Restaurant and Bar Staffing Guide: Tips to Run, Grow and Train Your Team

restaurant bar staffing guide

This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

Maybe you’ve taken the initial steps to start your restaurant or bar — from solidifying a business idea to writing a business plan to coming up with a name — and now you’ve decided you’re ready to hire employees. Or you’re looking for better ways to evolve your existing team. What can you do to prioritize top talent in a challenging and evolving labor market?

Here are tips and tools for successfully growing your food and beverage business while taking care of your team.

Get the full staffing guide — with tips on the hiring and staffing process from start to finish — here.

1. Formalize your hiring and onboarding process

With such high turnover in the food and beverage industry, it’s important to have a clear, efficient process when you hire and onboard new employees. Here are some places to start building consistent systems rather than cobbling together a process each time:

  • Job applications: Where do you post your openings? Do you have a consistent application, interview, and review process? What about employee referrals?
  • Onboarding: Do you have the tools to quickly get employees set up with your payroll, POS, and scheduling? Is it all in one place or do you and your employees have to navigate multiple tools and systems?
  • Training and growth: Do you have written plans to follow for each role that you can reference and build on over time?

2. Make an employee handbook

Angie Evans and Kat McIver dove deep into building a 25-page employee manual before opening their brick-and-mortar cafe, Wide Eyes Open Palms, in Long Beach, CA, including training on topics such as the importance of avoiding gendered pronouns. Every new hire gets a copy of the manual and then has a personal sit-down with either Evans or McIver to go over the highlights before they begin working.

Employee handbooks are a great way to set up new team members for success and hold existing employees accountable. Some examples of what you can include in your restaurant or bar’s handbook:

  • Code of conduct
  • Pay policies such as information on paydays, timekeeping, overtime eligibility, etc.
  • Benefits
  • Sick leave policy
  • Paid vacation policy
  • Assessment process for promotions and raises
  • Process for filing a complaint
  • Welcome letter from owners
  • Mission statement
  • Ideal company culture
  • Annual closures
  • Behavioral expectations including attendance and dress code
  • Standard operating hours
Square Shifts

Optimize your labor costs and simplify your payroll process with an easy POS integration.

3. Focus on benefits

Even if you aren’t able to increase salaries with rising costs across the board in the industry, consistently monitor your benefits to remain competitive — and look for ways to get creative, including:

  • Discounts: On top of discounts at your own restaurant or restaurant group, check with other local establishments you’re friendly with and consider a shared discount program for employees.
  • Remote work: Remote work is often considered a non-starter for restaurant and bar employees, but consider how flexible you can be here. You could rotate days for one employee to work from home on digital optimizations, marketing, operations, or branching out into retail, depending on their skills.
  • Scheduling: Employees appreciate both schedule reliability and flexibility. Have a discussion with your team about better ways to handle scheduling that would work for them and for the business. Do they know their hours far enough in advance? Is there a workable system for taking time off?

4. Delegate

When the owners of Good Luck Wine in Southern California were looking to add a second location, they found it was only possible because they had hired a manager who could handle day-to-day operations at the original location. Without being ready and able to delegate, you could be stagnating business growth. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Start small: Share tasks that won’t cause you stress, and then create a plan to delegate further as you and your team get more comfortable sharing the workload.
  • Know your team’s strengths: Having a talented team means likely employing people with skills that go beyond their roles. Is a front-of-house staff member particularly good with social media and design? Carve out time for them to use those skills to help the business.
  • Delegate with a plan: Rather than delegating one-off tasks, see how you can strategically empower and grow your existing team by giving them more responsibility. Perhaps a skilled expediter shows potential as a future director of operations for your restaurant group. You can have a conversation with that employee and develop a career path collaboratively if there is mutual interest.

5. Streamline operations

One way to help solve staffing issues without needing to hire additional employees is to look into ways to improve your operations and efficiencies. Consider which tasks take up the most time, energy, and money for you and your employees. Are there better, quicker, and cheaper ways to operate?

In the past year, many restaurants have embraced automated tools to free up staff members to spend more time focused on meaningful tasks and career growth. Some ideas to help get you started:

  • Omnichannel ordering: Square KDS (short for kitchen display system) automatically organizes all of your orders, regardless of what channel they came through, and syncs up your front and back of house with customized layouts, timers, and notifications optimized for your unique needs.
  • Automating inventory and vendor relationships: Your sales, inventory and vendor management systems can work together to automatically order ingredients and supplies before they’re estimated to run out of stock.
  • Unifying systems for management and operations: Unified systems — such as the Square ecosystem — can save time and money while streamlining all restaurant operations in one place.
  • Embracing a POS-integrated labor management solution — such as Square Shifts — that provides scheduling and employee time tracking that is seamlessly reflected on labor and payroll reports. Torch & Crown General Manager Bill Brooks saved six hours a week by using payroll and scheduling through the Square ecosystem, avoiding having to manually check things like tip pooling percentages against employees’ hours.

6. Optimize your payroll and scheduling tools

Managerial tasks such as running payroll used to prevent Trina Gregory-Propst from spending as much time as she wanted in the kitchen at her Orlando, Florida, restaurant Se7en Bites. But finding an automated solution connected to her staff scheduling and point of sale helped alleviate those pain points.

Payroll used to be a nemesis for me,” she said. “And I’ve been able to look like a hero to my staff by giving them direct deposit and the ability to have access to their account on a daily basis without wondering what their next check is going to be. The ease with which I do payroll now has saved me hours of time every week, and it just integrates so well. I can look at my sales and know what my payroll is and really see: What is the forecast? Am I doing OK? Do I need to pull back on hours? Do I need to increase hours?”

As you look to choose or switch payroll software for your business, consider the amount of time spent working across multiple tools or manually making fixes and tweaks across the board. 

Square Shifts provides POS-integrated time tracking, team member scheduling, and wage management to optimize your labor costs and simplify your payroll process. It also connects to key business reports right in your Square Dashboard so you can stay on top of your labor costs and scheduling needs from overtime and break tracking to preventing early clock-ins, all while keeping your data in one place.