Your bar is going to live or die off of the people running it, and that’s no secret. Great employees make a great restaurant. And with employee turnover in restaurants being notoriously high, that makes staffing all-the-more crucial (and all-the-more difficult). There’s a subtle art to hiring the right help behind the bar, and while we’re sure you’ve got no shortage of applicants for most positions, picking the right one out of the bunch is a task all in itself. So with all of that in mind, we’ve put together some handy life hacks to help you hire well this year.
This might seem obvious, but “relevant” is the key word here. As you all know, there’s a near-endless amount of ‘genres’ of restaurants and service positions. It’s important to find people with experience in establishments with similar values and strategies as yours. These candidates are going to fit much more naturally in your establishment, and are more likely to become long-term employees. While hiring from outside of your niche isn’t always a recipe for disaster, tread with caution. For example, the skills that come with working as a low-volume, hole-in-the-wall bartender may not translate to what’s needed at a high-volume, tourist attraction. Keep this sort of thing in mind when looking over resumes and applicants -- not all bars are created equal, after all.
During your interview, try to get a handle on how someone deals with problems and their overall outlook on day-to-day situations. Morale is a delicate thing in the restaurant business, and a negative attitude tends to breed more negativity. As a manager, that’s the last thing you want to deal with. The same can be said from your employees’ point of view -- to be frank, no one enjoys working with a grouch. Often, employers make the mistake of hiring based entirely off technical abilities and resumes, instead of weighing personality in their decision as well.
New hires being knowledgable about the work, the craft, and the industry is obviously a must. But, you should avoid bringing on people who feel they’ve got nothing left to learn. The mission for any establishment is to continually improve with each passing day. If your employees don’t have any interest in growing their knowledge base, then they shouldn’t be brought on in the first place. The desire to learn and grow is crucial to a successful, long-term hire and it often is what keeps the fire burning, so-to-speak.
When you’re bringing on new employees (specifically behind the bar), the ability to make good first impressions is absolutely key. In other industries, it may be less important, but in the hospitality industry, we thrive on good first impressions. In fact, throughout the night behind your bar, employees are in a never-ending, revolving door of first impressions. For better or for worse, first-time guests are going to be affected pretty heavily by first impressions they get from your staff. It could even be the difference between repeat customers and the ‘one and done’ type of patron.
We’ve mostly covered the personality side of things in this article, but this point falls more under the ‘technique’ skillset. It’s crucial that your employees have fantastic attention to detail. If your employee is serving twenty or thirty different people at one time, small things can’t just fall through the cracks. The employee needs to have a keen eye for empty glasses and impatient customers, so they can keep the good times (and dollars) flowing at your establishment.
Your bar staff shows up hours before opening for good reason. Bar service is only going to go as well as you’ve prepared for it to go. Throughout your interview with a potential employee, keep in mind how prepared they seem (or don’t seem) for the interview itself. Chances are, this is going to translate directly to how they work. Preparedness is perhaps the number one virtue that a bartender can bring to an operation, so make sure you’re hiring with that in mind.
Somewhat related to ‘positive attitude’, and just as important. “Never let ‘em see you sweat” is an axiom that is ever-relevant and ever-handy in the bar and restaurant industry. We work in a fast-paced, high-pressure world where things always feel relaxed and hospitable, from the guests’ point of view. To thrive in this type of work environment, we need employees who can keep their cool -- especially when things aren’t going their way. There will be ‘off’ nights and ‘on’ nights, and it’s critical that attention to great service doesn’t suffer on one or the other.
Even the smoothest services have problems -- that’s just the way it goes in our industry. In fact, some would even say problem-solving is the number one quality that the restaurant world requires of a person. But it’s important to discern how potential employees approach everyday problems. Try presenting some hypotheticals and gauging the candidate’s responses. Do they point out issues and problems, with no focus on actually solving them? Do they look more at finding a guilty party than a solution?
Or, does your interviewee take a solutions-based approach to the everyday hurdles that they encounter? The latter is what you’re looking for in an ideal employee -- remember, even the best nights bring problems, and you need someone who can adequately tackle these issues without getting caught up in the blame game.
Not only is a knack for communication super important, but it’s also super easy to discern during the interview process. During your interview, pay attention to how the candidate speaks and communicates their responses. This is going to give you valuable insight as to how they’ll deal with coworkers and management.
And with that said, an employee’s ability to communicate with guests is just as important. Try some hypotheticals to see how your potential employee will speak with both difficult and easy-to-please customers.
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