Tips for Hiring Seasonal Restaurant Workers

Few things are certain in the restaurant industry, but one thing’s for sure: It gets busy during the holiday season. This upswing in customer traffic means you’ll need extra hands around the restaurant to accommodate demand, which means hiring seasonal workers to keep operations running as smoothly as possible.

Knowing that the winter holidays are coming is actually beneficial to you as an owner because it means you can get a jumpstart on the hiring process. Take ample time to train your temporary hires and make sure they fully understand how to work in your restaurant. You also get the best talent when you recruit earlier than your competition, making sure you have the strongest workforce available when the winter comes.

Why do you need to hire seasonal workers?

Restaurants usually reach out for added staff during the summer or winter months. Your busy seasons naturally depend on where you’re located; restaurants near attractions like beaches, amusement parks, and big cities tend to get more families visiting when the children are off school for the summer. Meanwhile, winter traffic usually picks up for restaurants in places that are still sunny in December or alternatively in cold ski towns. Advanced Point of Sale technology powered by eatOS identifies your busiest times of the year by analyzing past traffic so you have a better understanding of what to expect this coming season.

Before you start recruiting, identify the roles that you’ll need filling over the break. Typically, owners hire more servers, cooks or delivery workers but every business is different; you know best what positions get overwhelmed when it’s busy. Hire specifically to keep up with the added demand but still keep labor costs low the rest of the year.

You’ll save money on more than just the usual expenses: Seasonal workers tend to be students with less experience who are seeking part-time work; restaurants typically pay them less than full-time, permanent workers. All of this keeps labor costs manageable because you’ll also reduce spending during the rest of the year. Work smarter, not harder.

How can you help seasonal workers succeed?

Identify what roles your restaurant will lack after accommodating your regular staff taking some well-deserved time off for Thanksgiving, the winter holidays, and New Years’. Ask your year-round workers about their plans early so you have plenty of time to make a new schedule and get a clear idea of what positions will need to be filled.

The sooner you put out job postings, the better candidates you’ll get answering the call. Don’t settle: Create listings two to three months in advance of when you actually need coverage. Post on nearby universities’ job boards, get together with other restaurants in the area to participate in hiring fairs, search out industry-specific job sites and ask your current workers for referrals. Offering referral bonuses is a great incentive and an easy way to find qualified temporary employees.

Hiring seasonal workers isn’t like hiring for permanent positions. Prioritize flexibility and availability on busy holidays and in the evening. Make sure students’ university schedules line up with your needs since there are no uniform regulations regarding finals. Oftentimes, temporary restaurant positions get filled by international students so remember to take time in advance to sponsor them as well.

While it can be tempting to give away roles to the first qualified candidates that you find, remember that there’s a lot more that goes into each position than pure experience. For example, if you have two servers with an equal background in the industry, you’d want to prioritize the one who’s previously worked with the kinds of people you get at your own restaurant. You need workers who understand how to cater to your demographics, whether that’s families who like to spend big or college students with empty pockets.

Once you’ve found your temporary hires, it’s time to train them as quickly and efficiently as possible for the upcoming winter rush. A mass orientation is the most effective way to get everybody up to speed at the same time. It’s good to train them on your operations during normal periods so they can get experience working your floor before graduating to a rush. It’s a good idea to have new trainees do a couple regular shifts with permanent workers, if you can, so they learn the ropes during downtimes next to somebody experienced at the job.

Regardless of preparedness, keep managers close by for support and resources during the holiday season to handle questions from guests or staff and to smooth over any bumpy transitions.

Seasonal workers are necessary to successfully get through the busy season when your usual employees are submitting time-off requests but eager vacationers are pouring in by the minivan. Hire your seasonal workers now so you’ve got time to train them and make sure they start off on the right note this holiday season.

Editor's Picks