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How to Hire a Server

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Isabelle HahnAuthor

Hiring staff is a top challenge faced by restaurant owners. 

For servers looking for work, the process is usually less than easy and can come with quite a few questions. Some servers work their way up after starting as hosts or food runners; some start waiting and serving tables as their first industry job. 

As a restaurant manager, you want to hire the right person for your restaurant. Building out a plan to hire your new server – complete with server interview questions, a job description, and an offer letter – makes that challenge easier. 

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Finding your restaurant’s new server

Turnover in the restaurant industry is at an all-time high, at 75%. This is another reason why finding servers who want to stick around will eliminate many future pain points. 

This is why defining your needs is a crucial first step. How will job seekers know what to expect if vital information isn’t available to them? Ask yourself what you expect from a server and who will add to your restaurant’s culture and atmosphere. 

You must also identify what you need from the position, starting with a list of qualities and skills required to complete the job. 

Define what you need in a server

What are the days and hours you need a server to work? How long are the shifts? What is the salary? What personality traits and qualities fit well with your current team? What qualifications do you need a server to have?

These are some questions to start shaping the details of who will join your team. 

Throughout the hiring process, you want to manage expectations. You may want a server with five years of experience but have a budget for 1-2. Perhaps you’re looking for a part-time server or a seasonal worker. Adding that to your job description will be important to weed out candidates strictly looking for a full-time gig. 

Managing expectations about the role early on can make all the difference and decrease the chance of turnover later on. 

Create an Effective Server Job Posting 

Now that you’ve defined your needs, you should have everything necessary to create a descriptive server or waiter job post. 

Remember, you may be looking for talented servers – but servers also are looking for a restaurant that invests in them and appreciates them. According to Harver, getting full appreciation for work is the #1 thing employees want, while employers think their employees want good wages above all else. 

Write a Detailed Job Description

To create a server job description to use in a job posting for available staff positions, simply: 

  • Write a list of workplace expectations for servers at your restaurant, and title this section “Job Expectations.” 

  • Write a list of the daily responsibilities servers must manage and title this section “Duties and Responsibilities.”

  • Write a list of any experience requirements, certifications, or specific skills candidates must possess or satisfy and title this section “Experience and Skills.” 

  • Highlight your restaurant’s unique selling points. 

Our full write-up on creating a detailed server job description.

Server Job Posting Example

Job Expectations

At Fresh Bread, our team is dedicated to communication and a strong hospitality experience. We are looking for a part-time server to work three, eight-hour shifts a week. This server will be part of our front-of-house team that consistently delivers service with a smile and puts teamwork above all else. Hourly wage is $9.45/hour plus tips. 

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Greet guests and ensure an enjoyable, quality dining experience

  • Look for visual and verbal cues to identify the experience the guest wants

  • Promptly and accurately take food and beverage requests from guests

  • Ensure expedient service of food and beverages to the guest

Experience and Skills

At least 2 years of relevant experience required. Please provide professional references from other restaurant work. 

Fresh Bread is an equal-opportunity employer. We are committed to treating all Applicants and Associates fairly based on their abilities, achievements, and experience without regard to race, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other classification protected by law.

Advertise the Server Job 

Most new employees have discovered their latest restaurant jobs through friends (55%) or social media (50%) — with that in mind, here’s how to get the word out about your job opening. 

Use Online Job Boards

Tapping into the vast pool of restaurant talent available online is crucial. Online job boards provide an extensive reach, connecting you with a diverse range of potential candidates.

When looking at job boards, choose the right platforms, ideally websites that cater specifically to the hospitality sector like Indeed, Glassdoor, Poached, or Culinary Agents. 

You’ll also need a compelling job description, which you already have.

And finally, you can utilize keywords. Optimize your job description with relevant keywords to enhance the posting’s visibility. Use words like “waitstaff,” “server,” or “restaurant service.

Leverage Social Media

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn broaden your reach and provide a more interactive space for potential candidates to engage with your restaurant's brand. Posting on social also makes it easier for your current employees to share the posting with their networks. 

You’ll need to craft a visually appealing post showcasing your restaurant's vibrant atmosphere. You can also highlight other team members and emphasize the unique aspects of working at your establishment. 

Consider using paid features to boost your job posting content to reach a larger, more relevant audience. 

Tell Your Employees

Never underestimate the power of internal resources when looking to hire a server for your restaurant. Your current team members can be valuable ambassadors in the recruitment process, and with an employee referral program, they benefit from finding top talent. 

Before hiring your new server, hold a meeting to brief your existing staff about the open position and ask for recommendations.

If you don’t have the budget to incentivize referrals, you can motivate in other ways such as free meals, gift cards, or recognition.

Screen the Resumes

Now that you have multiple applicants, it’s time to review the resumes and select candidates to move on to an interview or skills-based review stage. 

Develop a resume screening criteria to identify top candidates. Screening resumes is the process of reviewing resumes and job applications to identify who you want to hire. It involves assessing past experiences, qualifications, skills, and potential fit for the restaurant. Here are some of the top criteria we recommend prioritizing: 

Relevant experience: Look for candidates with a proven track record in the hospitality industry, particularly in customer service roles. Prior experience as a server, waiter, or waitress is an immediate green flag.

Customer service skills: Evaluate resumes for any mention of customer service achievements, positive feedback, or specific instances where the candidate went above and beyond to meet customer needs.

Knowledge of food and beverage: Screen for mentions of menu knowledge, any certifications related to food safety or beverage service, and familiarity with any specific cuisines your restaurant specializes in.

Adaptability and stress management: Restaurant environments can be fast-paced and unpredictable. Seek candidates who thrive under pressure and can adapt to changing situations seamlessly.

