Ask The Expert: 5 Tips To Staffing Your Restaurant The Right Way

June 28, 2019
You need staff you can trust. You need a team of qualified workers who can help your restaurant succeed and grow. But most importantly, you need to find them fast. But how can you be sure that the staff you are bringing in are right for your business? Restaurant managers don’t have time to waste on employees that aren’t the right fit, so here are five ways to make sure you’re finding the best of the best.

Phil Harbin is the owner of That’s Mine, a restaurant in Miami. We spoke with him to learn the best way to hire new restaurant employees.

Phil Harbin
Phil Harbin is a restaurateur located in Miami. He creates unique concepts in dining like his newest restaurant “That’s Mine” and focuses on mentoring and training his employees. Phil has worked his way up through the ranks at various restaurants, and now acts as the manager of his own establishment. His insight into the restaurant industry comes from decades of experience mixed with his passion for cooking.

Solink: What is your process for hiring new employees?

Phil: I always have potential candidates talk to multiple managers.

I follow a three-tiered hiring process. It starts with an initial meeting with a floor manager. Candidates are filtered through them, and if they seem like a good fit, they meet with the back of house manager. After both managers have given their go-ahead, then I come in to dig a little bit deeper.


The managers have already gone through the basic skillset questions, so it’s up to me to try and get a better idea of how they will fit with our restaurant. I try to go for the unexpected questions about hobbies and priorities in life to get a real feel for what they are like as a person. A lot of managers skip questions about hobbies, but I think it’s very important. Having hobbies that are related to the industry often indicates someone who is truly passionate about what they do. Those are the kind of people I want to hire.

By using a three-step process like this, you’ll have multiple opportunities to get a complete impression of a person. If you don’t have multiple managers, bring some senior employees to the interviews to gauge the fit of the candidate.

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Solink: What is your main priority when it comes to interviewing candidates?

Phil: Nothing beats face-to-face communication. It’s easy to turn to texting and emails these days. We all have our phones on us all the time, and because we’re so busy it makes sense to just try and ask your questions in a quick email. But when it comes to hiring, nothing beats good ol’ fashioned face-to-face interactions.

You can’t accurately judge someone’s enthusiasm over email. It’s super important that we use the more traditional means of communication like talking face-to-face. With technology these days, everybody’s stuck in their own little bubble. Getting someone off of their phone and connecting in-person is the best way to understand what makes a person tick as well as any potential headaches. When you can see how someone reacts to a question, you can better grasp what they’re passionate about and what frustrates them.

Face To Face

These tidbits establish whether or not someone would be a good fit in your business. Make sure your interviews aren’t just over the phone or over email so you can understand a person’s motivations. If you know what makes a person tick, you can manage them better. That’s why understanding your employee’s personalities is crucial.

This goes for both new candidates and existing employees. The DiSC assessment is a helpful tool to get to know your team. With proper personality profiles, you’ll not only be able to get your staff to work hard, but you’ll also keep your team happier.

Other tips to make finding the perfect employee easy:

1. Develop a profile of your ideal employee before you start looking.

Before you can find the perfect employee, you need to be able to know what you actually want. Begin your search by listing out all of the traits that your ideal employee would have, including both their work experience and their personality traits. Both of these things are important when hiring.

When you do start going through your candidates, focus on experience first and personality second. Personality comes into play when you’re judging if they would mesh well with your team, but first and foremost they’ve got to be able to do the job. Having this “perfect profile” helps you better write the job posting. The language used in your ad can influence who applies. So knowing exactly what you’re looking for makes it a lot easier to target the right people.

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2. Identify your company values.

Part of building the perfect employee profile is knowing what kind of person fits in your company. Identifying the core values of your restaurant gives you direction for your interview questions. For example, if your restaurant values innovation, you’ll know to ask candidates about their process for creating new dishes. When you know which values are important to your restaurant, you’re able to tailor the interview questions to guarantee that the candidate is going to fit in with the company. If you’re looking for more insight into the importance of value-based interview questions, you can get some tips and tricks here.

3. Standardize the interview process with a checklist.


Make it easier to compare your candidates by keeping the interview process simple and consistent. Start with a list of questions, take notes of the answers, and rate the answers on a scale you determined in advance. That way, you’ll have easy to understand numbers to rate your candidates on. For examples of the kind of ratings you can use, check out our interview guide.

When interviewing kitchen staff, make sure you have a checklist of all the skills you need them to have. Have them go through a “run-through” with you so you can check off the skills you need as you see them. Make sure you watch their behavior as they cook as well. You don’t want someone working in your kitchen who acts like the Tasmanian Devil. Even though a candidate may not know the exact ways you like things done, but you don’t want to have to deal with someone whose methods are completely erratic.

Applying these tips to your hiring process will make it go a lot smoother. Give it a try the next time you have a position to fill and you’ll see why the pros are sure to follow it.

If you need some extra inspiration in finding the perfect questions, check out our interview guide.