How to Hire Waitstaff That Will Last

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

How to Hire Waitstaff That Will Last

The restaurant industry is notorious for its high turnover rates. To avoid going through the costly and timely process of onboarding and training employees who end up not being a good fit, here’s a list of 6 key things to look for when you interview and hire waitstaff.

1. Bet on an Outgoing Personality

If your interviewee has trouble making eye contact, seems nervous and unsure, and speaks with a quiet or mumbling voice, chances are that’s how they’ll treat your customers, too. It’s natural and normal to be a little nervous about a job interview, but communicating with confidence is part of the job.

Look for candidates that have a bright, outgoing, and energetic personality, but that remain focused and professional during the interview. Notice a firm handshake and confident, clearly-spoken, and thoughtful questions.

2. Look For a Clean, Professional Appearance

Regardless of whether your restaurant serves fast-casual burgers or fine French cuisine, your interviewee should show up to their interview in professional attire. This is standard. To many employers, this is an indication that the applicant cares about and values the job.

An interviewee who shows up in workout clothes or sweatpants communicates in their dress that they care as much about the job as they care about their appearance. Nails should be trimmed and clean, hair should be kept, and clothes should be noticeably neat and pressed.

3. Hire Waitstaff With Experience

Depending on the job, you may be looking to hire waitstaff who are highly experienced. You may be fine with someone new to the industry or with a bit of experience – if they meet other requirements and seem easily and quickly trainable.

Although it’s usually best to hire waitstaff that has prior serving experience under their belt, certain questions asked during the interview can give you some valuable insight into their level of experience and a basic sense of service expectations.

Ask questions like, “What would you do if a guest complained about their meal?” or, “How would you handle a disagreement with a coworker?” Their answers can give light to their level of experience and give you an indication of how they think.

4. Always Consider Availability

It is critical to communicate your needs as an employer from the start. If you need employees who can work weekends and holidays, say so! If you are looking for someone to cover a few weeknights shifts per week, let your interviewees know.

Set your expectations early on so your new employees know what is expected and are satisfied with their hours and shifts. Ask interviewees how many hours they are willing to work, and how many they need.

An applicant’s open availability and desire to work 40 hours a week could be a good thing – unless you only have a couple of shifts that need filling. If hired, they could potentially end up looking for a fuller schedule elsewhere. As part of your application, include questions on availability and schedule expectation. Then, interview applicants whose expectations meet your needs.

5. Find Yourself a Team Player

Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say! And for good reason. If you have servers that are unwilling to support others during a rush, you could quickly lose customers and get bad reviews. Ask questions like, “What does teamwork mean to you?” or, “Give me an example of teamwork at your previous job,” to see how willing they are to lend a hand. If you get the feeling they won’t help customers whose tips they won’t receive, it may be time to keep looking.

Your front-of-house staff is the face of your business. They will be the first face your customers see – and the last. Because of this, it is imperative that they are quality employees that properly represent your restaurant. Carefully select each employee and take your time doing so. The success of your business depends on it.

6. Continue Managing by the Numbers

The hiring process doesn’t end once an applicant is given the green light. Tracking waitstaff Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with a POS such as average revenue per table, person, or hour; or the customer Net Promoter Score (NPS) against other employees, will answer the question, “Was this person the right hire?”

If you’re having trouble getting started with KPIs or gauging your employee’s NPS, check out our suite of Flyght products. They exist to the mystery out of the way you onboard, measure and train your employees.