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How to Quickly Scale Operations with a Restaurant Staffing Agency

Marcel DeerAuthor

Your restaurant business is booming but you’re struggling to maximize sales due to your labor shortages. Does this sound familiar?

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are currently 15.6 million people in the food service workforce, just 0.4% below the pre-COVID peak. Quit rates are back down to relatively normal levels at 4.8% per month, and unemployment is way down, with an average of just 0.7 unemployed people for every job opening.

With so many businesses trying to fill vacancies or scale up, a restaurant staffing agency may be the answer to your staffing needs.

In this article, you will learn how to take advantage of restaurant staffing agencies to strengthen your team and fill critical gaps during busy season — and how to choose the best restaurant staffing agency for your specific needs.

How do I find restaurant staff?

How do you determine staffing needs for a restaurant?

How can restaurant staffing agencies benefit your operation?

Restaurant trends and statistics show that most operations have fewer than 50 employees, and many are working with fewer than 20. If this is where your business falls, you may be used to handling staffing yourself.

With quit rates in the restaurant industry of around 5% per month, that only represents one or two people monthly. That’s something you can manage, right?

When you’re consistently busy, searching for and hiring new employees becomes an extra burden that you may not have enough time for. That’s where restaurant staffing agencies come into play. 

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What is a restaurant staffing agency?

These industry-specific agencies use different methods to help you fill slots for any position on your roster. 

Different agencies are set up to provide you with staff in different ways. Some can get you temp workers on days when important staff members call in sick, leave unexpectedly, or need to be supplemented due to big events. 

Other agencies help you recruit part-time and full-time employees by connecting you with workers who have the skill sets you need. You can even outsource all of your recruiting, and hiring needs to an agency that will work closely with your business to ensure you always have the staff you need.

Most restaurants focus on referrals. However, staffing agencies might refer people with different working personas, and it’s still up to you to recruit the right kind of person for each job.

A “restaurant careerist” (18% of restaurant workers) is the type of person you want to get into a management track position. These people are motivated to develop their skills and stay in the restaurant industry long-term.

Most restaurant staff (46%) are “supporting lifestyle” who are working to make money and support their lifestyles. This group is your bread and butter and can be brought into both front-of-house and back-of-house positions.

“Saving for goals” (22%) are working to save money for unrelated goals like college, a new car, or their own apartment. These workers tend to quit more readily once they’ve reached their saving goals, so it’s best to hire them into positions that are quickly replaceable and easy to train.

Then there are the “Supplementary income” (14%) who are mostly interested in working just to stay busy and keep up cash flow for their leisure activities like skiing or surfing. They have lower levels of commitment to the job and are best matched with temp or part-time positions.

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When should a business consider working with a restaurant staffing agency?

It can be difficult to find great staff to join your team. 

Unemployment is low, and people are staying in their jobs more now, so when you need to replace a staff member or expand your team, a staffing agency can make a lot of sense. They typically have access to hundreds or even thousands of workers in your area and can help you recruit them quickly.

Agencies make even more sense under special conditions, like when you need seasonal workers for your high season or short-term staff to help with events. They can also be a great bet to fill key positions that you need to put really experienced industry professionals into full-time.

If you’re running a larger restaurant, you might even want to look at an ongoing relationship with a staffing agency. They can offer service packages that help you streamline your hiring process and take the pressure off your managers.

Should you only use an agency to fill temporary or part-time roles?

This depends a lot on the size of your restaurant and also the positions you’re hiring for. 

Bigger restaurants might need more help from agencies to keep them fully staffed. 

Front-of-house roles may demand fewer technical skills and may be easier to fill with great people through an agency. 

Back-of-house positions like line cooks and dishwashers can likewise be easily found through agencies. 

However, key positions like head chef or COO might require a lot more vetting of candidates to find the perfect fit, and you may need to fill these positions yourself.

Choosing a restaurant staffing agency to help overcome shortages

There are a lot of staffing agencies out there, and choosing one that can fill your staffing needs isn’t always such an easy task. 

There’s also a lot of competition for food service workers to fill positions in the pandemic bounce-back period we now find ourselves in. So you need an agency that understands your business and what you need from your staff.

Most agencies offer different levels of service for different fees. They might take a piece of an hourly wage to send you temp workers day by day or charge a monthly fee to give you access to their potential hires. Some agencies offer personal consulting for your business and recommend staff personally. 

It all comes down to your bottom line and how much you can afford to invest in finding new staff. As of a few years ago, it could cost $2,000 to recruit and train a new staff member and up to $15,000 for a new manager. If an agency can help you do that cheaper or more efficiently, that’s a great reason to use their services.

What else sets them apart? Vetting workers through background checks and certifying their experience can help you get the best quality staff. Agencies that give personal attention to your business can make a huge difference. 

It can also be important to look at where the staffing agency’s focus is. A hospitality or restaurant-specific agency is going to attract workers with more specific skills and experience than a cross-industry firm. This can help better target the right individuals who will fit easily into your business.

Optimizing training for new hires from your restaurant staffing agency

Whether you’re hiring new staff yourself or recruiting them through a staffing agency, you'll want to get them trained on your systems and processes ASAP.

Research from Toast found that two weeks or more of training is the sweet spot for successful staff sentiment.

Almost 75% of restaurant employees spend less than two weeks training when they first start — though QSR employees are given slightly more time.

Toast’s data shows restaurant staff perception of their training broken down by the extent of it. Turns out that restaurant staff who trained for longer periods of time have more positive perceptions of their training.

Over 80% of restaurant staff that got at least three weeks of training listed their training as good or very good. That’s compared to 45% for staff that got less than a week of training — and 69% that got one to two weeks of training.

These first few weeks of onboarding and training can be crucial for setting the tone and showing off your restaurant mission and team in action. Hiring managers can start with introductions across the team. 

A buddy system can be a great way to usher new team members through their onboarding period — or champions across each team can help as a point of contact for the rest of their crew.

Great restaurant managers can round out their onboarding by setting up times to sit down with new staff over the first few months. This can be a great way to keep track of how they’re doing and feeling in the new role.

As it applies to on-the-job skills, it is important to keep in mind that most restaurant workers have prior experience in the industry.

While expectations should be set across any new hires, managers may feel comfortable leaning on those folks with with more experience — which is likely the type of employee you'll get from a staff agency.

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Training Manual Template

Use this restaurant training manual template, a customizable Word Doc, to provide your staff with the rules, guidelines, and clarity they need to do their jobs efficiently.

Toast

Streamlining restaurant operations by supplementing labor needs with student employees —and an easy-to-use POS system

Employee management tools and software features for onboarding and training, scheduling, payroll, cleaning, and more can help get your new hires quickly up to speed. 

The last thing you want is a divide to grow between new recruits and established staff. So no matter where your staff come from, whether self-hires or staffing agency recruits, treating everyone the same and training all workers on the same systems will keep things running smoothly. 

This can help increase staff retention and save you time, money, and headaches in the future.

And along with boosting your team with restaurant staffing agency, you may consider whether if your POS system is helping you maximize efficiencies and capitalize on your sales. 

Toast POS system is built for restaurants, for their busy season, and for all their staff to easily pick it up and start working.


This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Toast does not warrant the 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.

Methodology

Toast conducted a blind online survey of 1,011 U.S. restaurant employees not operating at a manager or owner level ages 18 and older between February 27 - March 19, 2023. Respondents were not made aware that Toast was fielding the study. Using a standard margin of error calculation, at a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error on average is +/- 3%.

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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.