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How to Staff a Restaurant with the Right Positions


Chelsea VerstegenAuthor

As the U.S. finds itself in the middle of a restaurant labor shortage, finding and retaining high-quality restaurant staff has become a massive challenge. There are too many kitchens and not enough cooks to staff them.

A restaurant is only as successful as the team running it. Your employees directly control the guest experience, both behind the scenes and on the front lines, so making sure you have the best people and the most important positions filled is a must for survival.

Maybe you're a new restaurant owner wondering how to structure your team, where to look for candidates, or what a quality candidate looks like. Or you’re a veteran operator wondering which positions are the most essential to the health of your business. Whoever you are and whatever position you may be in, hey — glad you’re here. We’ve consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics and we’ve got some answers for you. Not all of them, but enough to help.

Here’s a list of restaurant positions — from the dish pit to the host stand — you can and should hire for fast.

Restaurant Manager Jobs

Restaurant manager jobs

Average restaurant manager salary:

$50,000 for most restaurants, up to $75,000+ for high-end establishments

Job description

This is arguably the most important restaurant position. Most people have the ability to work in a restaurant, but it takes a unique person to manage it. Before hiring or promoting someone to manager, make sure they’re dedicated to both the restaurant industry and helping your business succeed.

This person should be a natural culture fit, since they’ll likely be interacting with and/or training everyone on your staff. This person should be qualified to hire, fire, and reprimand employees when necessary and serve as an extension of the restaurant owner.

They should have the ability to motivate staff, the know-how to learn and teach processes, and the charisma to delight even the most upset guest.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Self-motivated to better your restaurant, experienced in front of house and back of house, and fantastic leadership skills.

Assistant restaurant manager jobs

Average assistant restaurant manager salary


Job description

The assistant manager is the general manager's understudy. Think of them as a restaurant manager in training. Typically, the assistant manager takes on whatever tasks the restaurant manager doesn't have time to handle, like approving shift changes, cash-outs, deciding server sections, and similar staff-facing duties. An effective assistant restaurant manager will be able to step in for the manager on duty seamlessly. The ultimate goal for this position is to move up to the restaurant's general manager position.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Extensive industry knowledge, experience working in a restaurant, experience managing employees, strong organizational skills, strong interpersonal skills.

Bar manager jobs

Average bar manager salary

$40,000-$50,000, but heavily dependent on experience

Job description

Your bar manager will be responsible for planning anything and everything related to your restaurant's bar. Duties include bar inventory management, creating drink menus, rotating drink choices, hiring and managing bar staff, and performing bar performance reporting.

This restaurant position should be filled by someone who has extensive bar experience; they might even consider themselves a mixologist. A qualified candidate will be up on the latest in national alcoholic drink trends, be able to make informed drink suggestions to guests based on their preferences, and have a strong command behind the bar. It’s important that they’re capable of leading a team with diligence and efficiency because it can get pretty hectic behind the bar.

Since most bars don’t operate under the “typical” 9-5 working hours, you’ll need someone who can keep up with the pace through the wee hours of the morning, because they’ll most likely be one of the last people to leave your business. Find a night owl crossed with the energizer bunny and you’ve got yourself the perfect bar manager.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

A passion for alcohol (pouring and creating with it), personable, creative, energized, motivating, and experienced in managing bar employees if possible.

Catering manager jobs

Average restaurant catering manager salary


Job description

If you offer catering, this is a crucial restaurant position to fill. During the season of graduation parties, wedding anniversaries, and holidays, you’ll need a full-time catering manager to make sure orders are coming in and fulfilled correctly. The candidate you hire should be able to market your company’s offerings and prepare for the fluctuation that the job will require.

A knack for organization is key as there’s a lot of coordination that goes into the job, from planning and scheduling the correct number of caterers required for each event to making sure the food stays hot and fresh up until the last customer is served. Look for someone who can roll with the punches, because there are a lot of things that can go wrong when taking your kitchen on the go. Make sure they can multi-task, always operate with a backup plan in their pocket, and do well under pressure.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Organized, skilled in marketing, and experienced in event planning.

Kitchen manager jobs

Average kitchen manager salary


Job description

Your kitchen manager helps run all back-of-house operations. They should be able to convey immediacy in the kitchen while also keeping sanity and being respectful. Otherwise, cooks can become frustrated and turnover will inevitably increase. The kitchen manager should also be organized, keeping close track of inventory to make the appropriately sized orders to suppliers.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Commanding, organized, respectful, and authoritative.

