Defining Focus in Foodservice Hiring

In the restaurant industry, being fully staffed — with top-quality employees — is Holy Grail of HR. It is constantly sought after, rarely achieved and rumored to be difficult to achieve. More often than not a restaurant has a decent team, with a few outstanding employees and the occasional bad apple. It’s not uncommon to find a manager or head chef stepping in to cover a “no-show” staff member.


Foodservice faces such high turnover rates that managers often jump to quickly fill a position. Instead of taking the time to find the best hire, what often occurs is more like patching a roof. After so many ‘patches,’ the roof gets weak. The solution isn’t filling a hole in your staff with a warm body — it’s hiring the best fit for your restaurant and retaining that person.


When staffing your restaurant, make sure to focus on hiring the right person. Here are three points to focus on in this quest.


The Finance Focus

From the finance perspective, employees need to produce the highest ROI possible. From recruiting to training, each new hire comes with a price tag. For restaurants to come out ahead, employees must stay with the company long enough to show returns on the time and money spent to recruit, hire and train them. According to People Report’s 2011 Turnover and Retention report, the average total turnover cost for an hourly employee is $716; and more than half the hourly terminations in 2010 occurred in a tenure of less than 6 months.


An applicant tracking system (ATS) helps managers hire better candidates faster, especially in high-volume recruitment environments. Piles of paper applications make it difficult and timely to identify the top candidates. An ATS makes screening and ranking candidates a quick, efficient process. Building background checks and other pre-hire assessments into your workflow can also help you hire trustworthy, dependable people who are legally eligible to work. By employing the right fit the first time and save money in the long run.


Hiring with a finance focus means efficient and effective processes are in place to improve candidate quality, retention and overall ROI.


The Culture Focus

Herbert Kelleher, former Southwest Airlines chief executive officer, said, “Anyone who looks at things solely in terms of factors that can easily be quantified is missing the ‘heart of business,’ which is people.”


To hire with a focus on culture, start by defining what excellence is in each role of your restaurant. Know what you’re looking for and how to apply it to enhance your restaurant’s brand. Then develop a plan to identify the people who will best fit those roles. One way to accomplish this is with assessments.


Effective pre-employment assessments – specifically designed with both employee and employer goals in mind – significantly improve the odds of a successful hire. Online assessments can screen candidates based on their answers to questions regarding their work ethic, attitudes and behaviors. The software weeds out candidates who don’t meet the needs of your company’s culture.


By focusing on culture, you hire employees who share company values — and managers take a step toward strengthening the company’s culture and brand presence.


The Customer Focus

Lower quality hires lead to lower customer experience. Customers will not wait or accept being underserved simply because a restaurant is poorly staffed. To provide the best possible dining experience you have to hire service-minded candidates. An effective employee hiring process significantly increases the probability your customers have the experience you intended for them.


According to research by Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp. chief executive officer, more than 80 percent of repeat business is due to the experience customers had at your restaurant. Which makes sense in an industry where the single most important source of competitive differentiation is employee quality. This is another area of hiring where assessments can make a difference. Corvirtus, a leading assessments provider in the service industry space, found that hiring assessments detect candidates who are 14 times more likely to go above and beyond whenever possible.


To develop a repeat customer base, hire employees who are service-minded, consistent and invested in the success of your restaurant.


In foodservice HR, it’s focusing on these three areas — and using the right tools — that will help your restaurant achieve the Holy Grail of hiring.

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