Operating a Restaurant | 8 minute read

Building a Winning Team for Your Restaurant

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Your staff members are the most valuable asset you have in building a successful restaurant business: a cohesive and dedicated team can make all the difference in whether you reach your company goals or find your business floundering after only a few years of operation.

There are numerous challenges that a restaurant owner may face when they hire employees and manage restaurant staff members, from recruitment and legal concerns to reducing turnover. Today, we’ll explore the nuances of building a winning team for your restaurant, helping you find and keep the best employees.

Setting the Stage: Defining Your Restaurant’s Culture and Values

Restaurant workers

Defining your values as an organization will assist you in hiring employees who match your vision, a crucial part of the organizational fit which reduces turnover and improves employee satisfaction.

Business Leader Today identifies five key elements of great company culture:

  • Valuing both respect and results
  • Hiring good managers who believe in serving their team members
  • Cultivating trust, validating employees, and affording opportunities for personal and professional growth
  • Soliciting employee feedback and working to solve problems rather than ignore them
  • Working to set boundaries on what the company will not stand for

You also want to consider the values that your company holds, such as:

  • Sustainability
  • A top-notch customer experience
  • Team spirit
  • Community service
  • Propriety or novelty
  • Friendliness
  • High efficiency

When you lead with culture and company values, you gain a better understanding of what exactly you’re looking for in an employee, as well as how to train employees to reach their maximum potential.

Recruitment: Finding the Right Fit

Team members

To ensure smooth operations, you’ll need to have both kitchen staff and back-of-house staff, as well as front-of-house staff members; each team member should be perfectly suited for their role. Staff retention starts with great hiring practices, so your management team needs to take the time to investigate each potential team member for a good fit.

Job Descriptions

Attracting new team members begins with developing good job descriptions that clearly define the role in a compelling and easy-to-understand format. Every job description should list the exact functions of the job, as well as what qualifications and skills are needed to perform well. These internal memos can then be used to develop job listings.

Interview Process

Building an entire team that works great together takes time: even a single employee who doesn’t mesh well with other team members can throw off restaurant operations.

Keep interviews simple and focused. Ask them about the different responsibilities they have held in previous positions, as well as what their future goals are. Consider interviewing a large group of people at a time, then asking the impressive potential hires to perform a trial working alongside your existing employees to identify organizational fit.

Diversity and Inclusion

When hiring, you should think of diversity as a great resource: having diverse restaurant workers helps you harness each of their unique talents and gain different perspectives.

To build inclusivity, train your restaurant management team in cultural diversity and how to manage those from different backgrounds or abilities. Hiring an outside consultant team for this training can be quite helpful.


Manage restaurant staff

When building your restaurant team, look beyond the job listing and think about networking. Not every perfect employee may apply to your listing to leverage industry events, culinary schools, and your local community to find potential hires.

Training: Laying the Foundation for Success

To improve restaurant operations, your entire staff must be well-trained and highly familiar with their role. This begins with initial onboarding and should continue throughout an employee’s time in service so that they can keep their skills sharp.


Orientation is about introducing your staff to your restaurant team and helping them identify the values they need to succeed. It should include:

  • A background of your restaurant’s culture, history, and values
  • Introducing them to the hospitality business
  • Allowing them to meet the other employees
  • Setting clear expectations for their roles and responsibilities

Skill Development

A line cook, general manager, and hostess have very different responsibilities, so it’s crucial that you explain all the minutiae of their role, such as closing procedures, how to order supplies, and food safety, to avoid angry customers and poor performance.

In addition, you should also focus on soft skills, especially for younger employees: this includes time management, good communication, effective teamwork, and keeping track of tables or orders.

Continuous Learning

Staff will want to stay if they feel that they can progress in their role, so consider offering workshops and rewarding employees for undertaking additional education. Identify those employees who would have great managerial skills and consider training them to become a new manager: hiring from within can improve teamwork and morale.

In addition, cross-training so that one employee can take on someone else’s job in a pinch can solve staffing issues, as well as boost confidence.

Feedback and Reviews

You’ll need to regularly analyze your staff’s performance to identify potential issues and provide additional support so everyone can do their best. Take this as an opportunity to solicit employee feedback; remember, you’re also continually learning as as a restaurant manager.

Team Management: Fostering a Cohesive and Motivated Environment

Management team

To run a successful restaurant, you need restaurant team members that work well together. This requires refined management skills, as well as clear communication so that problems are addressed equitably, and your employees are encouraged to do their best.


Everyone, from the restaurant management team to the busboys, should be encouraged to share their perspectives on the work and provide feedback. Schedule regular team meetings to discuss issues; you might nominate spokespeople from different positions, like team leads, to solicit feedback from their group.

Conflict Resolution

In the restaurant business, there can sometimes be friction between front-of-house and back-of-house staff, who may feel that the other “side” doesn’t appreciate their work. When these problems arise, empathize and remind everyone that they are all working for the same goal: to serve customers and create a great dining experience.

