Cooking Up Excellence: 8 Strategies for Recruitment and Retention in Today’s Hospitality Industry

The secret to a successful kitchen isn’t just the art of cooking. It’s about the chefs and other staff members who create culinary experiences that delight your customers. Hiring the right talent and retaining an exceptional team is the heart of culinary excellence. 

Read on to learn how to identify the right candidates during the staffing crisis, and how to develop them with training and mentorship. Our industry experts also share their tips and insights for creating a positive and safe working environment that keeps people motivated and engaged.

Look for a can-do attitude in a candidate 

The right attitude is crucial when hiring a person, as it can make or break a team. As long as they have a positive mindset, you can teach them any technical skills. Before placing a person, let them work a full day in each area of the kitchen to see how they interact with the team. Ask your existing chefs for feedback before you make a decision. 

James Knight-Paccheco
Chef and Culinary Consultant

Use a trial period to find the right fit 

Mentoring is the best way to onboard a new person and to develop them. Create a plan that meets their needs and your business’s goals. It is vital that chefs understand the value of their role and feel respected. A trial period helps chefs and employers get to know each other and see if they are a good fit. If people are happy, they settle into their new roles and will be efficient members of the team. 

James Holden
NW Regional Chef, Adopt a School Charitable Trust Project, The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts

Make new recruits feel welcome during the onboarding process

When a new staff member joins a team, it’s important that they feel included. When staff’s achievements are recognised and they form connections with others , they feel settled in a working environment. Create a harmonious atmosphere by using icebreakers to encourage introductions, celebrating achievements and sharing meals. Pair newcomers with veterans who can help them set goals and give feedback. Be clear about expectations and rotate people through roles. 

Sagar Massey
Senior Sous Chef and Masterchef: The Professionals 2022 Runner Up

Allow your staff to develop

As chefs, we can sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome. The only way to overcome this is to allow your staff to develop and hone their skills. Don’t micromanage staff, you need to allow them to grow. Let mistakes happen, this is the way we learn. 

Pinky Maruping
Culinary chef experience advisor, Unilever Food Solutions South Africa

Engage with your team to give them a sense of ownership

Simple things can make a difference to your staff. Engage with them about how they are doing. Set aside time to give and receive honest feedback about their performance. It will show you what your team needs and help you build the best environment for them. Reward good work and commitment. Investing in the team is key to a positive working environment. Discussing goals with individuals helps retain staff and gives them a sense of ownership. 

Paul Hawkins
Business Development Chef, Unilever Food Solutions

Trust your staff to excel at what they do

Allocating fair hours is about balancing staff needs and restaurant budgets. Invest in training and trust your staff to excel at the job they are hired to do. Staff retention goes up when the business is fair about schedules. Adjust opening times and the menu offerings to support your chefs. Cross training helps to alleviate the personnel loss whenever someone has to take a personal day. PTO now really means Prepare The Others!

Kimberly Brock Brown
President, American Culinary Federation

A speak up culture makes people feel safe

A positive working environment is where everyone can be their authentic self. This safety contributes to the group's success. A ‘speak up culture’ is vital to make everyone feel safe. Always encourage team members to express themselves, no matter what it is that they have to say. People like to work in teams where they feel valued. It is key to show appreciation to your chefs, both as a leader and a person. 

Frank-Jan Mutsears 
Chef and Team Manager, Novotel Amsterdam City

Be creative with team building 

Building talent helps your business, but it also boosts your staff. That’s essential for creating fair kitchens. Retaining good team members is vital, especially in light of the staff shortage. Training is a great opportunity for team building. It doesn’t need to be formal. Take an ingredient and challenge your team to come up with new ideas for it. Go back to basics, be creative, and celebrate doing things together. 

Alex Hall
Executive Chef, Culinary Team Leader, Unilever Food Solutions

The most important part of a restaurant is your staff. Take the time to get to know new recruits, what they are good at and who they are as individuals. Cultivate a positive and safe environment where people want to work, invest in mentorship and personal growth through training. This will help your team thrive and become engaged in the success of the restaurant as a whole. 

Are you ready to delve deeper into hiring and staff retention? Sign up for our free leadership training today.

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