Starting a Business

The Staff You Need to Hire to Run a Restaurant

The Staff You Need to Hire to Run a Restaurant
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The following excerpt is from The Staff of Entrepreneur Media's book Start Your Own Restaurant and More. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

There are several categories of personnel in the restaurant business: managers, cooks, servers, buspersons, dishwashers, hosts and bartenders. Each has a specific function and contributes to the operation of the restaurant. When your restaurant is still new, you may find that some of the duties will cross over from one category to another. For example, the manager may double as the host, and servers may also bus tables. In a very small operation, you and your family may assume some of these roles. Because of this, be sure to hire people who express a willingness to be flexible in their duties.

Your payroll costs, including your own salary and that of your managers, should be about 25 to 35 percent of your total gross sales. If payroll costs are more than 35 percent of gross sales, you should look for ways to either cut those costs or increase sales.

Related: What You Need to Know Before Starting a Food Service Business

Manager

The most important employee in many restaurants is the manager. They can help you with your duties or handle them entirely if you plan to be an absentee owner.

Your best candidate for the job will have already managed a restaurant in your area and will be familiar with local buying sources, suppliers and methods. A manager should be able to open and close the restaurant; purchase food and beverages; open the cash register(s); track inventory; train and manage the staff; deal with suppliers; develop and implement a marketing strategy; and handle other miscellaneous duties. Beyond these responsibilities, the manager must reflect the style and character of your restaurant. Don’t hire a cowboy to manage your fine-dining establishment.

A good manager should have at least three years of non-management restaurant experience in addition to two years of managerial experience. It’s often best to hire a manager with a background in small restaurants because this type of person will know how to run a non-corporate eatery. As a rule, restaurant chains buy in mass quantities from central suppliers, which means chain managers probably won’t have the buying experience your operation requires.

You’ll also want a manager who has leadership skills and the ability to supervise personnel in the kitchen, service area, hospitality entrance, bar, lounge and restrooms, and who can also make customers feel welcome and comfortable.

Restaurant managers typically work 50 to 60 hours a week -- which can contribute to a high burnout rate. To combat the potential of burnout and to reduce turnover, be careful not to overwork your manager, and be sure they have adequate time off to relax.

To get the quality of manager you want, you’ll have to pay well. The median salary for a restaurant manager in the United States is $42,387. Depending on your location, expect to pay a seasoned manager $35,000 to $60,000 a year, plus a percentage of sales. An entry-level manager will earn $30,000 to $35,000 but won’t have the skills of a more experienced candidate. If you can’t offer a high salary, work out a profit-sharing arrangement; this is an excellent way to hire good people and to motivate them to help you build a successful restaurant.

Chefs

At some restaurants, the star attraction is the chef. A top chef creates their own culinary masterpieces for you to serve and some have been known to make or break the success of a restaurant. There are actually several types of chefs and their salaries depend on experience, location, training (such as culinary school) and the benefits package offered. Pastry chefs, for example, may start out at roughly $28,000 per year and can work their way up to executive pastry chefs, with a median salary of just over $60,000. A sous chef, who is second to the executive chef and oversees what is going on in the kitchen, will typically start under $30,000 but move up the ladder. The median income for sous chefs is $44,436, while top sous chefs earn close to $60,000.

Executive chefs typically earn between $53,000 and $76,000, with the median salary being $62,759. Of course, well-known star chefs can earn six figures. Such higher figures are generally offered by five-star hotels and restaurants in large cities.

Cooks

When you start out, you’ll probably need three cooks -- two full-time and one part-time. One of the full-time cooks should work days, and the other should work evenings. The part-time cook will help during peak hours, such as weekend rushes, and can work as a line cook, doing simple preparation, during slower periods. The full-time cooks can also take care of food preparation before the restaurant opens, during slow times and after the restaurant closes.

Related: The Essentials to Consider When Designing and Equipping Your Restaurant

Hire your cooks according to the type of restaurant you want. If your goal is a four-star, fine-dining establishment, you’ll want to hire a chef instead of a short-order cook. If you plan to have an exciting and extensive dessert menu, you may want to hire a pastry chef. Cooking schools can usually provide you with the best in the business, but look around and place ads in the paper before you hire. Customers will become regulars only if they know they can expect the best every time they dine at your restaurant -- and to provide that, you need top-notch cooks and chefs.

