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Finding Decent Employees and Retaining Them...
on YOUR Terms!

Locating and hiring a good staff for a bar, restaurant and/or nightclub business is notoriously difficult and presents what seems like a never-ending obstacle course of human resources challenges. You need to maintain positive control of your establishment and adhere to your mission statement and vision, while bringing complete strangers into the mix and expecting them to fall in line.

Managing your employee base, their training, their scheduling, their wages and discipline can seem like an overwhelming prospect, but not if you develop a strategy and follow basics. It doesn't HAVE to be the challenge people can make it.

Some of the key things you need to consider are:

1. Clearly Defined Mission Statement and Business Practices.

Have a mission statement for your operation that is definitive and comprehensive. No employee base can successfully operate to your standards when they are unaware of what they are. To our knowledge, humans do not possess the ability to read each others' minds, but we will get you as far as we can! If your employees KNOW and UNDERSTAND what your company goals and objectives are, they can begin to decide if they will utilize their experience and training to make you money. It also establishes the basis of bar employee accountability, which is crucial in our industry.

2. Proper Initial Employee Selection.

Hiring the right staff from inception is critical. Beginning with restaurant contractors, vendors and purveyors to all management levels through the last bartender, waitress, cocktail server, host, chefs and bar backs, you absolutely MUST establish and follow disciplined hiring protocols that involve adhering to all applicable local, state and federal employment laws and regulations as they apply to your business. Many people seek employement in our industry. The backgrounds are as varied as their personal motives. Our business operation presents many challenges and considerations from alcohol service to employee theft.

Have guidelines that ALL managers follow. Do not accept applications that are not completely filled out and legible; that translates into obvious bad work habits. Make sure to request and later verify references. Commensurate and relatable work experience is a MUST. Budget your human resource department to run background checks for all positions. Hire only experienced staff for elevated positions that affect guest perceptions of your business and require unsupervised judgement. Every employee should be interviewed at least twice; each time by a different member of your management team. Those managers should then collaborate to reach a responsible decision considering your protocols and needs. Check references and NEVER hire out of desperation or poor timing. Excerise caution when hiring family, spouses and friends. Hire fun people who wish to WORK, not PARTY.

Use good judgement and follow good practices when hiring staff and you won't regret it.

3. Proper Training is Essential and Keep it Coming!

The scope and scale of your operation dictates the depth and diversity of training needed for staff. Have a comprehensive training manual and employee handbook and train your management team to be able to interpret and answer questions from staff. This will help them to be firm and clear in later discipline action situations. Your vendors have at their disposal a multitude of assets to help market and protect their products and systems - TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! Many times, these training workshops will be provided at NO COST TO YOUR BUSINESS and may even provide staff sales incentives and materials that you may not wish to finance! Many insurance agencies and co-op groups offer discounts and incentives to business that provide thorough training to their staff such as responsible alcohol service training, safe food preparation, handling and storage certifications, first aid, workplace crime detection and prevention, etc.

Don't forget, training is NOT a one-off event. It should be routine and ongoing - starting with the management and on down the chain, and whenever appropriate, even include the ownership. Have meetings! And make sure they are a regular part of your operating mechanics. Each shift, every day, every week, every month. Informed staff are your producers and need less policing than a staff left to their own designs. Moreover, they understand your expectations and have the training to make good decisions when it counts.

POINT: Properly hired and trained employees are your biggest asset. Invest in them for a proper return on your investment.

4. Treat the Team Right.

Fairness and consistency is a non-negotiable element in good human resource management. Never accuse, insult or belittle employees in front of other staff or especially guests/customers. That makes for an awkward and impressionable situation. Don't argue, bicker with or reprimand staff members, even when in a private area. Treat employees with dignity and respect at all times and maintain control and composure. Assign fair, realistic workloads and establish reasonable expectations. Don't play favorites or strike up personal relationships with staff members. Work alongside your team whenever possible if that fits your business to earn their respect. Discipline consistently in accord with your employee handbook and have regular meetings to keep staff informed of changing policies and correct situations before they get out of hand. Reward consistently as well and always deliver on promises and commitments! Handle employee concerns quickly, fairly and thoroughly. Keep an "open-door" for employees and be pleasant, but firm.

On the flip side, discipline uniformly and consistently. Be fair and reasonable, but not a push-over. Do not be a tyrant or an angry-type of leader or you will isolate yourself from your staff and be kept out of the loop on all matters ranging from critical events to seemingly unimportant details. You get to decide the value of all information and aspects of the operation, not your staff.

Don't forget... They don't own the bar and restaurant - YOU DO! Their perspective is greatly different than your own! Remember, we're all just people with our own sets of values, wishes, hopes and dreams! Treat your team right and the hopes and dreams of your business can be easily and solidly realized. You will earn their respect and have their loyalty as well when they understand your point of view, especially when it is not communicated through a condescending tone.

5. The Eliminate-Retain Dilemma.

Promptly counsel under-performing and problem staff whenever your company's policies are being violated or expectations are not being realized. You should have a clear doctrine that outlines expectations and policies. Be clear and concise when counseling staff members - state exactly what the issue is, why it is a problem, how it is affecting the business and what the next steps are. Define a timeline for improvement or correction. While unpleasant, be willing to terminate staff who do not comply. Staff should be monitored and all counseling instances should be documented. Always respect employees' rights and follow all applicable laws and regulations when disciplining, counseling and terminating employees. Mistakes made at key moments can come back to haunt you in instances of litigation or third party agency manuevers. Always document situations thoroughly and acccurately and keep detailed employee files in a private, secure office.

Retain employees by having a set schedule for evaluations and promotions. Make sure you consider length of tenure and wage increments as well as accomplishments and contributions to the success of the business. Always be consistent and fair. Be ready to explain your decisions to sometimes disappointed employees and be prepared to suggest areas for and methods of improvement. Sales incentives and bonuses are also shown to motivate food and beverage staffers, but may breed hostility amidst the staff when executed improperly.

Remember: your guests see you and your company through your staff. So... WHO and WHAT do patrons see when they visit your bar, tavern or nightclub? Do they see your so-called bartender sneaking drinks and texting their friends while on duty behind the bar? Are you too busy to notice if your cocktail server or cashier has their hand in the till because they are improperly motivated and compensated or worse? Are your cooks and busboys loading up their trunks behind the dumpster with your beer, wine and liquor? Maybe your waiter doesn't know the specials or how to read his guests due to lack of training and resources that have not been provided? Or did he miss the pre-shift meeting because he was out on his fifth smoke break of the evening because certain rules and expectations are not uniformly enforced? Are your managers smart enough to recognize and effectively deal with these types of problems OR is every ounce of hard work, time and money being slowly siphoned down the proverbial drain along with your dignity and self-respect as you contemplate how you will explain to your family that your business is failing???

Of course, some of those things sound very bleak and unrealistic and are easily a portrait of a business run amok! But it doesn't ever have to be even a remote possiblity when you follow the steps outlined in our article above. A properly hired, trained, managed and motivated staff will sell your business lock, stock and barrel all day, every day! They might just keep YOU on point, too!

For more additional information on successful staff training and other bar, restaurant and nightclub topics, please see's Articles and Resource Library or follow some of the links below.

Available Staff Training Resources:

• Restaurant Server Training
• Online Bartending School
• How to Increase Tips and Gratuities
• Fast Bartender Training
• Audio Bartending Course
• Productivity Secrets
• The Leadership Blueprint
• The Professional Bar & Beverage Manager's Handbook

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