Finding the right staff

He seems experienced, but how can you be sure this waiter you’ve just hired is the right guy for your restaurant?

He seems experienced, but how can you be sure this waiter you’ve just hired is the right guy for your restaurant?

Finding and hiring the right team can be a nightmare of negotiations, but there are golden rules to getting it right. Ten of them, actually

It’s often said that a business is only as good as the people it employs, but how to determine just who are the right people can be one of the toughest tasks any employer ever faces.

But there are ways to get it right. With wise insights and lessons-hard-learned from industry experts, Restaurant & Catering magazine reveals the Top 10 Tips on Creating a Winning Team.

1. The message

Advertising a position is no longer just a display notice in the newspaper. “In today’s connected environment, there are many new tools, techniques and channels in which to advertise, making your talent pool so much bigger,” says Cynthia Logan of LifeWorks counselling. “Use social media and get the word out that you are looking for staff—Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin can all be harnessed to advertise your role and increase your reach.” Business coach Lisa Murray of Revive Coaching stresses what is stated in the ad should be clear. “Ensure your advertisement stands out,” she says. “Use questions and language that demonstrate what makes your business different. This has a greater chance of attracting a response from your ideal employee.”

2. The schools connection

Connection with good schools can offer an introduction to the best new talents. Industry consultant Michael Fischer recalls when he was running his own restaurants, having a relationship with various schools provided a fresh flow of new intern talent. “Every so often there was a student who shone through,” he says. “It was our ability to select those kids and offer them something interesting that worked—90 per cent of my apprentices started through this program. It enabled us to see their attitude to work and gave them more experience when they started as apprentice.”

3. The road you take

How you go about what you are looking for can make a big difference in the applicants you attract, says Cynthia Logan. “Be clear about what you really need,” she says. “Even if you don’t put together a formal position description, be sure to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the job. If you don’t understand what you really need, you won’t get the right person.” Sacha Meier of Lorne’s Ba Ba Lu Bar in Victoria adds that one dynamic should be driving the interview—your questions and how they are being asked. “Have a clear set of questions to ask, and then rate all their answers.”

4. Personal presentation

How the applicant presents is as important as what is on their resume. “A book is always judged by its cover,” says Shane Delia of Maha, Melbourne. “Perception is everything and new staff will be judged on first impressions. New staff need to present themselves in a manner that shows confidence, respect and personality, and then let their actions do the talking.” Meier says applicants who think before they present should also be noted. “You want keen applicants who are smart and come calling at the appropriate time—not during service times. And ensure you set up a time for an interview and never do it on the spot as this gives the feeling of desperation.”

5. Client service

The applicant has to understand the meaning of the term ‘service industry’.

“You want staff who are customer-focused. If they don’t like customers or people generally, then they shouldn’t be in the service industry,” says Chris Lucas of Pearl, Melbourne.

And an applicant must show an insight into what a job in service really demands, adds Delia. “It is important to be able to read both people and the market and adapt whenever it is needed,” he says. “Each client’s expectations, needs and perceptions are different, so they need to be treated differently and appropriately. People forget we are in the hospitality industry, so staff need to be hospitable.”

6. The right attitude

The applicant should offers a ‘will-do-and-can-do’ attitude. “A good attitude is non-negotiable,” says Brad Leahy of Perth’s Blue Water Grill. “Possessing a positive attitude is a must,” he stresses. “You can teach skills to someone that wants to learn, but trying to teach the other way around is a waste of valuable time. Negativity only works against you and your customers.”

Coach Lisa Murray says the right attitude needs to be spotted in the initial meeting. “Ask attitude-revealing questions during the interview and when you reference check. Be thorough in checking for attitudinal issues,” she claims. “A great question to ask (during reference checks) is, ‘If you were giving Sam some support for professional or personal development, what area of study would he most benefit from?’”

7. Reference check

A few minutes checking references might reveal more than an hour-long interview.

Brad Leahy says an intense study of the resume and speaking to previous employers are a must before hiring an applicant. “I find it very hard to even consider a prospective employee if they have had a number of jobs in the last year,” he says. “You want someone that can hold down a position for a few years, at least.” LifeWorks’ Cynthia Logan says checking through all references can provide the best insight of all. “It is also good to check with referees who are two employers back on the chronological list for a more honest opinion,” she says. “It is not unheard of for current employers to say someone is good just so they can move them on!”

8. One of the team

“You want someone who is positive, and almost should see his or her position as if the business was theirs,” says Chris Lucas. “They have to take a team approach. Incisiveness with a strong sense of teamwork is essential as no single person has all the skills in today’s world—the demands are simply too high.”

In such close quarters it is an essential, adds Shane Delia. “Staff has to get along with the people they work closely with. And one bad seed can spread like cancer through your team. No matter how good they may be on paper, if they don’t fit in your business dynamic, then they just won’t fit.”

9. Trust your instincts

First impressions should count for plenty when sizing up the suitability of the applicant. “If in doubt—no go!” says Cynthia Logan. “If you are not sure, don’t hire them.” Revive’s Lisa Murray says if the wrong choice is indeed made, then do something to rectify it. “Know what your vision is for your restaurant and what type of culture will support this,” Murray says.

“Employ only people who fit your culture, no matter how good their skills are. A bad fit culturally will hamper the performance of the whole team. Fire quickly if there is a poor fit—never suffer!”

10. On trial

“New recruits should be put on a trial period,” says Greg Malouf of Messa, Melbourne. “I usually make a better judgement from a two hour trial when hiring a chef. It’s their body language, presentation, sense of urgency and kitchen survival skills that maketh the chef!” Sacha Meier suggests financial terms should be used as an incentive. “Pay them the lowest wage to start and then after a week or two trial put it up to show reward for good work,” he says. “Increase it over time and if they come back each year, put it up if they are getting better.”

This great content is produced for members of the Restaurant & Catering Association. Find out about becoming a member here.

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