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Solutions To The Two Most Vexing Restaurant Recruiting And Hiring Problems
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I recently attended TDn2K’s Global Best Practices Conference held in Irving, TX. I was impressed by the attendees and the content. I was impressed by the conversation and the networking. I was impressed by the free sharing of best practices in an industry where you can see your competitor across the street.

Like many businesses, the restaurant industry is under pressure to build winning teams and deliver a superior product. Not surprisingly, employees are the key to this service equation. Human capital issues are front and center in this industry which is one reason why it’s so exciting.

In general, the restaurant industry has several recruiting, talent selection, and leadership assessment challenges. In conversations with our restaurant clients, we compiled a list of top 10 challenges (always a top 10 list, right?):

  • Selecting top back-of-house talent in tough markets
  • Identifying the right culture fit for your Brand
  • Hiring differences among generations
  • Retaining your top talent in a competitive market
  • How to identify and build your bench strength
  • Identifying potential vs. readiness
  • Filling your multi-unit managers pipeline
  • Pairing your selection and development initiatives
  • Linking selection and development to business outcomes

During the conference, we invited about 40 restaurant “movers and shakers” to discuss two of these topics over some bacon and eggs. What follows are notes of those conversations. If you would like the full set of discussion notes, you may download them here.

Topic #1: Hiring for Back of House Positions

Two different worlds for FOH & BOH in terms of how to find good candidates

Potential solutions:

  • Develop different personality assessment tests for FOH and BOH to narrow in on best candidates
  • Implement ATS to manage candidate flow and keep track of previous applicants
  • Balance internal and external hires – internal hires are loyal and already understand the culture, mission, and goals; external hires are effective at introducing change to the restaurant

Poaching (other restaurants stealing my talent)

Potential solutions:

  • Have brand champions: people who are passionate, fun to work with, and motivated
  • Great culture = longer tenure/lower turnover!
  • Think non-traditionally: work with the other restaurants in your area to “share” BOH employees

Topic #2: How to Identify and Build Your Bench Strength

GMs that “do it all” tend to hire “clones”

Potential solutions:

  • Create competency models to develop a consistent message and process
  • Build buy-in on target(s) for success
  • Be willing to challenge leaders if they recommend people who don’t align with competency models

Leaders don’t succeed at the next level (or don’t understand what it takes)

Potential solutions:

  • Offer leadership “internships” to give future leaders a glimpse of the next level up
  • Deliver bite-sized leadership training on interesting topics (TED talks, non-traditional stories of success, etc.) to get them thinking about the right behaviors along the way
  • Think about the next level of leadership up when hiring (e.g., consider leadership when hiring line cooks, so you’ll have great kitchen manager talent pool when you need it!)

While there is a lot here, clearly there are opportunities to address top restaurant talent selection and people development challenges. And, the list of potential solutions does not stop here. Do you have some ideas you’d like to share related to these challenges or other industry issues? If so, please feel free to leave a comment and start a conversation.

And, if you would like, you can download the full notes as a PDF. Enjoy!

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