Hiring seasonal summer staff

As the seasons change, so do your staffing needs. Patio season means more tables to cover, and combined with labour challenges and vacation time, you don’t want to be short-staffed for the summer. Studies show that businesses lose up to 75 per cent of customers due to wait times, and poor service can really hurt your restaurant revenues. Operators need to plan ahead for the season to get it right, maximize margins, and get diners coming back.

As school winds down for college and university students, there is a large pool of prospective employees that you can attract and retain for your restaurant this summer. Seasonal staff can help alleviate some of the challenges restaurants face during the warmer months and improve your guest experience. Here are some things you need to know when hiring and working with this summer’s seasonal staff:

  • Start by assessing your staffing needs. Look at last year’s data to gauge traffic and determine your busiest times to help with hiring and scheduling. Also, address specific areas of need like servers, cooks, delivery drivers, and more to start planning to hire labour in those areas.
  • Seasonal employees may be eligible for certain benefits and could affect your insurance, so do your research ahead of starting the process so you know what you need to do once new employees start.
  • Decide on your ideal candidates. While you may save on labour by attracting prospects with little or no experience, the training season is short and you may want to hire experienced workers to make the most of the time you have before things get busy.
  • Post job listings as early as you can so you can get a leg up on the competition, attract great talent, and have them trained in time for your busiest season. 62 per cent of candidates say that they lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back from the company within two weeks, so keep the process short and effective to hold on to your best prospects.
  • If you’ve hired seasonally in the past, reach out to past employees who might want to return, saving you the time it takes to hire and train someone brand new.
  • Once your team is in place, create schedules in advance. This helps to ensure all areas are covered and gives enough time for staff to switch or get shifts covered if something comes up. 56 per cent of restaurant workers said they took their current job because of schedule flexibility, so do your best to provide what your employees need while covering the busiest times.
  • Prioritize training. Even though seasonal staffing is common in the foodservice industry, your guests should not feel their experience suffers. Spend the time training new staff so that they can quickly fill the shoes of your experienced team and deliver on guest expectations. Practicing a “buddy system,” where you partner up new staff with experienced team members can help make training more efficient and get new hires on their feet faster.
  • Retention is important, whether that means keeping seasonal staff on through the fall, inviting them to come back over the holidays, or keeping them seasonal for next summer. Create a positive work environment, ask for feedback, and stay in touch with employees you’d like to return to your restaurant.
  • Note the needs, challenges, successes, and opportunities from this season to take into next year. When it comes time to hire for next summer, you will want to have the information you need handy from this year to be able to make informed decisions. Document any data you think will be useful next year to hit the ground running in the spring.

As patio season ramps up, it’s important that operators prioritize labour as a critical part of the guest experience. Attracting talent early, training new hires well, and working on retention are the secrets to a successful summer with seasonal staff.