Skip to main content

5 Tips for Hiring Front of House Staff at Your Restaurant



The restaurant industry is known for having a huge employee turnover rate. But hiring and training hostesses, servers, and bartenders is a time-consuming and often costly venture, which means it’s important to get it right on your first go and hire people who fit your business model and want to stick around for a while. Here are five tips to consider when hiring these critical positions. (Spoiler alert: The last one may be our favorite.)

Take Your Time During the Interview Process

There’s a reason they say the best managers are “slow to hire and quick to fire.” You want to find managers who will be very methodical during the hiring process to avoid a high turnover rate. It’s important to go into this process with a clear idea of what the restaurant’s values and mission statement are so that you can use that as a guide to hire people who fit within that culture. Have the applicant meet with at least two people who ask different questions. This is also a time to take note of the little things like how the candidate is dressed as well as eye contact, facial expressions, and the overall way they present themselves.

Ask Hard Questions

While it’s important to discuss things like availability and previous experience, it’s also important to find out how front of house employees will handle different situations, what sets them apart from the competition, what they love (and don’t love) about their work, how they handle difficult customers, what they’d do if a customer was unhappy, a time they disagreed with a co-worker and how they solved the dispute, and any food or wine questions you may have to determine if they are qualified. You may also want to ask about their favorite dishes or cocktails around town just to get a sense of how they talk about food. It’s also important to see if they have any questions for you. If they don’t, you might want to rethink how prepared the candidate is and if they’re really enthusiastic about the job.

Have Candidates You Like Do a Trial Shift

There’s no better way to see if a candidate is a good fit than trailing them for a couple of hours while they work a shift or shadow another server, hostess or bartender. The candidate should show up on time, be dressed properly, and have at least a fair understanding of the menu. This is a perfect opportunity to see if their skills and demeanor will be a good fit and if they’re up for the job. It’s also only fair to pay them for their time, regardless of if you’ll be hiring them when it’s over.

Call Their References

Reach out to past employers and character references to verify the candidate is being truthful about past experience and key competencies and to also get a better sense for the applicant’s personality and work style. This is your last chance to get outside opinions about the person, so you want to take advantage of it. A great question to ask is if the person would rehire the candidate. Keep your ears open to really decipher if the reference is just trying to be polite and put a positive spin on things or if she truly believes what she’s saying.

Ignore All of This Advice

We spoke to Gianpaolo Paterlini, partner and wine director at 1760 in San Francisco’s Nob Hill, to get his advice about interviewing and retaining help. He said, “When we hire people, it has absolutely nothing to do with experience or skill; it’s strictly about personality.” Paterlini insists he can teach anyone what they need to know, so it’s most important to make sure he thinks they’re a good fit for the staff and patrons. “I ask them simple questions like what their favorite dish is and why,” he says. “I don’t care what dish they describe. I just want to know if they can convey a dish or drink with some emotion and if it feels authentic.”

But don’t think he spends a lot of time with these questions. “I talk with them for five or ten minutes at most. If you’re a diner, how long do you have to feel out your server? Not much. You’re just going to have quick little interludes. The first impression matters the most, so I just go off of the vibe they give me,” he says.

Paterlini is so reliant on his first impression of a person that he says he’s actually never called a single reference. “I try to hire people with no experience,” he says. “There are so many bad habits people pick up that I want a blank slate when I train someone.” Of course, this means you have to be willing to be patient, help employees learn, and really put in the training. “It’s all about giving people a chance,” Paterlini says. “People aren’t just employees, they’re family.” And that’s why his employees choose to stick around.

For more information on managing your front of house and other useful tips, visit Yelp Reservations or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Did you find this post valuable?

Click on a star to rate it.

Since you found this post valuable...

Follow us on social media for more great business resources!

We're sorry you didn't find this post valuable.

How could we improve it?

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

Business resources, delivered to your inbox

Get the latest blog content, info on virtual events, and the occasional freebie.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

By continuing, you agree to Yelp’s Terms of Service and acknowledge Yelp’s Privacy Policy.

[gravityform id="4" title="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_4' ><div id='gf_4' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div> <div class='gform_heading'> <span class='gform_description'></span> </div><form data-form-name='Newsletter Signup Popup' method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_4' action='/businesses/5-best-tips-hiring-front-house-staff/#gf_4' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_4' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_4_1" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible gf-email" data-field-class="gf-email" data-js-reload="field_4_1"><label class='gfield_label screen-reader-text' for='input_4_1' >youremail@address.com</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_4_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='youremail@address.com' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_4_2" class="gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_4_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_4_2' >Phone</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_2' id='input_4_2' type='text' value='' autocomplete='new-password'/></div><div class='gfield_description' id='gfield_description_4_2'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_4' class='gform_button button' value='Submit' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_4").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=4&amp;title=&amp;description=1&amp;tabindex=0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='4' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_4' value='WyJbXSIsImE0YjFiMmUxY2IxMWVhYTljM2FhNzdkODk4NDUzZmY0Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_4' id='gform_target_page_number_4' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_4' id='gform_source_page_number_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> </form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_ajax_frame_4' title='This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.'></iframe> <script> gform.initializeOnLoaded( function() {gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_4').on('load',function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_4');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_4').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;var mt = parseInt(jQuery('html').css('margin-top'), 10) + parseInt(jQuery('body').css('margin-top'), 10) + 100;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').offset().top - mt); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_4').val();gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [4, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_4').offset().top - mt);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [4]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;wp.a11y.speak(jQuery('#gform_confirmation_message_4').text());}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_4').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [4, current_page]);} );} ); </script>
[gravityform id="4" title="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_4' ><div id='gf_4' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div> <div class='gform_heading'> <span class='gform_description'></span> </div><form data-form-name='Newsletter Signup Popup' method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_4' action='/businesses/5-best-tips-hiring-front-house-staff/#gf_4' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_4' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_4_1" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible gf-email" data-field-class="gf-email" data-js-reload="field_4_1"><label class='gfield_label screen-reader-text' for='input_4_1' >youremail@address.com</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_4_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='youremail@address.com' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_4_2" class="gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_4_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_4_2' >Name</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_2' id='input_4_2' type='text' value='' autocomplete='new-password'/></div><div class='gfield_description' id='gfield_description_4_2'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_4' class='gform_button button' value='Submit' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_4"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_4")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_4"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_4").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=4&amp;title=&amp;description=1&amp;tabindex=0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='4' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_4' value='WyJbXSIsImE0YjFiMmUxY2IxMWVhYTljM2FhNzdkODk4NDUzZmY0Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_4' id='gform_target_page_number_4' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_4' id='gform_source_page_number_4' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> </form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_4' id='gform_ajax_frame_4' title='This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.'></iframe> <script> gform.initializeOnLoaded( function() {gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_4').on('load',function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_4');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_4').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;var mt = parseInt(jQuery('html').css('margin-top'), 10) + parseInt(jQuery('body').css('margin-top'), 10) + 100;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').offset().top - mt); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_4').val();gformInitSpinner( 4, 'https://blog.yelp.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [4, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_4').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_4').offset().top - mt);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [4]);window['gf_submitting_4'] = false;wp.a11y.speak(jQuery('#gform_confirmation_message_4').text());}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_4').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [4, current_page]);} );} ); </script>