A restaurant is only as successful as the team running it.
Ask anyone who's worked in a restaurant, and they'll tell you their coworkers are family first, friends second, and colleagues third.
Working together for 12+ hours a day in an environment that Celebrity Chef Chris Hill dubbed "one of the most challenging environments to work in – it’s hot, it’s unpredictable, and it’s very manual-labor intensive."
As America finds itself in the midst of a restaurant labor shortage, finding and retaining quality restaurant staff members has become a massive challenge; simply put, there are too many kitchens and not enough cooks to go around.
Whether you're a new restaurant owner wondering how you should structure your team, where you should look for candidates, and what a quality candidate looks like, or you're a veteran operator wondering what positions are the most essential to the health of your business and which spots you should prioritize filling first, we've got the answers.
Here are 15 restaurant positions – from the dish pit to the host stand – you can and should hire for ASAP.
Assistant Restaurant Manager
Average Assistant Restaurant Manager Salary: $35,000-$40,000
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, etc. An effective assistant restaurant manager will be able to step in for the MOD – 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 Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Extensive industry knowledge, experience working in a restaurant, experience managing employees, strong organizational skills, strong interpersonal skills.
Average Bartender Salary: $19,000-$23,000 (plus tips)
Description: Whether it's a coffee bar or a nighttime bar, the person who fills this restaurant position should be extremely knowledgeable in their mixology skills.
When the line builds up, it's up to them to bust it with order accuracy and plenty of flair.
You'll also need someone extremely personable behind that counter - this can be a stressful position, and so you'll need someone who can get the job done and still have fun. There will also be plenty of slow nights keeping the bar, so make sure they can hold a conversation well.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Experienced behind the bar, personable, and speedy.
Listen Below: Award-Winning Bartender Sam Treadway on The Garnish
Average Bar Manager Salary: $50,000, but heavily dependent on experience.
Description: Your bar manager will be responsible for planning anything and everything related to your restaurant's bar and bar offerings. 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 likely consider themselves a mixologist. A qualified candidate will be up on the latest in national beer trends, be able to make informed drink suggestions to guests based on their preferences, and have a strong command behind the bar.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: A passion for alcohol (not just drinking it, but pouring it), personable, creative, experience managing employees.
Average Barback Salary: Minimum wage (plus a nightly tip out from the bar staff)
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 have the skills needed yet. 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 need to operate.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Aspirations of becoming a bartender, good under pressure, determination, patience, willingness to learn.
Average Busser Salary: State minimum wage + nightly tip out from servers and bartenders
Description: A busser is responsible for clearing tables and re-setting them for continued use. They need to be attentive during meal service, scanning over the room to see if guests have cups, plates, or cutlery that need clearing. Bussers are also responsible for keep server stations stocked with additional place settings, napkins, etc. While servers should be trained to not rely on anyone else to bus their tables, in fine dining restaurants or quick service restaurants where there aren't servers, bussers are a surefire way to keep the dining area clean.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Independent worker, able to ancticipate guests needs, not grossed out by dirty dishes.
Average Restaurant Cashier Salary: State Minimum Wage
Description: It's easy to designate a high-schooler looking for part time work or a college student home for the summer, but you should take great care to fill this role well. For those getting takeout, it's likely that the cashier will be the only person the customer interacts with.
They should be polite when taking orders in person and over the phone.
The cashier also needs to keep the line moving during busy times without compromising the accuracy of orders or their level of service.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Kind, dedicated, and possessing a measurable level of interest in the industry.
Average Restaurant Catering Manager Salary: $43,000-$48,000
Description: If you offer catering, this is a crucial restaurant position to fill. During the season of graduation parties, wedding anniversaries, and even some holidays, you will need a full-time catering manager to a.) ensure orders are coming in, and b.) make sure those orders are fulfilled properly. The candidate you hire should be organized and able to plan for the fluctuation that the job will require.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Organized, skilled in marketing, and experienced in event planning.
Average Restaurant Delivery Driver Salary: State Minimum Wage (plus tips, see tip credit debate)
Description: Obviously a necessary position to all restaurants who offer delivery, your driver should be someone who values punctuality.
References help, and it's beneficial when the driver is familiar with the area you expect them to deliver to.