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Front-of-House Restaurant Jobs

Bartender jobs

Average bartender salary

$19,000-$25,500 (plus tips)

Job description

Whether it's a coffee bar or a nighttime bar, your bartender should be extremely knowledgeable in mixology. There’s going to be a lot of distractions going on when your bar is full, so there’s noise they’ll have to tune out to make sure they’re focused on customer service. When your lines build up around the bar, it's up to them to fulfill orders with accuracy and plenty of flair.

You'll also need someone extremely personable behind that counter, especially because bartending can be quite stressful. You'll need someone who can get the job done and still have fun.

Make sure your bartender also has proper knowledge of best practices for serving alcohol, as your restaurant can be held liable for over-serving. Make sure they have all the required certification and knowledge base to comply with your state laws regarding alcohol distribution.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Experience behind the bar, personable, good under pressure, knowledge of basic cocktails, and speedy.

Barback jobs

Average barback salary

Minimum wage (plus a nightly tip out from the bar staff)

Job description:

A barback is a bartender's apprentice. This position is typically filled by individuals who have the goal of becoming a bartender but don't yet have the skills. Their responsibilities include pouring beer and wine for guests (mixing complicated cocktails is reserved for bartenders), getting ice, restocking garnishes, restocking glassware, and making sure the bar has everything needed to operate.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Aspires to become a bartender, good under pressure, speedy, determined, patient, and willing to learn.

Server (waiter/waitress) jobs

Average restaurant server salary

State minimum wage + tips

Job description

Full-service restaurants owe a lot to their waitstaff. Not only are they the direct point of contact for your guests, they’re who makes sure your guests enjoy their experience in your restaurant. If guests encounter a bad-tempered host or aren't greeted by a busser when walking by, a delightful server can make everything in the world good again. A bad server, however, can ruin a guest's dining experience.

All the skills we've mentioned so far for other positions apply also to servers, who should do everything in their power to ensure a phenomenal visit for every guest they serve.

Fill this position with someone who genuinely wants to work in your restaurant. You'll need someone who isn't afraid to be social but who won't lose sight of the importance of their job. Your servers also need to be able to tell management if a guest’s experience is subpar, so their communication skills should be fantastic.

Lastly, teamwork is huge for servers. Each employee should be able to complete sidework, run food, and help other team members when necessary to keep your restaurant running. Rather than pointing fingers when something’s out of whack, they should be able to pick up the slack to get your restaurant back on track. Heh, bit of a rhyme there for ya.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Passionate, great communicator, and observant.

Busser jobs

Average busser salary

State minimum wage + nightly tip out from servers and bartenders

Job description

A busser is responsible for clearing tables and re-setting them for continued use. They need to be attentive during meal service, scanning the room to see if guests have cups, plates, or cutlery that needs clearing. Bussers are also responsible for keeping server stations stocked with additional place settings, napkins, etc. While servers should be trained to not rely on anyone else to bus their tables, bussers are a surefire way to keep the dining area clean.

Chances are your bussers will receive customer questions, so bussers should be familiar enough with your menu to respond confidently.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Independent worker, able to anticipate guests’ needs, willing to get their hands dirty.

Host/hostess jobs

Average restaurant host/hostess salary

State minimum wage (+ tips at many restaurants)

Job description

The host or hostess is traditionally the first point of contact for your guests. For all visits — especially first-time visits — it’s crucial that you put someone at the host stand who will leave guests with the best first impression possible.

Your host or hostess should be approachable, able to follow the organizational structure of your reservation system, understand your guest seating strategy, be attentive to parties in the waiting area, and able to coordinate takeout orders.

They should also be able to keep themselves busy with productive tasks during slow times. You should have at least one host scheduled during all operating hours. When there aren’t people flooding through the door, a host acts as a front-of-house utility player by finding ways to benefit your restaurant, like rolling silverware or cleaning windows rather than watching the clock.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Polite, attentive, hard working, and decisive.

Cashier jobs

Average restaurant cashier salary

State minimum wage

Job description

It's common to designate this role to a high-schooler looking for part time work or a college student home for the summer, but take great care to fill this position well. For those getting takeout, it's likely the cashier will be the only person the customer interacts with, so it’s important that they’re engaging and accommodating.

They should be polite when taking orders in person and over the phone. The cashier needs to keep the line moving during busy times without compromising the accuracy of orders or their level of service. The guests should be able to ask questions without feeling hurried along by the cashier, which means your employee should be approachable.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Kind, dedicated, and possessing a measurable level of interest in the industry.

