restaurant management

5 Steps to Hiring & Retaining Rockstar Restaurant Employees

Employees! Blech!

Whoever decided it was a good idea to take a job as a supervisor/manager/owner in which you agreed to babysit a group of eclectic, sniveling brats who want to be paid but don’t want to self-motivate or be responsible enough to perform their job duties without constantly bitching about their job or binge-texting their significant others in the back of the house?

But that’s how the ascending ladder works, right? You move up in your profession, which by default means you’re suddenly responsible for the people below you and making sure they do their jobs with steely effectiveness.

Again, Blech! Micro-management is the worst! Your time would be much better spent learning how to increase your restaurant sales or how to lower your bar and food costs.

And that’s not just from me. Based on the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with owners and managers, managing employees is the #1 pain point that they deal with on a daily basis.

So how do we change all that?

Well, of course we’ll never change it completely unless you can do all the cooking, bartending, serving and hosting yourself, because you’re always going to need employees on staff to provide the service required to run a bar and restaurant, and there’s always going to be a few knuckleheads that you’ll have to endure, UNLESS you come up with a good system to replace them.

“God please yes!” you plead.

Don’t worry, I gotchu.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m all about putting systems in place in order to run a more productive world-class business, so let’s take a look at:

The 5 Steps For Hiring and Retaining Rockstar Employees

These are the five basic steps we need to do in order to create a staff and culture we’re proud of and that keeps us from shoving a shank through our eye socket (that came out a bit less motivational than I planned, but you know what I mean).


This first step falls under the “No duh!” category. That’s sort of like saying, “In order to get rich, invest in the best stocks.” Gee, thanks Warren Buffet.

As we all know, it’s not the “what” that’s difficult to figure out, it’s the “how” that gets tricky. So here’s how:

First, I know for a fact that the first place your eyes jump to when you look at an application or a resume is the “Experience” section. Stop doing that. People leave their jobs for one of three reasons: 1) They found a better situation, 2) They hated the work and/or who they worked for, 3) They had issues and were let go.

That means if they’re coming to your place because of reason #1 and they think they’ll make more money or it’s a great place to work, that’s fine, but I’ve found that more than likely the experienced ones are coming from another restaurant because of baggage.

So toss the baggage, hire based on personality, and mold them using your awesome training system (you do have an awesome training system, yes?).

Yes, yes, yes…I already hear your next question: “How am I supposed to dissect their personality and find out if they’re right from one interview?”

Good question, and the answer is, you have to ask the right questions. I’m only on step 1 so far, so I can’t possibly list all those questions here. I’ll have to save that for another blog post, or you can also go check out the Independent Restaurant Management Masterclass where I go over the exact blueprint I use to turn independent restaurants into world class businesses, including Interview Secrets, which has the 50 interview questions we use in order to hire the perfect employee.

In addition, a few years ago, I discovered an amazing secret fishing hole where you can find amazing employees who are already trained. You can check it out here: My Secret Fishing Hold For Hiring the Perfect Restaurant Employee

But I digress…on to step 2…


And I’m talking about having a REAL training program in place. Not one where you yell out at the nearest busboy walking by, “Hey, Sam, teach ole’ Sandy here the ropes, will ya?” and then you go back to playing Clash of Clans on your phone.

I’m talking about a training program where you have actual head-trainers and they have a check list of EXACTLY what needs to be covered so there is no ambiguity or question about what needs to be covered. From how to ring up food and drinks to side work to the perfect customer service training program. If you don’t have a training guide written yet, sorry, but you’re going to have to either write one yourself, have someone else on staff write it, or buy one and modify it. No more excuses.

This is a sample of the checklist we use inside the Independent Restaurant Management Masterclass for trainers which can be modified. This is page 1 of 2, just to give you an idea of what you should be doing.


Even if you have such a great training program in place that would win a “Trainy” award (like the Grammy of restaurant training), it all falls to pieces if you don’t enforce the training and standards you put in place to begin with. A big part of this is not only preaching the culture and core values that you’ve taught them (you do have your core values written out, don’t you?), but living them with all your heart and soul.

It is a proven fact that employees who work at businesses with defined culture and core values feel a sense of purpose and pride and are 40% more productive than those that don’t because they don’t have to be asked to do anything (or they at least have to be asked less) because they value their job and take pride in where they work so they want it to succeed as much as you do.

In other words, when you clearly define and share what the core values are of your restaurant and the people who work there, an alignment happens where everyone feels a sense of team, allowing them to support each other’s success instead of just looking out for #1 all the time.


This is an action I rarely see implemented as a defined policy among management at restaurants, and by “defined policy” I mean that there is a system in place in which rewards and acknowledgements are given during specific times for a job well done.

“Good job” is fine and dandy, but as the weeks and months roll by, it hardly rewards “above & beyond” behavior, nor encourages it. Regularly acknowledging and rewarding employees results in bigger effort and amazing customer service from your staff, which in turn means your repeat business increases and therefore so does your sales and profits.

So then, when should you decide to acknowledge and reward them? This should be systemized and put in writing, otherwise this good intention will end up being just that: an intention that is never carried out.

There are three main times you can reward them to make it easy to remember: 1) When they go above and beyond; 2) When they win a contest; 3) Before a shift meeting – simply acknowledging something they did that was positive in front of their peers has a powerful impact.

“Ok, fine Dave,” you say, “but what should I reward them?”

You need to use your creativity here, anywhere from gift cards to movie tickets to a free lunch. Sky’s the limit. Inside Restaurant Mastery we of course go over the entire rewarding process in detail, how to systemize it, and provide a flurry of ideas for rewards. If you don’t put something like this in place, don’t wonder why you have A-team players walking out your door.


Wait, what? In order to retain employees we have to let them go?

Yes! If they are dead-beat little weevils, and they aren’t going to comply with the systems and standards you have set, you have to drop them like a glowing red coal. First, of course, you need to give them written reprimands when they are violating the policies that are in place, and then make sure to document and save those reprimands to protect yourself legally when you do eventually cut them loose for repeat offenses.

The problem for most of us is that we HATE the hiring and training process. In fact we hate it more than we hate dealing with and keeping on a dead-beat employee, so instead we do nothing. Nothing, that is, except come in and bitch every day to our fellow managers what an awful and worthless human being Trevor is. In the meantime, the guest are annoyed by him too, not to mention the negative effect he’s having on the entire staff, weighing heavily upon their shoulders until moral is drooping so much that its scraping its underbelly along the floor.

That might be a bit overdramatic, but then again, is it? How good does it feel when you finally cut loose a negative piece of your life, whether it’s personal or occupational? Pretty damn good! You have to do the same thing here. You have to treat your restaurant’s health the same as you would your own body, and sometimes that means cutting out the cancer before it spreads.

So what are you waiting for. Get crackin’ baby. Start putting in a new hiring, training and rewards system until you have a rockstar staff you will give you a beaming, healthy glow as an owner/manager.

See you next time,


Leave a Comment

Join 10,000+ Owners and Managers

Get awesome tips, tricks and strategies to help you become an undisputed expert at running your bar & restaurant.