Hiring and retaining great staff members is one of the biggest challenges facing the restaurant industry today. The Chef Agency is a hospitality recruitment and placement agency that specializes in finding the best chefs and executives for hotels and restaurants across the globe. We talked to recruiters Philis Fraschilla and Giselle Hopewell, as well as Creative Director Lena Sotnick, to learn their top tips for employers hiring and candidates looking for jobs in the business.
1. Match the skill set and the culture. If a restaurant’s culture is family oriented, they need a staff member who is personable and who can become part of a close-knit restaurant “family.” At a larger, high-end restaurant candidates tend to be more corporate leaders who can hold the staff below them accountable. Look at a candidate’s past experience and take note of the size and volume of the restaurants where they have worked previously.
2. Use social media to reach candidates. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — social media is a powerful tool for reaching a large audience. “A lot of times the candidates we get are not really actively seeking, so they are not your candidates who will go on Craigslist and look for jobs,” says Philis. Instead, they see a job description on other sites and reach out to learn more.
“Before, you couldn’t put an ad on Facebook — it was for college kids,” she adds. “Now, we can put an ad on Facebook and get 20 comments within an hour from people who are interested.”
3. Find out what they care about. “One of the top questions I always ask candidates is, what really drives them?” says Philis. In interviews, ask what they are passionate about to understand their goals and priorities.
Similarly, ask where they see themselves three or five years down the line. Can they grow within your organization? Will they be happy with the job they are in, or do they want more than what’s being offered? Not only will it help you hire the right person, it will help you keep them on.
4. Show your appreciation. On that note, there are steps you can take to retain talent and reduce turnover rates. “Restaurants have to show recognition in performance and give employees some incentive,” says Giselle. Bonuses or other simple ways of acknowledging good performance can be powerful tools.
Also, candidates with The Chef Agency are looking for health care benefits, not just for themselves but for their families. “That’s one of the first questions they ask after base salary,” says Philis. “It’s definitely a way to bring on and retain people.”
5. Offer internal opportunities for development. Providing tools and training on top of a person’s actual job description can be a great way to develop staff members. Some groups offer mentoring programs in which, for example, a GM will shadow a VP of Multi Unit for a week every couple of months. The GM will observe and learn as the VP oversees multiple restaurants in the region to understand what the next phase is within the company. “It shows the employee that there’s more to it than what I’m doing now,” says Philis. “And when the company grows they can step into a new role with very little down time, just from the mentoring process.”
1. Get out there! Build your networking by attending as many industry events as you can. Philis tells candidates to get active and “show their faces — there’s nothing like meeting somebody face to face to really get to know them.”
To find events near you, check out the National Restaurant Association and follow the appropriate organizations on social media. Lena recommends reading local food blogs, Eater, and Zagat, which all post about events, and learning who in your city heads the hospitality sector. There are events at every price point (some are even free) so start making yourself accessible.
2. Be savvy — media savvy. These days, you can set yourself apart as a job seeker by having an active online presence. Create a profile and follow restaurants and relevant organizations on different channels, and subscribe to emails and newsletters to learn more and stay up to date. That’s how you become part of a broader network of hospitality professionals and stay in the know about events and opportunities.
3. Do your homework & be prepared. “We try to give candidates as much information about the company they’re interviewing with as possible,” says Philis. It’s critical to be informed about their business — volume, customer base, general information — so you are able to ask questions of them, too. If you have professional pictures of your work, bring them along in a portfolio. If you’re asked to prepare a sample menu, tailor it to what the restaurant is looking for.
4. Explain your experience clearly. When a candidate’s resume shows many transitions, it can raise a red flag for The Chef Agency. But often there are good reasons for those transitions — the restaurants were all part of the same group, for example — that aren’t clear at first glance. Be able to explain yourself and back up your story.
5. Stay positive. When someone speaks badly about their previous employer, that’s another red flag. Obviously each situation is different, but if not getting along with management becomes a pattern in a candidate’s experience, the person hiring may be wary of bringing him or her on. And here’s another reason not to burn any bridges: The Chef Agency has close ties with industry professionals that they reach out to for referrals for specific, hard-to-fill positions. Maintaining good relationships is essential in a people-first business.