Restaurants' People Problems Go Beyond Recruiting and Hiring Mistakes
Restaurants' People Problems Go Beyond Recruiting and Hiring Mistakes

Your team – your people – represent you on the front lines. If you’re having “people problems,” it could be due to a whole slew of reasons since there are many pieces to this puzzle.

Running great restaurants is all about people — those you serve, those you employ, and those you give back to within the community. If you get this trifecta right, your chances of success rise astronomically!

Your team – your people – represent you on the front lines. If you’re having “people problems,” it could be due to a whole slew of reasons since there are many pieces to this puzzle. Using appropriate recruiting and hiring strategies is key, though it's only one small step in creating a solid, problem-free team. Even if the ideal employees are hired, many factors can come into play afterwards, affecting the ability to establish a strong team and culture.

Issues Affecting Your People

In order to properly address staffing issues, you have to first get to the core of the problem and figure out where your people processes are going off track. Identify the issues, correct them, and your restaurant can become the place where people want to work.

Don't know where to start? Here are some common issues that can lead to people problems:

Ineffective recruiting and hiring. When thinking about who you want as part of your team, consider the following questions:

  • What types of positions need to be filled? Full-time, part-time, hourly or managerial?
  • What characteristics are you seeking in candidates?
  • Have your past employees demonstrated those characteristics?
  • Where are you looking for candidates and placing job ads?
  • Are your interview questions digging deep enough?
  • Are you checking references?
  • Are you being selective or rushing to make a decision?

Being consistently understaffed. Turnover is going to happen, especially given the unique employment situations affecting the restaurant industry. But you have to take a good hard look at the number of hours or shifts your team is working. Picking up a shift or two every few months when people are on vacation isn't that big of a deal. But if your team is doing this frequently — either because of high turnover or too few people on staff — it's likely they are overworked and tired. All of which can lead to frustration and even more turnover. If your people are working too much, is it only a temporary problem? If not, do you have a plan to remedy this and relieve the burden on your team?

Keeping toxic or underperforming people. Energy is contagious. If you have too much bad energy floating around, your team will invariably soak it up. Thankfully, good energy works in much the same way. Consider if you are keeping the wrong people on the team too long. Cutting them loose sooner rather than later can offer a mega boost to morale.

Unclear expectations and lack of training. Each role will have different expectations and responsibilities. Do you convey those clearly to employees? Do you verify that employees understand their roles? Is training cut short or are team members well-trained in all aspects of the job?

Undefined workplace culture. You know that I'm a huge believer in establishing a solid company culture early on. Before you hire your next employee, make sure you have defined your vision, purpose, and values. This needs to go beyond just another paragraph in the handbook though. Is there a concerted effort to consistently live this culture within the restaurant? Does your team understand the intended culture?

No opportunities for growth. With approximately one-third of Millennials seeking a raise or promotion at their current position, offering room for advancement is imperative. Is there a lack of growth opportunities? Can your people envision a future with the company and the path to follow to get there?

Not working well as a team. Even if you hire all of the "right" people, you still need to put some effort into developing a cohesive team. Do you do anything to build a stronger team? Do you show your team that you care? Are the restaurant's goals clear, so that everyone is focused on achieving the same goals?

Worth the Effort

Trying to dig to the bottom of these problems isn't necessarily an easy or even fun endeavor. It's likely to be time-consuming and frustrating, leaving you to wonder if it's worth it. But it's critical that you follow through, as the success of your restaurant depends on it. And you can't put a price on that.

Carrie Luxem is a human resources professional specializing in the restaurant industry. In 2010, she founded Restaurant HR Group where she partners with dozens of restaurateurs to take care of their greatest assets — their people. With a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, Carrie is frequently sought out for her modern, yet simple and effective advice and has been featured in Entrepreneur, Restaurant News, and Independent Restauranteur. Connect with her on social media or learn more at