When you’re running a restaurant , you rely on your wait staff to connect directly with your customers, creating great experiences  and connections that keep them coming back again and again. So when it comes time to hire those workers, don’t just pick the first few applications that come in.
How to Hire Good Wait Staff
In order to get the best out of your wait staff, you need to hire people who fit with your company culture and your vision. Here are some tips on how to hire good wait staff for your restaurant.
Emphasize Personality in the Job Description
As a customer facing position, the most important thing you should look for when hiring wait staff is a great personality. So that’s something you should make clear in the job description, whether you post the opportunity online or in signage around your community. A posting that includes some humor and emphasizes the need for the applicant to be outgoing, friendly and personable is more likely to get you applications from people who will be a great fit.
Look for Reliability Over Specific Experience
When you’re sorting through resumes or applications, it can be easy to simply go with the people with the most years of experience in a similar role. But while that experience can be valuable, it shouldn’t preclude you from looking at other potential applicants. If there are people with experience in other industries, who have shown they can keep a steady job and display leadership and customer service skills, they can also be valuable to your restaurant.
Pay Attention to First Impressions
During the interview process, first impressions should be very important. After all, those same people are the ones who will have to make great first impressions with your customers as well. So look out for how applicants present themselves in terms of their appearance, how they introduce themselves and their overall demeanor.
Dean Small, founder and managing partner of SYNERGY Restaurant Consultants  explained in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “The most important thing to pay attention to when hiring servers or any staff members is do they have heart? Is this someone you would enjoy sitting down and having a meal with? Because these are the people who are interfacing with your customers, they’re your first line of defense and your brand ambassadors.”
Ask Personal Questions
It’s also a good idea to try to get to know applicants on a personal level, or at least as much as you can during an interview. Small suggests asking some personal questions like about their favorite books or movies and what they do for fun. This doesn’t mean that you should only hire people who enjoy a specific type of book. But it’s just a way to get them talking about something they enjoy so that maybe you can have a natural back-and-forth conversation that gives you a look at their genuine personality.
Identify Leadership Qualities
Leadership qualities are also important for servers, since they will likely have to show initiative and make decisions on their own about how to best serve customers. So it’s a good idea to ask questions about times when they had to show initiative in past jobs or make decisions on the fly.
Offer Hypothetical Situations
Another way to identify leadership qualities and the ability to adapt to difficult situations is to present hypothetical serving scenarios to them during the interview and ask how they would handle each one. For example, “How would you handle a customer trying to send back their meal after eating more than half of it?” If they give you a satisfactory answer and explain it well, then they should be able to function well when difficult situations come up.
Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes
You might also ask them to demonstrate how they would greet customers or read a list of specials. This gives you the ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see if they are able to create a great first impression and friendly presence. Even if you don’t take this specific step, be sure to think like a customer during the conversation. Is this someone you enjoy having a conversation with? How would you feel about this person serving you a meal?
Look for Eye Contact
Another essential element to providing friendly service is eye contact. Good applicants should be able to keep pretty consistent eye contact and smile throughout the interview. If they can’t, they probably won’t be able to do this when they’re waiting on customers either.
Small says, “If a person is not motivated and can’t look you in the eye and smile genuinely, those are signs that can be concerning for restaurant owners.”
Give Them an Opportunity to Speak
It’s also a good idea to let your applicant’s personality shine through by giving them an opportunity to speak without a specific prompt. An easy way to do this is to ask if they have any questions for you toward the end of the interview process. Applicants who are engaged and confident are likely to come up with some unique and thought-provoking questions to ask you about the job or its requirements.
No matter who you hire to wait tables at your restaurant, proper training is essential. It’s what can allow you to hire people with great personalities even if they don’t have tons of restaurant experience. So you can hire the people who actually fit well with your business, then teach them the specific processes that you want them to adhere to in their daily work.
Small says, “You can always teach specific skill sets or techniques. You can train them on how to do the job. But if they’re not a nice and genuine person, then you’re not putting your best foot forward with customers. So focus more on the personality and then train them the proper steps once you’ve hired them.”
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