Expeditor/runner jobs

Average expo/food runner salary

State minimum wage

Job description

The food expeditor — also known as the expo or runner — is responsible for assembling orders on the line and running the completed order to the table in a full-service restaurant. For takeout, they’ll do the same for those waiting to take their food to go.

The person who fills this restaurant position should be able to handle stress and capable of organizing moving parts because they'll have many tickets to assemble at any given time. There will also be a brief moment of interaction between them and the guest when they drop the food off, so this staff member should be social as well.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Attention to detail, speedy, and sociable.

Back-of-House Restaurant Jobs

Dishwasher jobs

Average restaurant dishwasher salary

State minimum wage

Job description

All restaurants use dishes, plates, pots and pans, silverware, and/or cooking utensils. Since you probably don't have the time to wait around for your dishwasher machine to do everything, a human dishwasher helps speed up the cleaning process and maintain quality so that your entire supply of forks don't end up in a 40-minute wash cycle.

Make sure the person who fills this position doesn't let minor details slip by — one missed spot could result in a lost customer. A low-skill position doesn’t mean low-impact.

Your dishwasher needs to be comfortable standing for long periods of time while moving quickly; if there’s a constant stream of people in and out of your restaurant, there will be a constant stream of dirty dishes. And if the dishes get piled too high due to a slow-moving dishwasher during a rush, you’re going to have a lot of broken plates before you know it.

Sometimes restaurants hire people into dishwasher roles who are interested in developing culinary skills and learning about kitchen teams. If you can find someone with an interest like this, chances are they’ll be more motivated to stay with you longer.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Attentive to detail, quick, and focused.

Head/executive chef jobs

Average head chef salary


Job description

The executive or head chef conceptualizes and creates your restaurant's menu and leads your kitchen team. You'll want a creative, culinary mastermind in this position, because they're entirely responsible for the tastes and flavors on your guests’ plates.

An executive chef should have years of experience working in the kitchen, a deep understanding of how ingredients relate to one another, and be able to whip up recipes that not only delight guests’ taste buds but keep your operating budget in check.

It’s also important that this member of your team is a good teacher and has patience with your other staff members. Nobody wants a hot head in an even hotter kitchen.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Familiar with tastes of the world, passionate and imaginative with several years of experience.

Line cook jobs

Average line cook salary

Slightly above minimum wage

Job description

While a head chef is the strategy behind your kitchen, line cooks are the engine keeping you moving.

In a kitchen, line cooks are given a station to work for the duration of meal service — like pasta, fryer, or prep – and will need to be able to maintain focus on the same task for a few hours at a time.

When hiring line cooks, look for candidates who’ve been trained in basic, universal cooking techniques they can apply to each of your cooking stations: they may be on pasta one evening but switch to burgers the next night.

Line cooks typically have ambitions to rise in the kitchen ranks, so look for candidates who are looking to learn all that they can to grow their career with you.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Attentive, energetic, and fast-moving.

Sous chef jobs

Average sous chef salary


Job Description

The vice president of the kitchen, a sous chef assists the executive/head chef and stands in for them when needed.

Make sure the person you appoint to this position has good chemistry with the executive/head chef — this will help avoid conflict in the kitchen and keep things running smoothly in the back of house.

They’ll also need to be familiar with recipes and comfortable taking a leadership role when required. Since they might be moving up to the head chef position in the foreseeable future, make sure this role is filled by someone you can see leading your kitchen entirely one day.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Possesses leadership potential, culinary prowess, and a good attitude.

Delivery driver jobs

Average restaurant delivery driver salary

State minimum wage (plus tips)

Job Description

Obviously a necessary position to all restaurants who offer delivery, your driver should be someone who values punctuality. It's also beneficial when the driver is familiar with the area you expect them to deliver to. Given the rise of off-premise dining, delivery is becoming more important as a core restaurant role. Today, the delivery driver might be the only team member representing your business.

And since this is likely the only person your delivery customer will interact with, make sure they’re friendly and will represent your restaurant well, because you won’t be able to control what happens on your customer’s doorstep.

Unless you plan to offer a vehicle, your driver must have reliable transportation and a valid driver’s license.

Key traits to look for when hiring for this position

Personable, trustworthy, clean driving record.


Finding the right people for your open restaurant jobs requires diligence on your part, but the payoff for finding high-performing staff is worth it. The time you put in to hiring quality candidates rather than a warm body will pay you back tenfold, but you need to be patient and tireless in your pursuit.

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