Rewards and Recognition

It can be very helpful to set up business goals that everyone can work toward, with high achievers receiving extra perks for their service. You may set up an employee of the month based on customers’ feedback, then provide a gift card or free merchandise for the winner.

While everyone wants to reduce labor costs, bonuses are a very effective motivational tool that reduces turnover and improves team morale.

Growth Opportunities

People enjoy working at places where they feel that if they work hard, they can achieve a management position or advance professionally. You can also provide skill enhancements, such as training servers in basic food prep, to improve confidence.

Work-life Balance

Don’t call your staff on their off time unless it’s a genuine emergency, and work to provide flexible schedules using scheduling software. Burnout is common in the restaurant business, so provide resources to help your employees feel valued and validated should they be struggling.

Navigating Employment Laws in Canada

Employee feedback

Employment laws in Canada are complex but also vital to protecting both you and your employees. Here, we’ll provide a quick summary, as well as links to further information about employment in Canada.

Wages and Benefits

Each province has their own minimum wage, and you are also required to provide the following benefits to employees:

  • Pension
  • Employment Insurance
  • Between two and three weeks of vacation, depending on the length of service
  • Statutory holidays

Each province has different workers compensation requirements, as well as different specifications for supplemental insurance and sick leave. The differences between these programs have been compiled by the HR firm Rippling, segregated by province.

Work Hours and Overtime

Each province varies in regard to work hours, but generally, employees can work a maximum of 12 hours in a day or 44 hours in a week; they must have eight hours between shifts. For anything about 40 hours, you are required to pay 1.5 times the average regular hourly wage.

Vacation and Leave

All provinces require you to provide 1.5 times pay for the first 12 hours worked on a statutory holiday, then double for any time after that. You also must provide a minimum of two weeks’ vacation and five days’ personal leave. Every province also differs in the amount of family leave required, so be aware of your obligations.

Health and Safety

Your restaurant should abide by all occupational and health safety regulations set by the Canadian government, with a special focus on the Safe Foods for Canadians regulations as it relates to restaurants. In addition, you must consider the three basic rights of Canadian workers:

  1. The right to know about health and safety matters.
  2. The right to participate in decisions that could affect their health and safety.
  3. The right to refuse work that could affect their health and safety and that of others.

If you’re at all confused, contacting an employment consultant can help demystify the process and provide you with helpful pointers on how to better comply with these standards.

Termination and Resignations

You are generally required to give two weeks’ notice to terminated employees unless they have been there less than three months. For employees who have been with your restaurant for more than a year, you will also be required to pay severance pay.

Handling Turnover: Ensuring Seamless Transitions

Successful restaurant

Unfortunately, turnover can be quite high in the restaurant industry. However, there are ways to make this process less painful:

  • Document procedures as you go along for easier handover.
  • Create a formalized process so you’re prepared ahead of time.
  • Arrange a formal meeting and create overlap between hiring and departure.
  • Perform a debriefing with departing employees to identify potential improvements.
  • Speak to the remaining employees and reassure them.


A dedicated team is critical to a successful restaurant; to be an effective leader, invest time, effort, and resources into your staff for long-term returns while also protecting their safety and well-being. By showing respect and treating your employees well, you can ensure that your restaurant managers, cooks, and servers remain with your business for the long term – and that they are committed as you are to reach your business goals.

References and Further Reading

Why Building a Productive Restaurant Culture Matters

Writing an Effective Job Description

Canada Labour Code

Employment Law for Hospitality Workers in Canada

Standard Hours, Wages, Vacations, and Holidays

Employment Standards in Provinces and Territories

The Complete Guide to Employee Benefits in Canada

Five Useful Hints for a Professional Handover

How to Manage Restaurant Staff and Build Successful Teams

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Simplify the Interview Process?

On the application, ask key questions ahead of time so that you’re not repeating information they already answered in prescreening. For example, ask on the application if they have previous experience and what kind of restaurant business they worked in before.

What Identifies a Good Fit For New Employees?

Look for these key traits when identifying organizational fit for a new employee:

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Commitment to continuous learning
  • Strong customer service (LINK TO Customer Service Excellence in Your Restaurant)
  • Strong work ethic
  • Passion for food service
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Initiative and responsibility
  • Communication skills

How Do I Provide Additional Training?

There are numerous options for providing continuous training:

  • Tuition reimbursement for community college courses
  • Cross-training
  • E-learning platforms
  • Workshops with industry professionals
  • Leadership development classes
  • Certificate programs in food safety

Written by

Todd Rammler is the President and founder of Michigan CFO Associates, a professional firm providing outsourced Chief Financial Officer services to small-business owners. As a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Todd works with business owners to strategically build scalable, healthy businesses that grow in value and meet the business owner’s long term goals.