5 Tips for Hiring & Retaining Hospitality Staff

Use these tips to help alleviate some of the current challenges in hiring and retaining hospitality team members.
February 4, 2022

Due to the evolving public health restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff shortages within the hospitality industry have been a challenging issue for many food businesses over the past two years. In a June 2021 survey released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 38 percent of food service businesses reported their struggle to find suitable staff. And in Deliveroo’s most recent HospoVitality Index Report, 92 percent of hospitality businesses surveyed reported having plans to recruit staff in 2022.

Food business owners understand that the hiring process takes valuable time and resources out of other business operations. Training a new employee can be costly if that person chooses to leave after only a short period of time — not to mention the toll it takes on team morale and the quality of food and service.

With these staffing challenges, it’s crucial that food businesses have strategic plans in place for hiring and retaining team members. While many hiring factors are dependent on the changing public health measures and policies, there are still some strategies that businesses can put in place now to help in their staff search.

Here are our top 5 tips for hiring and retaining food business staff.

1. Know where to look for candidates

Parsing through applications to find the right candidates can be time-consuming, so you want to make sure you’re investing your time searching in all the right places. Use these sources to find quality leads in your staff search.

  • Word of mouth: The restaurant and hospitality industry is very well connected, so one of the best resources you can use is your own staff! Ask for recommendations or referrals, and your staff could even provide you with valuable insights on potential candidates.
  • Culinary schools: You already know that these students are interested in pursuing a job in the industry, and students will be looking for valuable experience in the field.
  • Restaurant-specific job posting sites: Narrow the playing field by searching for candidates at industry-specific job posting sites instead of a general job board that attracts people that may not necessarily be looking for a job in the hospitality field.

2. Make sure they’re a good fit

With staff shortage challenges, it may be tempting to quickly hire prospects who are eager and willing to take the job. Keep in mind, though, that hiring and training staff only for them to leave after a short period of time is ultimately detrimental to your business — so during the hiring process, take the time to ensure they’re a good fit.

Start off by writing a comprehensive job description so that potential hires know what their job will entail. During the interview process, be transparent about the needs of the business and the current food service landscape to manage expectations.

With a position that requires good teamwork and, for some roles, the ability to interact with customers, it’s also integral that you know how well a potential employee can work with others. You might want to conduct a trial run with your top candidates for the role by either asking them to cook something or participating in service. This way you can put their skills to the test while also observing how they interact with the rest of the team.

3. Prioritise proper training

A large part of your role as a food business owner or manager is to ensure that your staff have the tools they need to do their job effectively. A comprehensive onboarding plan will help new employees get started off on the right foot, while refresher training for existing staff can help reinforce best practices.

Ensure that you have an Employee Handbook that staff can refer to for the:

  • business mission statement: describe your business goals, core beliefs and the services you aim to provide.
  • organisational structure: outline the different roles and responsibilities within your business so that employees understand their individual responsibilities and know who to go to for help.
  • operational procedures: explain the different tasks to be completed and the proper procedures for each. This could include your health and safety guidelines, cleaning and sanitising procedures, processing payment instructions, checking inventory procedures and more. It’s also helpful to have real-life scenarios to illustrate how these procedures should be put into practise!
  • employee code of conduct: detail how you expect staff to conduct themselves at work.

Australia’s Food Standards Code requires that anyone who works with food is trained in food safety, so it’s essential that food business owners ensure their staff is properly trained. For your business’s certification needs, the Australian Institute of Food Safety’s (AIFS) nationally recognised Food Handler Course will help your staff develop a strong foundation in food safety skills, and the course is compliant with the Food Standards Code training requirements.

4. Foster good workplace culture

It’s no surprise that people want to work at a place where they feel valued and heard. That’s why it’s so important to work on fostering a good workplace culture where employees at all levels feel comfortable voicing their ideas or concerns.

Recognise team members for a job well done and make it a priority to sit down with your team to get their feedback about the business — what they enjoy about working there and any areas for improvement. Once you have that feedback, take the steps to ensure any concerns are addressed and implement initiatives that encourage team building!

5. Encourage opportunities for growth

Do you have a job opening for a more senior role? This could be a great opportunity for existing staff to grow their skills within the business! Promoting staff means you’ll fill a role with someone who already knows how the business works and shows your team that you care about their career development.

This may require more training for eligible candidates, so it’s also a great opportunity for them to up-skill before starting a new role with new responsibilities. One example for a food business is when a Food Handler is interested in becoming a Food Safety Supervisor.

Food Safety Supervisors are responsible for supervising food handling staff and ensuring safe food handling practices are implemented throughout the business. Before someone can become a Food Safety Supervisor, they need to have the correct certification. Encourage Food Handlers interested in becoming a Food Safety Supervisor to complete a government-approved Food Safety Supervisor Course!

While these are certainly challenging times for the hospitality industry, and staff turnover is an unavoidable part of the business, these tips can help alleviate some of the burden in hiring and retaining team members. Take the time to find the right fit during the hiring process, ensure a robust training program is in place for both new staff and seasoned professionals, and work towards building a positive workplace culture where employees at all levels feel recognised and valued.