Skip to content

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring


Everyone wants to start a food or beverage business that’s going to provide for you and your family.

But the hard part is needing to hire staff that you can trust to run your restaurant business while you’re away, without thinking about all the things that could possible go wrong. That’s why you need to find and assemble your all-star team.

The truth is, finding good employees is really hard, especially in the restaurant industry. Lucky for you, I’m going to share the 5 traits you should look for when hiring new restaurant staff.

Types of Restaurant Staff To Hire

Before you can assemble your all-star team, you should understand how many people you need to hire the function that they serve. This can be broken down into three different categories.

Front of House Staff: Servers, hostesses, bus boys, etc. Usually these are people who are customer facing. Identify the different positions in your specific business and determine the number of staff you need to hire for optimal success.

Back of House Staff: ‘People in the kitchen’. The quality and quantity of your back of house staff depends greatly on your food or beverage concept.

Support Staff: Managers. The number of support staff you need varies based on the size of your business, which is why lots of times these people also have overlapping duties.

At our ice cream shop, 720 Sweets, we would have a staff member that acts as a server, but also as a cashier. We identified the type of talent we needed, then determined the ideal number of staff for efficient operation AND labour costs.

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 1

When it comes to finding All-star talent, you need to understand that it is not solely about an individual’s skill set. It really comes back down to how their values align with yours.

First define your own values and mission. This gives you, your team, and your customers clarity in terms of how you operate. It’s only once your values are aligned that people can become invested in your business.

Once you know what you want to accomplish with your business, you know who to hire to help you reach those goals.

Here are 5 traits to watch out for when hiring new restaurant staff:

1. They Are A Team Player

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 2

The food and beverage environment is very team based – you need someone who can work well with others.

If they’re a lone wolf, it’s difficult for them to support other teammates in this fast paced industry. Wanting to support others is crucial to the success of your business, making this trait #1.

Steer clear of big egos and stubborn personalities.

2. They Have High Integrity

Integrity means staying true to your word.

If you say that you’re going to be on time, you better be on time. If you say that you’re going to own up to a mistake then you better own up to that mistake. If you say you’re going to send me an email, you better send me an email. These acts build integrity.

When we are running a food and beverage business we don’t have time to babysit staff, so we need to make sure that they are accountable and can function independently.

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 3

You want to have a business that you can feel safe walking away from, so you have to find staff that you trust with good morals.

But just because your staff has high integrity doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do your job. Constantly check up on them and make sure everything is in place.

3. They Are Communicative

You want staff with good, consistent communication skills, whether they’re communicating with you, your suppliers, or your customers.

Even just letting you know that they’re going to be five minutes late shows that they’re considerate, prevents conflict, and helps you run an efficient business.

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 4

Communication is crucial to keeping customers happy. Customers have expectations when visiting your business; if they’re not met, they’re going to be unhappy. For example, your staff needs to let them know if there’s a delay or issue with their order, or even just to have a nice day.

When you’re bringing on a new team member you need to know that they’re prepared to meet the expectations that have been set, especially when you’re not present.

That’s the reason why I’m in communication with my team all the time.

4. They Have A Positive Attitude

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 5

Everyone prefers working with someone who always has an uplifting spirit. These are the types of people willing to take on a challenge, even if they don’t know how to solve the problem.

Employees with a positive attitude impact the energy of the entire team and environment. When EVERYONE has a positive attitude, your team is unstoppable. Customers will immediately notice a difference and return for more.

However, if there is just one “Debbie Downer”, then everyone is out of sync. Your team cannot win because it doesn’t believe in itself. This energy will bleed into the customer service. One bad apple can spoil the bunch.

This is why it’s so important that you take the time to build an entire team with a good attitudes and positive energy.

5. They Are Authentic

You need team members who are true to themselves. People who fake it just to get the job do not last long.

If they’re giving you an impression that they can fit into your community and your culture, but it’s all for show, then they won’t be a good fit.

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 6

Before you hire someone, do your research whether it’s by asking around or checking social media. Offer to go out for coffee and chat with them about their personal life. This allows you to see what this person is really like outside of an interview setting.

Notice how they interact with the barista or the cashier – you’ll be able to tell whether they have integrity or not. The best way to understand someone’s attitude is by observing how they interact with others.

Take these extra steps to make sure you hire someone who’s truly authentic to what they say.

Where To Hire Restaurant Staff

Here’s the top four ways to source great people for your restaurant team:

1. Use Referral

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 7

I put a lot of weight on referrals.

If I have an employee that I truly value and trust, it’s likely that their friends will have similar values and be compatible with the team. Likewise, if I receive a referral from another employer that I trust, I know that this person will make a great team member because they’ve already proven themselves.

This strategy has proven to work for me time and time again. With all our staff, whether it’s at our ice cream shop or my entertainment business, I employ over 100 people per year.

70% of the new staff that we hire are through referrals because I know they have the same values and will work well together without conflict.

2. Try Social Media

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 8

People who follow your content on social media already support your business, your product, your goals, value, vision, etc. Why not tap into this valuable resource?

If you post a job description on your social media, you’re going to get a lot of people wanting to be recruited who are already fans.

When we’re hiring, we don’t even post on job sites. We always post on our Instagram and on our website. People who follow us for years and years buy into our product and are either eager to join the team or refer someone great.

3. Post on Job Sites and Newspapers

These are resources that I don’t really personally use. However, if you’re just starting out and don’t have a team or social media following this is a really good place to start.

With anonymous sources like Indeed or Craigslist you just need to do a lot more vetting since anyone can apply.

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 9

I find that only TWO out of the ten people that apply are actually good candidates for our job based on their values and skillsets.

Before we can even shortlist them, we need to make sure they have the 5 characteristics we talked about above.

This method definitely takes a bit more time and effort, but is a good starting point.

4. Using Headhunters and Consultants

This is by far my least favorite method of staff sourcing because we’re usually just looking to hire people for a small to medium establishment, making it not worth the hefty fees.

Unless you’re a multi-million dollar international chain there’s no need to source such a high quality or quantity of talent.

Nonetheless, if you have the resources and the budget and feel it’s the right choice for your business, then consultants and headhunters are great resources for finding all-star players.

5 Critical Restaurant Employee Traits To Look For When Hiring 10

There you have it: The Top 5 traits of an all-star employee, and the Top 4 ways to find them.

When you find capable people that truly care for your business, it allows you the freedom to work ON your business instead of IN it. There’s nothing holding back your success.

For more resources on staffing check out my other articles here. And don’t forget to sign up for our next FREE online masterclass here!

You May Also Like