Team player: Assess resumes for mentions of teamwork, collaboration, or instances where the candidate worked closely with colleagues to achieve common goals.

Education and training: Look for certifications in food safety, alcohol service, or any industry-specific training. Consider any additional courses or workshops related to customer service.

Conduct Interviews 

An interview provides a firsthand opportunity for your waitstaff candidate to show off their readiness and suitability for your restaurant dynamic. 

Mastering the art of interviewing restaurant servers might take a few tries. But before you dive into questions, ensure a warm, welcoming environment for your candidate. Begin with a warm greeting, introduce the interview structure, and briefly outline the restaurant's values and expectations. Then, you can start diving into the juicy stuff. 

Behavioral Questions

The objective with behavioral questions is to uncover past behavior as a predictor of future performance, focusing on situations relevant to a server’s responsibilities. Ask questions like, “can you share a specific example of a challenging customer interaction you've successfully resolved?" or "Describe a time when you had to prioritize tasks in a fast-paced environment."

Examples of behavioral interview questions for waitstaff:

  • How do you handle running late to work/your shift?

  • Can you describe a time when you had to handle a challenging customer or a difficult situation? How did you resolve it while maintaining a positive guest experience?

  • Describe an instance where you made a mistake. How did you handle it, and what steps did you take to rectify the situation with the customer?

  • What are some ways you make customers feel important?

  • What are your favorite things about working at a restaurant? What are your strengths/weaknesses?

Skills-based Assessment

  • How have your past employers handled tips?

  • What did a day on the job as a food server look like in previous positions?

  • Are you comfortable carrying large trays of food and drinks?

  • Do you have specific knowledge about coffee or wine?

Wrapping up your interview

To close your interview, provide an opportunity for candidates to ask questions. Clearly communicate the hiring process's next steps and establish a follow-up timeline.

Conducting interviews for a restaurant server requires a balanced blend of professionalism, warmth, and a keen understanding of the skills crucial for success in the role. By prepping your interview questions beforehand, you’ll create an interview process that is thorough, insightful, and instrumental in identifying the perfect server to add to your team. 

Review Cover Letters, References, and Background Checks

Some of your candidates may go above and beyond by including a cover letter in addition to their resume. Prioritizing these applications first is fine, especially if your job description doesn’t require one. 

Part of the hiring process is also reviewing references and conducting background checks. 

Contacting Past Employers

Work history and references can be extremely helpful in hiring a helpful, qualified server. You should always ask your candidate permission before contacting previous employers to respect privacy – you may even ask them to provide references in the interview. 

Previous employer questions:

  • Would you rehire them?

  • Were there any issues with customers or other waitstaff/team members?

  • How would you rate their work?

  • What were their daily duties? Did they ever go above and beyond?

Criminal Background Checks

Like when contacting past employers, you must obtain a candidate's consent before conducting a background check. Provide the necessary information and forms and make sure they understand the process. 

An important note on discrimination: a candidate’s criminal record should only be used to evaluate job suitability and not be the sole basis for disqualification. 

Verification of Qualifications

In the world of serving, qualifications matter. Check their certifications, such as food serving licenses or alcohol service training. Ask about professional development and other relevant expertise.

Make the Offer

A well-crafted job offer is the culmination of your entire hiring process. You’ll need to express your enthusiasm for your new team member. 

Dear [Candidate’s Name], we are thrilled to extend an offer for the position of Server at [Your Restaurant]. Your qualifications and dedication impressed us, and we are happy to welcome you to the team. 

You’ll want to clearly outline the terms of your job offer, including start date, work schedule, compensation, and any other pertinent information listed in the job description or discussed during the interview.

Terms of Employment - Start Date: [Date] - Work Schedule: [Days and Hours] - Compensation: [Hourly Rate/Wage]. As discussed during our interview, we also offer [Professional development/training opportunities]. In addition to your competitive hourly wage, you can access employee discounts on our menu items.

Clearly state the candidate's steps to accept the offer formally. This may include signing and returning the offer letter by a specified date.

To accept this offer, please sign and return a copy of this letter by [Acceptance Deadline]. If you have any questions or require further clarification, please contact [Hiring Manager's Name] at [Contact Information]. 

Then, finish with a personal touch.

Your passion for delivering exceptional service and extensive knowledge of our menu stood out. We welcome you to the [Your Restaurant] family, where your talents will shine. Welcome aboard!

Sincerely, [Your Name] [Your Title] [Restaurant Name]

Provide a written offer letter and an employee agreement contract, which outlines an employee's rights, responsibilities, compensation, and restrictions.

How to Create an Effective Restaurant Training Manual

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A Note on Training and Retaining Your New Restaurant Staff

It can cost $2000 to hire and train a new staff member. Two or more weeks of training is the sweet spot for new staff to be successful, though nearly three-quarters of restaurant staff (74%) receive two weeks or less of training and onboarding. 

Since hiring and training talent isn’t cheap, you’ll want to take steps to retain your new server. Poor hourly pay (47%), not being recognized for hard work (44%), and bad managers (37%) are the top pain points listed by restaurant employees that impact retention. 

Remember to recognize and reward outstanding performance to circumvent these reasons for leaving. Offer opportunities for skill development and encourage career growth within the restaurant. Engage with your staff and encourage manager and co-worker feedback, whether this is in meetings or surveyed anonymously. 

No matter the tenure of your server, showcasing your dedication to your staff should reverberate throughout their entire journey with your restaurant. Without them, orders wouldn’t be taken, customers wouldn’t be smiling, and you’d have a harder time creating a restaurant that lasts. 

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.