Also, since this is likely the only person your delivery customer will interact with, make sure they are friendly and will represent your restaurant well - because on the customers doorstep, you won't be able to control what happens.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Personable, trustworthy, clean driving record.
Average Restaurant Dishwasher Salary: State Minimum Wage
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 dishwashing machine to do everything, a human dishwasher helps speed up the cleaning process so that your entire supply of forks don't end up in a 40-minute wash cycle.
Make sure the one who fills this restaurant position doesn't let minor details slip by - one missed spot could result in a lost customer. A low-skill position does not mean a low-impact position.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Attentive to detail, quick, and focused.
Average Expo/Food Runner Salary: State Minimum Wage
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 will do the same for those waiting to take their food to go.
The one who fills this restaurant position should be good under pressure, and good at organizing many moving parts at once as 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 personable and social as well.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Good at remembering, speedy, and social.
Description: The executive chef – or head chef – conceptualizes and creates your restaurant's menu.
You'll want a creative, culinary mastermind in this position, as 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, have a deep understanding of how ingredients relate to one another, and be able to whip up recipes that not only delight guests tastebuds, but keep your operating budget in check.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Familiar with tastes of the world, passionate, and imaginative.
Average Restaurant Host/Hostess Salary: State Minimum Wage
Description: In full-service restaurants, the host or hostess tends to be the first point of contact for the guest and the restaurant. For all visits - especially first-time visits - it is 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 able approachable and personable, 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.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Polite, attentive, and good under pressure.
Average Kitchen Manager Salary: $47,000-$53,000
Description: Your kitchen managers help to run the 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 Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Commanding, respectful, and authoritative.
Average Line Cook Salary: Slightly Above Minimum Wage
Description: Where a head chef is the brains behind your kitchen, line cooks are the engine churning out dish after dish.
In a kitchen, line cooks are given a station to man for the duration of meal service – like pasta, burgers, or wings – and will need to be able to maintain focus on the same task for a few hours time.
When hiring line cooks, look for candidates who have been trained in basic, universal cooking techniques that they can apply to each of your cooking stations (ex: 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 in order to grow their career.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Attentive, energetic, fast-moving.
Average Restaurant Manager Salary: $50,000 for most restaurants, up to $75,000+ for fancier establishments
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 are dedicated to both the restaurant industry and working in your restaurant.
This person should also be a full culture fit, since they will likely be interacting with and/or training everyone on your staff. This person should also be qualified to hire, fire, and reprimand employees when necessary, and serve as an extension of the restaurant owner.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Driven to better your restaurant, experienced in front of house and back of house, and possessive of fantastic leadership skills.
Average Restaurant Server Salary: State minimum wage for tipped wage employees.
Description: FSRs owe a lot to their waitstaff. Not only are they the direct point of contact for your guests if they need anything, they are the one your guests interact with most in a restaurant. If they encounter a bad-tempered host or aren't greeted by a busser when walking by, these interactions can possibly be overlooked.
A bad server, however, can ruin a guest's dining experience fully.
All of the skills we've mentioned thus far for other positions apply to servers, who should be doing everything in their power to ensure a phenomenal visit for each and every guest they serve. With that said, it's best not to hire a "warm body." Instead, fill this position with somebody who genuinely wants to work in your restaurant. You'll need someone who isn't afraid to be social but won't lose sight of the importance of their job.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Passionate, talkative, and vigilant.
Average Sous Chef Salary: $40,000-$45,000
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 restaurant 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 the house.
They will also need to be familiar with recipes and comfortable taking a leadership role when required. Since they may be moving up to the position in the foreseeable future, make sure this position is filled by someone you can see leading your kitchen entirely one day.
Key Traits to Look For When Applying/Hiring For This Restaurant Position: Possesses leadership potential, culinary prowess, and a good attitude.
Building Your All-Star Restaurant Staff
No matter if your restaurant staff consists of people in all of these positions or only some of them, your team should run like a well-oiled machine. That's why we've developed The Restaurant Hiring Kit to help you hire a better restaurant staff.
In this exclusive offer, you'll get:
- An eBook on restaurant hiring best practices.
- A template for job postings.
- A restaurant interview prompt.
- A sample offer letter.
- And more!