal candidate(s) will save you a lot of time and money in the hiring process–not to mention aggravation. Before you start your search, ask yourself:

  • What qualifications and experience are required for this position?

  • What are the personal qualities and traits of your ideal candidate?

  • How do you determine that your candidate will fit into your company culture?

2. Identify the Skills of Your Top Employees

Consider what skill sets make your current top performers stand out. Ensure you identify the required skills for the role's success and mention them in your job posts.

You can also use this information to guide your interview questions and assess the candidate's compatibility with your ideal employee. Remember, hard skills are essential, but matching your company's culture is important, too.

3. Craft a Job Posting You Would Click On

Your job post is the first opportunity to attract the right candidates. While a template may inspire you, you want to customize it to your needs.

Here are some best practices to create a compelling job post:

  • Emphasize pay, company culture, growth opportunities, and other benefits.

  • Research to stay competitive. A quick look at similar job postings will give you an idea of what other companies offer. Make sure your salary and benefits package is competitive.

  • Lead with any benefits or perks your company offers. Start your listing with the most enticing element of the job, whether there are employee perks, the salary, or the work environment. Sell what makes you unique.

  • Customize the listing to the intricacies of your business. If you are looking to hire a chef, the job description should mention the style of cooking, type of cuisine, and equipment used in your kitchen.

If you're posting online (which, let's face it, most of us do nowadays), make sure you also use search engine optimization (SEO). Use industry-specific keywords to make your job posts easier to find (i.e., if you are looking for a sous chef, include that specific phrase in your post).

4. Diversify Where You Post

Don't limit yourself to just one job posting site; there are several free and paid platforms available that you can use to reach a wider pool of candidates.

Also, consider creating social media accounts for your business and use them to post job openings. You can also network with industry peers to reach candidates who may not be actively searching for a job. 

5. Use Pre-Screening Questions to Filter Disengaged Applicants

Pre-screening questions effectively filter out unqualified or disengaged applicants. You can use online assessments or questionnaires to ask candidates about their availability, previous experience, and skills. This allows you to identify the top candidates and focus on them.

You can also use pre-screening questions to assess the candidate's communication skills and willingness to learn–two important qualities for any foodservice position.

6. Always Check References

Checking references is integral to the hiring process. A candidate may look perfect on paper, but getting feedback from their references about their work performance and personality is crucial.

Contact their previous employers and ask specific questions about their job responsibilities, work ethic, teamwork skills, and punctuality. This will help you gain insight into the candidate's work history and style.

7. Communicate Clearly–and Often

Communicating with candidates throughout the hiring process is essential. Be quick in responding to applicants and their questions. Send interview reminders and follow-ups, and be clear about what you need from them.

Effective communication can help you build relationships with your candidates, improving their experience and increasing the likelihood that they will accept your job offer.

8. Formalize the Interview Process

Make sure you have a standard set of questions to help you compare candidates effectively. Commit the right amount of time and attention to each of your interviews to help you leave a positive impression on the candidate, making them more likely to accept a job offer if one is presented.

9. Schedule Interviews Quickly

Timing is everything regarding job interviews. Once you've identified suitable candidates, ensuring your interview process runs smoothly starts with setting up interview times quickly.

If there's too much waiting around, candidates will most likely look elsewhere, wasting resources and time for your company.

10. Incentivize Retention

Incentives tell your candidates and existing staff that you’re invested in their well-being and value their contribution to the team. Free meals, a guaranteed holiday off, continuing education, and recognition programs are all perks that have been shown to raise team morale–and boost retention rates.

11. Start Seasonal Hiring Early

If your business experiences a seasonal rush, it's vital to start hiring early so you can avoid any last-minute scrambling. This ensures you have enough staff to manage the increased workload while ensuring new hires have enough time to get up to speed.

12. Organize the Onboarding Process

An effective onboarding process is critical to the success of every new team member. It sets the tone for their entire experience–and can determine whether they stick around for the long haul.

The bare minimum should include an orientation day, shadow shifts, a few training sessions, and clear guidelines for who to go to for ongoing support. You can make it easier on yourself (and cheaper!) by purchasing training materials from an accredited provider like Trust20.

Final Thoughts

Hiring the right people is key to running an efficient kitchen, but it's not always easy. Investing in the right people today can pay big dividends tomorrow, so don't be afraid to put in the work upfront.

While there's no perfect formula for a successful hiring process, following these best practices can enhance your chances of finding and retaining the best talent.

What are you waiting for? It's time to put together your dream team!

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