How to Hire Smartly for your Restaurant

How to Hire Smartly for your Restaurant

Restaurant success depends largely on assembling the right team. But what are the qualifications to look for in your restaurant employment candidates? This guide will help answer the questions you have about how to pre-qualify potential restaurant staff during the interview phase.

For each of the key positions in the restaurant you’ll learn the minimum qualifications. We’ll discuss the challenges inherent in the position, the personality traits and skills necessary to excel.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

6 Core Qualities Needed For Restaurant Staff

There are some traits that are universal to all staff positions in the restaurant. Front of house, back of house, management, servers and waitstaff all need to work together. This list of qualities should be found in any qualified candidate.

  1. Problem Solver — Things move quickly in the restaurant and thinking on your feet is important.
  2. Resistant to Stress — You need people who can adapt to rapidly changing scenarios without losing their cool.
  3. Team Player — Being able to follow directions and take orders is vital as the management structure in a restaurant has a clear hierarchy.
  4. Positive Outlook — This doesn’t mean being happy all the time, it means focusing on a successful outcome and not being negative when obstacles appear.
  5. Willingness to Grow — Those who are willing to adapt and grow learn faster. They don’t let past habits hold them back. They’re always looking for a way to improve.
  6. Honesty and Integrity — It’s important to find workers who are committed to maintaining a high level of personal integrity, and can admit to their mistakes.


The duties of a restaurant manager are a tall order. The challenges are second only to those of the restaurant owner. A manager must feel personally invested in the restaurant and committed deeply to doing a good job.

Restaurant managers must be exemplary in their ability to exhibit the six core traits of every restaurant employee. They will set an example for the rest of your staff and develop the core traits in new hires.

When hiring a manager look for the following qualifications:

  • At least 2-3 years of restaurant experience
  • Familiar with purchasing and supply
  • Inventory and stock management
  • Supervisory experience
  • Enforcing compliance standards for labor, hygiene, food safety, OSHA
  • Experience designing staff schedules
  • Handling customer complaints
  • Restaurant reporting and bookkeeping
  • Cash management and accounting
  • Hiring and firing staff
  • Administration and paperwork

Assess the type of restaurant experience candidates possess. Processes in a fast casual restaurant are different than fine dining. Look for managers with experience with a similar restaurant concept as yours.

Complete a detailed list of every task your manager will be responsible for and the scope of their duties. Use this as a checklist to assess the completeness of their experience.

To attract qualified candidates make sure your offer is attractive enough. Your management team is the backbone of your restaurant. You need them to feel motivated and invested in the restaurant’s success.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

Kitchen Staff

Restaurant kitchen staff have very demanding jobs. They must work efficiently as a team in a hot and high stress environment. Aside from the chef, kitchen staff pay is usually lower than front of house staff. It’s important they feel they have an opportunity for advancement.

Head Chef

Many times the chef is a business partner in the restaurant. But when they are not, it’s important to know what qualifications to look for. To find an experienced chef who can run back of house you’ll need to attract them with a compensation package commensurate with their skills and experience.

  • Minimum 2-3 years experience running a kitchen
  • Highly organized
  • Knowledgeable of back of house operations
  • Considerable experience with menu design
  • Skilled in menu engineering and food costs
  • Highly knowledgeable about restaurant production equipment
  • Kitchen health and safety regulations certifications
  • Degree or certificate in culinary arts

Based on the concept model your restaurant falls into, your chef should have extensive experience designing the type of cuisine your restaurant features.


Oftentimes cooks have dreams of becoming a chef one day. Make sure to provide opportunities for learning and advancement in the kitchen. In exchange for low pay they are engaged in a type of apprenticeship.

  • Minimum 1-2 years restaurant kitchen experience
  • Skills in food prep (chopping, cutting, peeling, measuring, mixing, etc.)
  • Experience using restaurant equipment (mixers, scales, ovens, ranges)
  • Knowledge of sanitization and cleaning regimens
  • Understanding of food safety guidelines
  • Ability to track and monitor stock levels
  • Bonus: culinary arts certificate

Depending on the type of cuisine your restaurant serves, demands placed on cooks can range from simply working the grill to complex chef-inspired dishes. Make a list with your chef to determine the qualifications. Involve your chef in the hiring process for cooks.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure


Servers have the dual obligation of being both hard working members of the restaurant team while being charming and amiable to guests. Successful servers are comfortable multitasking and aren’t afraid of learning salesmanship to improve their tips.

  • Recommended minimum 1 year of restaurant experience
  • Able to do math in their head accurately
  • Ability to balance large platters full of food
  • Comfortable on their feet and without significant mobility issues
  • Very good memorization skills
  • Knowledge of food safety standards

If you’re opening a new restaurant it is better to hire more experienced servers or at least create a mix. In a new restaurant the patterns have not yet been established so it’s important that new servers can be trained by experienced staff.

When interviewing servers assess their skills by giving them some tricky situations to respond to. For example, if a customer is rude and how they would deal with it.

Bussers and Dishwashers

These support roles in the restaurant are a great place to scout for potential backup on nights when you’re short servers or cooks. Oftentimes bussers and dishwashers are trying to break into the restaurant industry and start here. Typically these positions are filled with part time workers.

Because bussers and dishwashers are a resource for filling future positions in the restaurant it’s important to hire those with a potential for growth. They should exhibit the six core traits of all restaurant staff and simply lack experience.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

Additional Restaurant Staff

If you are running a large scale restaurant with a bar or other different specialty services then you’ll have other positions in the restaurant.

  • Bartenders
  • Hosts
  • Sous Chefs
  • Valet Drivers

Make a list of any additional positions you may need with your managers and chef. Include a detailed description of their duties. While interviewing for the core positions in the restaurant, determine if they may be more suitable for one of these additional positions.


When hiring for your restaurant keep in mind the six core personality traits of every restaurant employee. Make a detailed list of additional positions and their duties.

From this list determine the primary skills and experience that each member of the team should possess. When opening a new restaurant it’s valuable to hire more experienced staff, even if it means paying a bit more for labor.

This guide to how to hire smartly for your restaurant is part of the free resource library for restaurants provided by Rezku. You can find more helpful articles on our library homepage.

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