Even if you’re the mastermind behind your restaurant, your waitstaff still fulfills incredibly important roles. They greet customers, take orders, deliver food, process payments, and ensure the guests are enjoying their meal and their experience. How do you hire the right waitstaff?
Here are 5 must-see tips to help you hire the right waiter:
- Write a compelling, ultra-informative job description
- Ask the right interview questions
- Focus more on attitude than experience
- Try a probation period
- Do check references
Although the above bullet points make it sound easy, we recognize that hiring the right waiter is often anything but. By following the tips we’ll talk about ahead, you should find great waitstaff and possibly reduce employee turnover at your restaurant!
1. Write a Compelling and Ultra-Informative Job Description
If you’re not pleased with the quality of candidates that your listing has attracted, don’t necessarily blame the candidates. You might have to blame the job listing.
A listing that only asks for the bare minimum requirements because you were going for brevity or simplicity is naturally going to attract job candidates who do the bare minimum or have the bare minimum level of experience.
If you want a waiter with a certain level of experience or one who possesses certain qualities, don’t make it a guessing game. Come right out and say what you’re looking for when writing your job listing.
Be clear on what the job entails as well. In the listing, state the hours and days of work, the type of job responsibilities you’ll expect out of your waitstaff, and what kind of environment your restaurant has.
Oh, and above all, give at least a pay estimate.
These are the criteria that viable candidates are going to use to determine whether they should apply for the job.
You’ll also ensure that the interviews go more smoothly. For example, you won’t get as many questions about pay (maybe some about specific dollar amounts) or job responsibilities if all that information was in the listing.
Of course, putting together a comprehensive job listing with a full, detailed job description does not mean that you’ll weed out all candidates who don’t fit or who maybe aren’t as serious about the position.
Those people will apply because they’ll apply for any available job. However, you’ll have far fewer of those candidates and far more candidates who are interested and qualified.
2. Ask the Right Interview Questions
As you collect and review resumes and cover letters, you’ll begin to categorize waitstaff job candidates by those who seem viable and those who you do not wish to meet.
From the first pool, you’ll select a variety of candidates to interview over the days and possibly even the weeks to come.
Just as a bland job description doesn’t produce quality waiters, a cursory interview doesn’t either.
The interview, whether it’s the only one or part of a series, is your chance to learn about your candidate and make a hiring decision.
You want to ask a variety of questions to get a feel for how well this person would gel with your restaurant staff.
Here are some questions we recommend you ask during the interview:
- Tell me about a conflict at work. How did you handle it? Why do you think that was effective?
- Why are you suited for this position?
- What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
- Do you feel that you work better independently or on a team?
- Tell me about a time you’ve had an angry customer at a past job. How did you handle it?
- When do you feel the last time was that you went above and beyond for a customer or guest?
- Have you eaten at our restaurant before? If so, what stood out to you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Have you worked in the restaurant industry before? How much experience do you have?
- What made you choose to work in the restaurant industry?
Some of these questions are traditional questions that you’ll hear during any job interview, but many of them are restaurant-specific to help you choose the right candidate.
3. Focus More on Attitude Than Experience
For many jobs within your restaurant, experience trumps everything else.
You wouldn’t hire a brand-new sous chef because they’re willing to do the job or a bartender who’s passionate about making drinks but otherwise inexperienced. That’s a great way to overwhelm your new hire and end up with a bevy of customer complaints.
However, when it comes to hiring waitstaff, it’s a bit different. Your new waiter can be trained to excel in the roles you’ll put them in, so their job is a lot less experience-based than a bartender or sous chef.
There are some things in waitstaff that you simply cannot teach, and attitude is one of them.
If the waiter you’re interviewing maybe isn’t the most experienced candidate that you’ve met but they have a great attitude that’s people-pleasing and customer-centric, you might decide to hire them.
So what kind of attitude traits are you looking for in a waiter besides always being willing to go above and beyond for the customer? Here are some important traits a good waiter should have:
- Leadership: A waiter is a part of a team, and while that team has no definable leader, your new waiter should not be afraid to assume a leadership role among the other waitstaff when the situation calls for it.
- Productivity: While you can teach an employee to be productive, it all boils down to their overall attitude. Some people are innately productive and eager to get things done while others don’t mind killing time. You want a waiter who’s more the former than the latter.
- Good at working under pressure: Working in a restaurant is almost always high-pressure. If the new waiter has prior restaurant experience, then this should come as no surprise to them. Nevertheless, they should be able to work under pressure and not crack.
- Good with colleagues: The friendliness of your new waiter should extend beyond your customers to the other waitstaff and employees of the restaurant as well. The waiter need not be everyone’s best friend, but they should be cordial with everyone they meet.
- Efficient: How accurately can the waiter take down an order? How fast can they process payments? How smooth are the transactions? The more efficient the new hire is, the better.
4. Try a Probation Period
Has your restaurant experienced a lot of employee turnover lately? The restaurant turnover rate is higher than in any other industry, so it’s going to happen.
According to 2018 stats from Toast POS, that year, the restaurant turnover rate was 74.9 percent.
You’ll hire employees who think they’re cut out for working in the restaurant industry who realize they aren’t. Others will think the job is too hard and just stop coming in. Others still will receive another offer and stop showing up without telling anyone.
Then, you have to do the hard task of firing some employees.
One way to fight back against turnover as a restaurant owner is to bring in new employees on a probation period. For the next three or four months, the employee is there on a trial basis only.
During this time, you’ll evaluate them based on the criteria above to determine how efficiently they’re doing their jobs.
If you’re not pleased with the quality of your waiter, then because they were on probation and not under contract, it’s easy enough to begin interviewing for the waiter role once again.
Should you decide that a probationary period is suitable for your new waiter, then you should include this information in your job listing. You’d also want to bring it up again during the job interview.
5. Do Check References
Do you ask for references with a job candidate’s cover letter? They’re always good to have, but you’ll admit, you don’t check many references.
We’re not asking you to call every reference for every job candidate who applies to your position. That would be insane and a tremendous waste of your time.
What you should do is check the references of the few remaining candidates who you’re considering for the open waiter position.
Call these people, ask some questions, and get to know who your potential new hire is from others.
The references will usually be glowing–there’s a reason the job candidate chose these people, after all–but honest.
You’ll gain insights into the job candidate that they themselves might not have presented, and that can be tremendously useful in your hiring decision.
There you have it, five tips to help you hire your next open waiter position. Many of these tips are applicable to other open positions that may arise in your restaurant and are the key to finding quality candidates who want to be there.
Good luck hiring your next waiter!