8 Mistakes Most Restaurant Owners Make When It Comes to Hiring and Managing Employees


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Restaurant owners wear a lot of hats: personnel manager, HR recruiter, marketing director, chef, bartender, and host. Depending on the night, they may be filling in for sick employees or meeting a prominent investor.

Hiring and managing employees often gets lost in the other demands of running a restaurant.

But more so than any other industry, the hospitality business depends on skillful, happy workers who take pride in their craft and engage with customers every day.

These common recruitment and management mistakes undermine the success of even the strongest restaurants. Understanding their negative impact helps you to reroute your approach, developing new ways to find, train, and manage employees:

1. You Haven’t Clarified the Role

A lot of business owners know they need to hire new employees, but they can’t identify the specifics of each role. However, bringing on employees without defined job descriptions makes it impossible for new hires to succeed — there’s no path to a positive outcome.

According to the Small Business Association, every job description should clearly state the responsibilities of the role. Include specific tasks, goals, and processes, as well as information on how their contributions add to the workings of the business. Even if you hire through word-of-mouth marketing, take the extra time to draft up an accurate job description.

2. You Sugarcoat the Job

Restaurant jobs are incredibly rewarding, but they’re not always glamorous. Creating a fulfilling work experience requires that you’re transparent around expectations. You need to be honest with potential employees about tough hours and any physical requirements. If you’re hiring hostesses, for example, they need to know that the job requires standing for eight hours at a time.

Instead of misleading job candidates, talk through any hesitations and express an emphasis on career development. Create meaningful ways for employees to grow professionally, no matter how difficult or menial their work seems.

3. You Low-Ball Compensation

Although servers rely primarily on tips, all restaurant employees fall into hourly and salaried categories. To stay competitive as an employer, offer market-rate (or above market-rate) compensation. If you lag in your pay, job candidates are less likely to sign on to work for you and more likely to leave as soon as they find better-paying gigs.

The upfront expenses of recruiting and training a new employee mean it costs less to pay a higher salary that develops a longstanding relationship with the best hire. In other words, by spending extra on employees, you save money by attracting more productive workers and decreasing turnover.

4. You Shy Away From Internal Promotions

Restaurant owners often rely on a network of external candidates for management positions rather than their own employees. However, promoting from within your business ensures that you know someone’s work ethic and performance before making a commitment. It also garners loyalty among your staff.

Elena Hobson believes that restaurant businesses benefit from identifying leaders early in their careers. Hobson started as a part-time cook at Jack and the Box in 1977, and now she’s a vice president at the company. She told the National Restaurant Association, “Look for people who show a passion for the business and for taking care of customers. They show pride in the food and in keeping the restaurant clean.” These employees are the backbone of a restaurant, contributing to high standards and a positive work community.

 5. You Don’t Properly Onboard New Hires

Training new employees is just as important to the hiring process as interviewing candidates. Without proper onboarding, your staff can’t contribute to the restaurant. Develop a process that empowers new employees through these basic steps:

  • Announce new hires at restaurant-wide meetings
  • Plan an onboarding day
  • Require job shadowing or stage training
  • Give each new hire a mentor
  • Offer regular feedback

Research continually suggests that onboarding processes increase employee performance, drive retention rates, and decrease the anxiety of new hires. To set a strong foundation for a working relationship, engage employees from the beginning.

6. You Forget to Delegate

Restaurant owners have a lot on their plates, but they often forget to delegate. By giving more responsibility to employees, you offer professional development opportunities and make people feel like valued members of a team.

Ask your employees to develop professionals goals for their time at work, and allocate extra tasks that help them to grow. When you offer more responsibility, make sure that you develop an accountability system. Clearly communicate expectations and regularly check-in to keep individuals on track.

7. You Don’t Offer More Flexible Schedules

When hourly employees list their challenges, they always mention scheduling. In restaurants, it’s difficult for workers to balance their personal priorities with long hours, and it’s a challenge for them to ask for time off. A disorganized scheduling system leaves employees disgruntled and burnt out, prompting people to look for work elsewhere.

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8. You Don’t Appreciate Your Staff

Employee appreciation is an important aspect of any work environment. With turnover on the rise in the hospitality industry, it’s even more important that restaurant owners say “thank you.” By showing your team that you genuinely care about their well-being, you add to their lives while increasing engagement and retention rates.

As Rebecca Ray, an employee engagement expert summarized for Fast Company, “ If you have a boss who cares about you, is interested in your development . . . if you find someone who has your back and has your best interests at heart, and wants to see you become better and more down the road, that’s one very powerful cocktail.” When bosses care about their team, they foster a group of people who also care about their customers.

By hiring and managing the best employees the right way, restaurant owners minimize the challenges of a competitive industry. Avoiding these common mistakes, you build a thriving business with a team that feels valued and successful.

8 Mistakes Most Restaurant Owners Make When It Comes to Hiring and Managing Employees