Salaries for cooks vary according to their level of experience and your menu. If you have a fairly complex menu that requires a cook with a great deal of experience, you may have to pay anywhere from $575 to $650 a week. You can pay part-time cooks on an hourly basis; check around to see what the going rate in your area is. College students can make good part-time cooks.

Dishwashers

As the job title implies, dishwashers keep clean dishes available in your restaurant. You can probably get by with two part-time dishwashers, one working the lunch shift and the second covering the dinner shift. If you’re open for breakfast, you can go with either one full-time and one part-time person or three part-time dishwashers. Expect to pay minimum wage to minimum wage plus $1.50 an hour.

Serving Staff

Finding the right serving staff is just as important as finding the right manager. The servers are the people with whom your customers will have the most interaction, so they must make a favorable impression to keep customers coming back. Servers must be able to work well under pressure, meeting the demands of customers at several tables while maintaining a positive and pleasant demeanor.

In general, there are only two times of day for waitstaff: very slow and very busy. Schedule your employees accordingly. The lunch rush, for example, usually starts around 11:30 a.m. and continues until 1:30 or 2:00 p.m. Restaurants are often slow again until the dinner crowd begins arriving around 5:30 to 6:00 p.m. Volume will typically begin to slow at about 8 p.m. This is why some restaurants are open only for peak lunch and dinner times. During slow periods, your waitstaff can take care of other duties, such as refilling condiment containers.

When your restaurant is new, you may want to hire only experienced servers so you don’t have to provide extensive training. Servers are the front line of your operation. You can pay them minimum wage (or less because they make tips) and risk them leaving at any time, or you can try to go one step up on your competition, pay a little more and have a staff that helps you grow your reputation. Then, as you become established, you should develop a training program to help your employees understand your philosophy and the image you want to project.

Hosting Staff

Depending on the size and style of your restaurant, you may need someone to seat guests, take reservations and sometimes act as cashier. You may want to hire someone part time to cover the busy periods and have the waitstaff or manager handle these duties during slower times. Hire people-oriented, organized individuals for host positions; after all, they will determine the first impression your customers form of your service staff. Students often make great hosts. Pay for this position typically ranges from minimum wage to slightly higher.

Buspersons

Buspersons are responsible for setting up and clearing tables and filling water glasses after customers are seated. Your buspersons should be assigned to stations, just like your waitstaff; in fact, buspersons and servers should work together as a team. Buspersons should be trained to pay attention to their stations, refilling water glasses as necessary, making sure condiment containers are clean and full when the table is turned and generally supporting the server.

Typically, buspersons will be part-timers who work during peak periods. Servers can handle busing tables during slow times. Consider hiring high school and college students as buspersons. These positions usually earn minimum wage plus a portion of the tips received by the servers they assist.

Bartenders

If you have a small bar in your restaurant and it’s only open at night, one bartender, with a couple of backups available, will probably be sufficient. Never count on only one person; if something happens and they can’t come in, you can lose a night’s business. If you expect to earn a good portion of your business from the bar, you’ll need two bartenders -- one full- and one part-time person to assist during peak periods. If your bar attracts customers during both the lunch and dinner periods, you’ll need two or three bartenders, or you might try a combination of a full-time bartender or bar manager, plus two or three part-time helpers.

The bartender begins their day by prepping the bar, which includes preparing the condiments and mixers for the entire day as well as ordering supplies. The bartender also needs to check the liquor requisition sheet and the liquor inventory and restock the bar. If you use a computerized beverage-dispensing and inventory management system, the bartender will check the meters and hook up the necessary bottles.

Related: 5 Money-Making Mainstays of the Restaurant Industry

The night bartender will close the bar. Last call for drinks should occur 30 minutes before the legally required closing time. The closing process usually includes packaging the garnishes and placing them in the refrigerator, wiping down the bar area and stools and restocking the bar.

It’s important to look for a bartender who knows how to pour regular, well-known drinks as well as special requests. Experienced bartenders can make small talk and relate to people individually while juggling several drink orders in their heads. They also know when to stop pouring drinks for intoxicated customers and call a taxi or other transportation to take such customers home. Bartenders are usually paid an hourly wage, often $7 to $11 an hour plus tips, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics brings their wages up to $16 per hour.
Edition: December 2016

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