7 Signs of a Good Restaurant Employee 

Have you hired a good employee? Every restaurant owner likes to think so, but what’s the mark of a truly good employee versus a merely decent one?

Here are 7 signs that you’ve hired quality restaurant employees:

  • Punctual
  • Thick-skinned
  • Adaptable 
  • Customer-focused
  • Hard-working
  • Knowledgeable 
  • Positive

Ahead, we’ll examine the aforementioned traits of a good restaurant employee so you can create the litmus test that you’ll compare all current and future employees to. There’s great info to come, so keep reading! 

1. They’re Punctual 

Punctuality may seem like a small thing in a restaurant employee until your new hire shows up late every single day.

We’re not just talking a couple of minutes late, which happens to everybody at some point. Your employee will show up 30, 40, sometimes even 60 minutes late, and sometimes even over an hour late.

Once they’ve missed that much time, you can be certain that your employee has left their fellow restaurant workers in the lurch. 

Someone has had to cover for them, which means that someone else is covering the responsibilities of the employee covering for the original employee, and so on. It becomes this chain reaction of people covering for others.

When someone is punctual, it’s because they care. They respect your time and they have good time management.

They know what time to wake up to get ready with enough time to go. They can leave their home with ample time to reach your restaurant. 

Maybe they even arrive a couple of minutes early and will wait to clock in until the start of their shift. It’s always better to have more time than less! 

Now, we want to reiterate that even punctual employees will be late from time to time. However, these occurrences will be so rare that you’ll easily let them slide. 

2. They’re Thick-Skinned

The restaurant industry can be rather cruel. Customers are mean, bosses can be demanding, and fellow employees can bark orders.

A good restaurant employee has to know not to take any of that personally. If a customer is unhappy with their meal, it’s not like the server cooked it. And if they did cook the meal, then they can’t dwell on it.

There’s far too much going on in the restaurant at any given time to mope or feel bad. If a restaurant employee is in a bad mood, it reflects in everything they do.

They won’t greet customers with the same degree of enthusiasm, which customers will notice. The employee might slip up on the job, which can land them in even hotter water than they were already in. 

The best restaurant employees are thick-skinned. That doesn’t mean they’re unfeeling. They have emotions, but they know how to keep them in check. 

Maybe, if something has been nagging at them all day, they get upset about it during a break or after work. That’s fine, as they’re only human, after all.

However, when on the clock, this employee knows that professionalism must reign supreme. No matter whether they got chewed out by their boss or a customer, they let it roll off their back and continue right on to the next assignment. 

3. They Can Adapt to Any Situation

In any restaurant, the tides change at such a fast pace that it can sometimes be hard for even seasoned employees to keep up.

Situations are switched up on a dime, and a good restaurant employee will anticipate that and be ready to adapt to any situation that comes their way.

An employee called out sick 10 minutes before their shift started? No problem. This employee will gladly cover for them.

Someone forgot to take out the meat to let it thaw and it’s too frozen to use? Okay, it’s time to improvise.

Your restaurant runs out of a chief ingredient due to higher-than-anticipated demand? They’ll find a way to keep the customers happy even without that main item on the menu. 

These changes may happen from day to day or even on the same day. Regardless, a good restaurant employee can handle a couple of stray curveballs throughout their day with aplomb.

They don’t sweat the small stuff, and they’re quick on their feet. They can come up with viable solutions fast or work on a team to prepare an alternate plan.

They don’t complain when things change or raise a fuss when they have to work longer or take on additional responsibilities. They shoulder the burden and keep their nose to the grindstone. 

4. They’re Customer-Focused

Customers are the lifeblood of a restaurant. Without them, you have no one to serve and your establishment would soon be forced to shutter its doors. 

Hiring employees who are anything less than customer-focused is a huge mistake. You’re ensuring that your staff won’t do their best for customer satisfaction.

Holding onto long-term customers may be a struggle and winning new customers will prove difficult as well.

The best restaurant employees are more customer-focused than most others. They’re ultra-dedicated to customer service and will do whatever they can to improve the customer experience while patrons dine at your establishment.

They’re the friendly faces your customers see when they first walk through the door. They rush to the customer’s table to serve them, have a great rapport with most customers they talk to, and can rattle off menu items without looking.

They deliver food quickly, process a customer’s bill fast, and will deliver exact change right away to make sure that the customers aren’t stuck waiting at the table when they just want to go home. 

If a customer has a complaint or a question, this employee will do their best to address the issue or recommend the customer talk to someone else at the restaurant who can do a better job at helping. 

5. They Work Hard

You can easily tell the hard workers apart from those who don’t really have their hearts in it.

A hard-working restaurant employee will be punctual as we talked about because they don’t want to shortchange anyone else or add to their responsibilities. They do their job and don’t complain.

If there are additional tasks that need to be taken on, which is normal at a restaurant, they volunteer to take over. They’re not in the breakroom, outside, or mysteriously vanished whenever tasks are being doled out.

Instead, they’re front and center, and that’s each and every time, too.

If this employee has to stay a bit longer to ensure that the restaurant gets cleaned up or a customer’s late bill gets processed or food ingredients get unloaded for the next morning, then they’ll gladly do it.

They’re not in it for the overtime pay or the brownie points. They don’t want the recognition or the glory of being the hero of the day.

Rather, they just want to do a good job.

If a restaurant employee is willing to work hard, it usually goes back to their customer focus. These employees are so willing to do what it takes to excel at the restaurant for customer satisfaction that they don’t mind putting in long hours or doing difficult work. 

6. They’re Knowledgeable 

When a customer asks a restaurant employee what they recommend on the menu and they don’t have an answer–or, worse yet–when their answer is “I don’t know,” this reflects poorly on the entire restaurant. 

The best restaurant employees know their stuff. Now, we’re not saying that they have to be walking, talking encyclopedias of all things restaurant, but they know a lot. 

They know more than you might think they should considering they may not be bartenders or cooks or even sous chefs.

In other words, your employee is a jack-of-all-trades, someone who knows a little about everything.

They can recommend drinks on the menu as well as dishes, as they’ve personally tried the menu themselves. They can point customers in the direction of who they might want to talk to about specific issues. 

They’re restaurant-savvy and it shows. Their knowledge elevates them beyond the regular caliber of employees, making you wish that all your staff could be like that! 

7. They Always Stay Positive 

Above all else, a good restaurant employee is positive. 

As we said before, the restaurant industry can be cruel. It’s also cutthroat and incredibly unforgiving. 

No matter what kind of day this employee has had, they always arrive chipper and greet customers with a genuine smile on their face.

They have a natural brightness that shines through their demeanor and never seems fabricated or faked.

If a customer is upset, this employee does not lose their cool. Rather, they keep right on smiling and will work hard to make it right. 

No matter what happens to them personally or professionally, their bright disposition doesn’t waver.

You’ll see that customers naturally gravitate towards employees like this because who doesn’t like a friendly disposition? 

As an additional bonus, this employee probably collects some pretty great tips as well! 


A good restaurant employee isn’t merely one thing but an amalgamation of traits that altogether make up one of the most desirable hires you could ever hope to land. 

If you don’t have any employees that you would constitute as good employees based on these criteria, then it’s time to improve your hiring and training measures. These employees are out there, but you just have to find them! 

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