The food service industry is notoriously rife with turnover. While some turnover can be a good thing, too much can wreak havoc on your business: customers are disappointed when they don’t see familiar faces, seasoned employees are stressed out picking up the slack, plus the sheer cost of training can be debilitating (are you tracking that, by the way?). There are ways to help retain good people, but how do you get the right people hired in the first place? The truth is, as diligent as you may be, you will still end up with a few doozies (and you should document these for later reference so you can a good laugh out of it… eventually!). But there are ways to increase your odds of finding good people. Remember: people are your biggest asset. And when you’re hiring front of the house staff, they become the face of the company. While the entire hiring, interviewing, and onboarding process is much more comprehensive, here are some basics to screen for initially:
Availability—does it match what you need currently? If not, thank them for applying and let them know you’ll be in touch when something else opens up that jibes with their schedule.
One year out—does it look like they’ll be around for at least a year, or are they really just looking for seasonal work, in which case you’ll be wasting your time and money only to be hiring and training someone else in three months? Believe or not, they may not be completely honest about this, so you’ll need to be clever about getting to the bottom of it.
Attitude and personality—are they genuinely interested in serving people, and will they do it with a smile? My mantra is: I can train almost anyone to do this job, however I cannot train anyone how to be nice. There are more personality traits you’ll want to screen for, but if you have any hesitation here, it’s time to move on!
Appearance—whether you want to admit it or not, a person’s appearance matters. As we already said, this person becomes the face of your company. On top of that, they are handling food, and your customers tend to be picky about that, as they should be. Aren’t you? And it’s not just personal grooming (check for clean fingernails, trimmed facial hair, clean hair and clothes). Customers tend to be critical of everything. So, let’s minimize the chance they’ll Yelp about “hipsters with an attitude” (on your free Wi-Fi, no less). Tattoos can be charming if that person is outgoing and friendly. Personally, I put my foot down at the septum ring; it’s distracting and unappetizing. (I will hire a qualified septum ring wearer of course, but they will know they need to turn it up.) At the end of the day, your customer should remember their meal and how they were treated (and rate you based on that), not their barista’s or server’s appearance.
Like every other part of your business, you should have systems in place for hiring. A nicely buttoned up package of instructions, documents, checklists, and presentations will prepare your manager to hire efficiently and effectively, saving your entire operation time, money, and aggravation. At every step along the process, from the want ad and application, to interviewing questions and follow up, these systems will help you weed out the headaches and identify the stars. Now it’s on to training!