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Q-and-A: Tips for restaurant recruiting

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

This post is by SmartBlog on Restaurants and Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.

After a 23-year career that spanned stints at Chili’s and Joe’s Crab Shack and a turn running his own shop, Brian Bruce turned his hand to restaurant recruiting in 2007. These days, he also writes columns on the topic and blogs under the moniker HeadHunterBrian.

Restaurants are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel that’s reflected in their current hiring practices to greater or lesser degrees, he says. Quickservice chains, fast-casual eateries and family-style restaurants are hiring again, either because business has already picked up post-recession or they’re expecting it to soon, and fast-growth chains including Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Five Guys Burgers and Fries are out in front.

This week, Bruce shared his birds-eye view of the pitfalls that can trip up restaurateurs in their search for the right employees.

What have you seen in terms of turnover during and after the recession?

Most workers, if they weren’t released, held on pretty tight. During the recession, we had a lot of bottom-line positions forced on a lot of folks, many places were employing people in positions much lower than their talent dictates. Now those underemployed people are starting to get back into more appropriate positions for their salary levels.

What are the 3 biggest mistakes restaurant owners make in the hiring process?

  • They don’t ask the best interview questions to determine whether the candidate can impact the role. The best indicator is typically past performance. If they don’t dig into the results and outcomes that the person they’re interviewing has been involved in, they don’t come away with any grasp of whether the person can impact the role.
  • They fail to run a background check. I’m amazed at how many still don’t invest in a check that can help them avoid negligence claims and liabilities. And especially for someone who is around financials, you want to know what their credit looks like.
  • Failure to make their full offer upfront. That may not bite them immediately, although sometimes it does, because the candidate walks away. But you’re talking about a long-term relationship here. Through this recession, it became popular to say, “You were making $78,000 before, this position pays $45,000, you’re not working, do you want it or not?” Now they’re finding that the cost of the turnover is much more than they thought they were saving.

How can restaurateurs improve their skills to ensure success for new hires?

  • Recruiting. Pre-qualify before bringing someone in, on the phone with candidates or recruiters. That way you spend time meeting only with qualified candidates. I’ve had companies call me and mention that they put the job on CareerBuilder and other sites and got 900 resumes — but nobody they wanted to talk to.
  • Interviewing. Ask the questions that’ll let you see the candidate’s thought process and level of impact in previous roles. Anyone can work in a store where sales improved 20%, but how did they participate in that? Were they part of it or just along for the ride?
  • Hiring. It’s really all about the training and giving them the tools they need to succeed. The best talent needs to be challenged, to stay excited and know they’re growing professionally. If they can do what they do with their eyes closed, that’s not going to work for long.

Have years of hiring experience left you with some hard-won lessons? Let us know!

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