The best restaurant experience is a carefully curated, managed process, from the time you walk past its doors to the time you walk away.
First, you’re greeted by the hostess and led to your table, where you’re asked for any particular preferences you have. Then, the waiter takes your order and later serves it. All the while, you’re being attended to by bussers and other servers. Finally, you get the bill, pay, and depart, as a busser starts clearing your table.
The mentioned staff are the most visible to most diners, but they represent only part of the equation that makes any restaurant tick. If you want to run the best restaurant you can, you need to respect the organization and distribution of staff that will make it possible.
Here are the staff you need to hire for your brand-new restaurant, the kind of people who they should be, and who among these staff can be loaded with temp workers.
The restaurant manager is the bedrock of the establishment, and their personality, managerial skills, and understanding of the industry are what will make or break your restaurant’s success.
Every restaurant manager has some very basic requirements. They ensure that the establishment meets its business goals, plan business and staffing strategies, and coordinate the entire restaurant’s operations. They should also be able to coordinate with suppliers, start and end the business day as an office manager - and it would be great if they could come up with some marketing as well.
To be able to accomplish these tasks meaningfully, a good restaurant manager should already have some degree of experience in handling a restaurant. They should also have experience in the food industry, whether that means experience working in the kitchen or as a server, or supply management at a commissary.
By definition, a good manager should also be a good leader, with sufficient leadership skills and supervisory capability that will allow them to handle the high-stress environments of the dining area and the kitchen.
What good is a restaurant without its food? The chef is the leader of the kitchen, and their capabilities recipes and procedures will determine the quality of your restaurant’s food. This central role in your business’s quality is the reason why the chef is oftentimes the most well-paid position in a restaurant.
There are several varieties of chef, but you won’t need to hire all of them right off the bat. You’ll need, at minimum, an executive chef with proven leadership skills, with the option of a sous chef if you are running anything more than a tiny kitchen.
While the chef is the star, they’re only the most visible piece of the puzzle in the kitchen. They’re supported by tireless support cooks who help perform the prep work and routine cooking tasks, as coordinated by the chef.
Line cooks work at individual stations to perform specific cooking tasks. They're responsible for setting up their mise en place, ensuring that their stations are fully stocked with the ingredients they need, and working on the kitchen line with other kitchen staff to put orders together in a timely, coordinated fashion.
Line cooks must adhere to the best practices of food handling and hygiene throughout their time in the kitchen. They should also be aware of all the basics of cooking, including knife skills, deboning, and prep work.
Prep cooks need to be ready to perform a variety of tasks in the kitchen. They not only take care of the routine preparations for the dishes to be cooked by other staff, but also assist with utility tasks such as dishwashing and sanitation, and ensure that their kitchens are stocked with all essential ingredients.
Prep cooks also make sure that every station has the ingredients it needs, and help keep the whole kitchen clean and well-maintained. They also assist with routine cooking tasks to prepare food for line cooks and chefs.
Easily the most publicly visible of all restaurant staff, servers, also called waiters and waitresses, represent the backbone of your front-of-house team.
Servers are the avenues through which your diners receive their quality service. They set tables, take your diners’ orders, receive the payments for bills, and ultimately clean up as customers leave.
Besides the quality of your food, your restaurant will live or die on the basis of how well your servers treat your customers. That’s why it’s so important that your servers be well-trained.
The ideal server is calm under pressure, sociable, observant and responsive to customer needs, and a capable multitasker who must be ready to address the needs of several tables at once - all while having a bright smile on their face. It’s no picnic.
Bussers partner up with servers to ensure the readiness of the dining area. They set the tables for new customers, keep diners’ water glasses filled constantly, and clear tables as their diners depart. They also need to be ready to act as servers in case the regular waitstaff are getting overwhelmed.
Bussers must be perceptive and observant to get their job done, as they have to watch out for any table’s needs even if they’re not explicitly assigned to them.
Dishwashers spend most of their time cleaning up used plates, but that’s not all they do. They might also be one part busser, one part inventory manager, and even one part janitor and utility personnel. They can be called to restock cutlery after they’re done cleaning, take out the trash, unload deliveries, and even help out with some basic food prep work.
Restaurant hosts provide the “hospitality” in “hospitality industry,” and represent the smiling face of any restaurant. They greet customers as they come in and assign their tables, while also handling reservations. Hosts need to be highly organized and sociable if they want to stand a chance of working at even a mildly busy restaurant.
As a restaurant, you’re going to be sustaining your peak workloads 24/7. There will be off-peak hours as well where there won’t be as many customers to serve or as many orders to fulfill, and this may mean that you’ll have employees who won’t have a lot to do.
And if you’re hiring to fill your peak capacity, that means during your off-peak hours, you’ll still be paying these employees, even if they may potentially be idling.
The solution here would be part-time staff to get your needs fulfilled. You can call part-time staff to fill in shifts whenever necessary, and only pay them for the work they do.
When it comes right down to it, the best staff for temp work are pretty much... everyone. That’s right - prep and line cooks, servers, bussers, dishwashers, and hosts are all viable temp staffers.
The only exception to this are the main chef and the restaurant manager. These two jobs must be fulfilled by personnel who are entirely committed to the success and vision of your restaurant, and can never be part-timers who are splitting their time with other workplaces.
Every other job is no less critical to the success of your restaurant, however there is a particular value to getting temp workers for your other staff. Some jobs actually lend themselves particularly well to being temped.
For example, hiring temp servers often means that you’re getting waitstaff who have worked at a diverse selection of restaurants. That gives them a wide gamut of experience which can come in handy when you’re starting off and don’t have any idea as to what kind of customers are going to come in.
Temp cooks are also a great idea because many of them have worked on a huge variety of cuisines or kitchen environments. A good temp agency will assure you of highly-trained prep and line cooks who are ready to do whatever your chef throws at them.
But overall, you can’t go wrong with filling your shifts with temp workers.
In fact, one option is to use temp workers exclusively.
That raises the question: Are they truly temp workers, then? Aren’t they just permanent, regular staff?
The answer is: They could be! And that’s without any of the costs of doing recruitment, applicant interviews, onboarding, and training that HR demands. Your new restaurant can be summarily staffed with experienced, trained personnel right from the get-go, with the right agency.