How to Find and Keep Great Kitchen Staff

Jessica Elliott

Jessica Elliott

Jessica couples her 24 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience with meticulous research to deliver insight into technology, operations, and marketing topics. Her optimized copy helps companies engage their audience while strengthening their communication with clients, employees, and management.

Finding and retaining staff in a tight labor market is challenging. Although restaurants report a higher retention rate for kitchen staff and servers, Upserve finds that turnover rates still hover around 28% for these positions.

Thankfully, restaurants don’t need to depend on the classified ads in the newspaper anymore. Instead, you’ll find a ton of resources online for posting your jobs. However, what if that isn’t enough? If you’re struggling to attract new employees for your kitchen or facing a high turnover rate, then consider trying out these suggestions for both adding and retaining staff.

A man and woman baker kneading dough

How restaurants find great kitchen staff.

Restaurant owners use a variety of methods to locate new staff members, including job boards and social media posts. Other options, like a referral program or networking at local events, provide additional ways to attract new team members. For the best results:

  • Put effort into ongoing recruitment, so you have a steady stream of applicants. 
  • Develop a friendly yet informative job advertisement.

Internal

The first place that many restaurateurs start is by looking internally. Perhaps your bus person or dishwasher show interest in moving up? Maybe one of your best employees has a sibling with comparable talents? Talk to your team, ask for recommendations, and consider a referral program to incentivize your crew to refer applicants. 

Social

Your next option is to leverage the power of social media. Make a list of each of your social channels and industry or community groups of interest. Then develop a job ad that fits the platform. For example, you only have 280 characters on Twitter, whereas you have plenty of space on Facebook. Don’t forget to create an image that’s sure to capture an applicant’s attention. 

Job boards

Depending on your area, there are several excellent options for finding kitchen staff. Craigslist and Indeed offer low-cost options for posting a job advertisement. Do some research to find out if those in your community use any location-specific job boards and consider investing in those sites as well. 

Traditional outlets

Many local newspapers display their classified ads online, so it may be worth checking out the cost of running a job ad with the publication. However, newspapers aren’t the only way people found jobs before the digital world. 

  • Hang up a flyer in local establishments with job and event bulletin boards. 
  • Participate in local job fairs in your community. 
  • Talk to your local high school to see if they offer a work program for employers and students.

How restaurants keep great kitchen staff

Once you’ve made a hire, then how can you retain your chefs and line cooks? Employee retention starts with your culture and training. Sara Anderson, director, workforce development, National Restaurant Association, says, “if you up your onboarding or orientation time to four hours, you can reduce your overall turnover rate by 10%.”

  1. Create a safe environment for all staff members and make this clear with each new hire. 
  2. Assign a mentor to your new hire, so they have the support they need. 
  3. Help new kitchen staff complete a training program.
  4. Stay aware of crew member engagement levels.
  5. Develop a proactive process that addresses concerns before a line cook needs to complain.

Although the restaurant environment suffers from a notoriously high turnover rate, it’s not impossible to find and keep great staff. Instead, it requires a bit of innovation and plenty of support from leadership within your restaurant.

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