Staffing & Employment

Staffing & Employment

The type of employee you need for your food service business depends on the type of business you have. What will be required in terms of skills, experience, polish and compensation will be completely different if you are a fast food operation versus a Four Star, white linen, upscale French restaurant.

The Fast Food Crowd

If you are a fast food establishment (aka “Quick Service Restaurant”), you probably pay close to minimum wage for entry level-type people because your profit margins are thin and you wage a constant battle to maintain profitability. To avoid legal and benefit costs, you hire many part-time people, your turnover is noticeable, you have to do a lot of training, and your biggest challenges center on employee compliance. So, whom do you hire? Where do you find them?

In all likelihood, the richest source of qualified people will be students who need a part-time schedule that is flexible; hiring people with disabilities which you can accommodate, and the state unemployment office. A basic interview, maybe a reference check or two, and then a probationary hire (30-to 90-work day probationary period, during which people who can’t learn, follow prescribed processes, have a “spotty” attendance record, etc., are terminated) is the best means you will have to get people.

A Step Up

The middle market foods service establishments (sit-down meals, in-and-out in 60 to 90 minutes, no drive-up windows, more than the 2-3 “seating’s” per shift) will be markedly different from the Quick Service establishments in terms of kind and quality of potential hires it attracts. Here, while minimum wage may be the hourly pay rate, there is an opportunity to earn tips from customers which can add up to a reasonable, “livable” income. Probably the best source of employees for these establishments are either referrals by current employees or putting the word out selectively that you have a need for servers, runners, bartenders, chefs, etc.

While not upscale food service, this is the first stepping stone for someone considering a career in the restaurant industry. Chefs and food “preparers” can also be recruited from one of the many culinary schools throughout the country. Most restaurant/food service managers do interview people for positions, but the industry has learned that the “practical examination” of observing someone perform and then deciding very quickly if the newly hired person is acceptable is the best test of someone’s ability to be successful. Also, often a restaurant/food service establishment asks current employees for names of people with whom they have worked or have known in order to get introduced to potential new hires.

Top of the Line

For the upscale food service establishments, people are usually beating the doors down to get a position, and such establishments can be very selective about whom they hire and put in front of loyal customers. In such establishments, whether you are a food preparer or a wait staff professional, a reasonable living can be made by being one of the special few who do well in such a setting. The quality of the people working in these establishments (i.e., know and recommend good wine selections to complement a meal that they can fully describe in terms of taste, seasoning, preparation, etc.) and their ability to cater to the high-end customer base is a key ingredient in the composition of the fine dining experience.

A note of caution: There are some positions in food service establishments that are suited to people who may have language and skill issues, so food service and restaurants have been targeted by enforcement agencies looking to find undocumented workers. Potential employers should be sure to complete the I-9 form process that requires a potential employee to show proof of eligibility to work in the U.S.

Talent Search

So, if you need to hire people who have the skills, certification, training and experience mentioned above, where do you find them? A quick internet search will give you contact information for schools and other facilities which provide training for the kinds of hires you may be looking for. Also, with today’s social media, using your list of key contacts by letting them know you have a specific employment need will probably satisfy your talent search faster than you can imagine.

If you use your search engine to query “employment agencies near {zip code},” not only will you get names of a variety of hiring agencies that can relatively quickly provide you with suitable candidates but you will also see a number of boards on which you may post your job opening at virtually no cost.

In today’s world, it is also a must to make certain that every person you hire is fully trained and fluent at using today’s virtual workplace tools. Most food service ordering is done electronically, so having these skills is a necessity not only for food service but also for the economic transactions that are becoming more and more electronic/bar code/magnetic strip-oriented.

Please refer to the Human Resource information for further suggestions on finding and hiring employees and staff.

Safety & Cleanliness

In restaurants and food service, safety and hygiene training must cover everything from food preparation to alcohol distribution. Even the simplest of food-safety concepts like portioning, hand washing, glove usage, equipment-cleaning techniques, thermometer usage and determining correct food temperatures must be covered. More importantly, any establishment that has been reported to have caused a food-borne disease outbreak has suffered from a business perspective – either from being closed by local authorities until the problem is corrected or from business being curtailed because the establishment’s reputation has suffered. For both reasons, health and safety concerns must be a continuing priority for all food establishments.