• Sam Phillippe

Master recruitment in your restaurant or hospitality business

Updated: Sep 5, 2019


In the past I have made mistakes and learned lessons with regards to recruitment. I have also been fortunate to have made some outstanding hires… some of the best people I have come across are some even still with me today and have almost become like family.


The recruitment process can at times be frustrating, stressful, expensive, and damaging - especially if you’re doing it for the first time.


I hope this article will help you to make some at least mitigate some of headache and risk factors when you are looking at recruiting in your restaurant or hospitality business.


Recruitment Sources

It is important that you understand where your candidate sources are coming from (where they have seen your advert, not where are they actually from). There are many options for getting your vacancies noticed. But just always be wary of where the people have come from to apply, and why they have chosen to apply to your business.


My particular usual sources for restaurant or hoslitality team candidates are:

  • Referrals (referrals from quality staff) - you can offer an incentive to your team for successful referrals (after they complete their probation);

  • People that walk-in off the street to apply and show genuine interest;

  • Online platforms - if a cover letter is relevant to yours and not ‘generic’;

  • Use JobToday App if you are London based. Make your business profile interesting (see employer brand notes below) - act quickly as good candidates go quickly;

  • Indeed web site is good for online (indeed is unique as it aggregates many platforms and is free, it also allows you to pre-qualify by asking screening questions of your choice);

  • For management roles I would expect to have to pay some money to advertise for this and expect a higher quality candidate. I would not want a candidate that has been to many many places in a short space of time (this applies to all roles) - I recommend that you use CODE hospitality to advertise for management roles;


Recruitment flow

Here is a flow for how your recruitment process should roughly look like:

  1. Advertise / Incoming applicants

  2. Recruitment inbox

  3. First screening of CV and cover letters

  4. Telephone Screening / First call to qualify candidates / Excite them about the role - tell them about your vision and brand, qualify them first.

  5. Check the basics, passport / permit to work legal eligibility, geographical area, hours of work, skills, what type of work are they looking for: why did they choose this particular advert to apply to, why did they leave their last role - are a few examples of qualifying questions.

  6. Arrange first interviews

  7. Trial Shift (if first interview is successful) (max 2 hours during busy time, on shift with an experienced team member who can also give you their opinion)

  8. Offer made to best candidate, with a probationary period

  9. Offer letter, contract-> then into induction


Look for attitude over skills

Of course you need both, but skills can be taught while attitude cannot. You could find the most talented chef out there, but if their attitude is all wrong for your business then their skills are worth nothing to you. Look for the bright-eyed and enthusiastic candidates, because they’re keepers. Look for candidates who are working towards a greater goal, they shouldn’t just be looking for money, this should be part of a bigger plan for their careers.


Stick to a core structure

Make sure you have at least a list of questions you can put to each candidate to reduce the risk of haphazard hiring decisions. Ensure your questions are well thought-out and will give applicants the chance to really express themselves. If you ask them all the same questions then you have a benchmark by which you can make your decision.


Attract and excite high quality candidates with your ‘employer brand’

Penning a great job ad is half the battle, and sometimes it’s worth taking restaurant advice from an expert. Your ads should include keywords but they shouldn’t just focus on the job specs. To attract the best candidates, you also need to provide details about your restaurant’s ethics, culture and style, amongst others, so they can see whether these align with their own, and with their ambitions. Usually, the higher-quality candidates will look for these and these will oftenest be the differentiating factors whether they choose you to work for or not.


Using this recruitment strategy (as well as other strategies) a good few years ago, I managed to build a team that enabled me to grow my business, provide more jobs, offer more opportunities, pay better wages, and have a better work/life balance.
Using this recruitment strategy (as well as other strategies) a good few years ago, I managed to build a team that enabled me to grow my business, provide more jobs, offer more opportunities, pay better wages, and have a better work/life balance.

Strike a balance

There is no recipe as such for the perfect restaurant team, it is not an exact science. However, to improve your chances and to help you get there faster, you should really understand and learn to communicate what your business is all about. Having a clear vision (see business planning article) is critical to ensuring you recruit the right people for your brand and style of restaurant.


Strike a balance in personalities - you want a good mix of ‘operational’ characters and ‘more vibey/charismatic’ individuals. This should give you a good balance of getting-stuff-done, and vibe/atmosphere/moral.


Make sure your process is legal

There are many areas where you can potentially leave yourself vulnerable, here are a few common things to take into account:

  • Do not ask somebody’s age (you can ask if they are of ‘school leaving age?’ if you are recruiting on the younger end of the spectrum;

  • Do not ask “where somebody is from” (instead use something like ‘how long is your commuting distance/time - is it reasonable / safe / practical - especially if late nights etc’);

  • Do not ask about personal health situations - better to ask if somebody may have any conditions which would affect the safety of food or not be appropriate for a food-related environment which includes operating industrial machinery;

  • Make sure you check their ID (Passport or Birth Certificate only, driving licenses are not valid forms of ID) - create a photocopy, sign it and date it to verify you have seen the original;

  • Take photocopies of ID and Visa’s (if relevant) and keep a paper copy of them in your staff legal files and store securely. You will need to provide these if required by the Home Office on inspection. *NB* If you cannot produce these on the spot (in the restaurant), this can be punishable by £20,000 fine and potential imprisonment for you, not to mention the negative PR this would create for your business and subsequent loss of revenue.


Look after them

Once people are hired, that doesn’t mean you now have time to sit back and switch off. You have to ensure you and your organisation are living up to everything that it promised in the interview process.


Furthermore, whilst you are maintaining the culture and standards as an employer, you must think about what you are going to do next to protect your workforce and ensure your business is healthy and still growing. After all, if your business doesn’t have a strategy to grow, then your people will not grow either, which is likely one of the promises you have made.


Getting help saves time and money

If you’re really not feeling it, we can help you. We can quickly apply our strategies and methods and increase your chances of getting it right, with less stress, in less time and for less money, and reduced risk to your business than you might otherwise have spent.


Getting help can be good for those in a hurry, or really feeling as though they are not quite best matched to handle this topic.


For more information on the full range of support we can provide, contact us and we will see if we are able to give you a hand.


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