4 Key Employee Types…and How to Win Them Over

10/01/2017 – A cocktail of low unemployment and high turnover is not going down so easy for the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting the lowest national unemployment rates in a decade—the effects of which have pushed the industry to take a more proactive, specialized approach to recruiting.

For hiring managers, it can be tempting to target workers of similar generations, backgrounds or roles. Sure, most millennials might crave a solid work-life balance—with slightly more life than work—and the majority of chefs may want to work in a creative environment, where tattoos are badges of honor and Sriracha isn’t considered an on-trend ingredient. However, that approach overlooks what makes these individuals such stellar candidates in the first place, and the values that might entice them to stay on: their passion, goals and motivations.

To help foodservice operators better attract and nurture these wholly original individuals, we’ve tapped industry experts—and a whole lot of data—for strategies that shirk the one-size-fits-all philosophy in favor of one that uplifts each worker.

The Team Player

Money doesn’t make the world go round for Lucas, a line cook in his early 30s. He’s been in the industry for 12 years and has taken some college courses, but didn’t graduate. Lucas is all about career advancement—it’s far more important to him than other types of workers. With his career-mindedness comes a craving for mentorship. He seeks great leadership, and in fact is less likely to move to a new job for $1-$2 more per hour than other workers. Lucas cares about growth potential, teamwork and treating employees like family—and these are actual keywords he uses when searching for a new line cook job—so having information about the company and its employees is important.

Opportunities for operators

  • When hiring for experienced back-of-house workers, emphasize healthcare benefits and career advancement
  • Communicate company values, training opportunities and culture clearly when recruiting via a robust careers page
  • Keep an eye on leadership in the back of house to ensure staff is staying motivated and engaged

Most valued benefits


20%—Flexible scheduling

15%—Paid sick leave and time off

This group is less interested in flexible scheduling than other workers.

3 things they’re seeking

  • Mentorship
  • Treating employees like family
  • Teamwork

“When you find a loyal, dedicated worker, figure out how to best provide mentorship opportunities. Not only will this worker grow with mentorship, they will inspire others around them in the process.” —Jot Condie, president and CEO, California Restaurant Association

The Settled Server

Jen is in her late 20s, a recent college grad. She’s currently a server, but has bounced around as a host and a bartender in the past. This industry pro has eight years of experience under her apron, and customer service comes naturally to her. She is on the management track, which she sees as a longer-term career. Jen cares most about compensation and benefits; she’s less interested in career advancement or training. But she’s loyal, and needs $5 or more per hour to make a move. Flexibility is as important to her as healthcare, so once she’s found a job she enjoys and has some seniority and control over her schedule, she’s unlikely to move without careful consideration. But an experienced worker such as Jen is likely to get snapped up quickly, applying at fewer than 10 places before she’s hired.

Opportunities for operators

  • Communicate compensation and benefits upfront when posting jobs, as this is important to experienced FOH workers
  • Explain the level of schedule flexibility to attract the most qualified candidates
  • Shared values make a difference to this audience; be sure to communicate your company values on your careers page and throughout the recruiting process

Most valued benefits

55%—Compensation benefits

24%—Career advancement

14%—Training and education

Outside of wages and benefits, positive co-worker relationships and shared values matter more to this bunch than others.

3 things they’re seeking

  • Stability
  • Solid pay
  • Ability to set their schedule

“Restaurants have a job ladder where an employee’s role, responsibilities and [wages] are increased as they gain skills and progress from an entry-level position. Communicating this ladder of opportunity to [these] workers can be a powerful motivator.” —Jot Condie, president and CEO, California Restaurant Association

The Ladder Climber

Jose is moving up. This 20-year-old has been working in foodservice for just three years, and has already advanced from dishwasher to line cook. He’s had some college education, but no degree yet, though he’s taking classes part time. As a relatively junior member of the team, Jose is plotting how to learn and grow in his career. Although compensation and benefits are a top priority to all workers, training and education are a close second for him—no other worker types share the same level of interest in development. Flexible schedules matter a lot to Jose, even more so than healthcare. This staffer is all about the good vibes, with positive co-worker relationships having the greatest impact on his happiness at work.

Opportunities for operators

  • When recruiting, emphasize training and education in the job description
  • To prevent turnover among this group, focus on training and education in the role itself, and find ways for workers to earn bonuses or additional compensation that might keep them from jumping ship
  • Provide competitive wages at this level to keep the best workers from leaving

Would leave for

$1 or more—5.3%

$2 or more—25.3%

$3 or more—28%

$4 or more—6.7%

$5 or more—34.7%

Compensation is important enough to Jose that he’s far more likely than other workers to be willing to move to another company for another $1-$2 per hour.

3 things they’re seeking

  • Skill development
  • Flexible schedules
  • Positive environments

“These heart-of-house workers … are preparing the unforgettable meals customers come back for. Yet [they] don’t often get to interact with customers and be recognized for their hard work. It’s critical to find ways to let kitchen staff know they’re valued.” —Jot Condie, president and CEO, California Restaurant Association

The Check Chaser

Gabrielle is a restaurant newbie, with just one year of experience. She juggles her job as a cashier with part-time coursework. But she isn’t invested in the industry, and college isn’t cheap, so compensation is the factor that matters most to her. Career advancement comes second, but is much less important. A few extra dollars per hour would win her over far more than her experienced FOH counterparts. Tweets and posts go a long way with this candidate, who is more likely to say that a company’s social media presence impacts whether she applies to a job.

Opportunities for operators

  • Emphasize flexibility of scheduling when promoting job openings
  • Be transparent about compensation and offer competitive rates
  • Consider how the brand comes across online via social media and careers pages

Most-valued benefits

46%—Flexible scheduling


12%—Paid sick leave and time off

Gabrielle appreciates positive co-worker relationships almost as much as she appreciates flexible scheduling

3 things they’re seeking

  • Brand personality
  • Competitive pay
  • More hours

“This archetype may still be exploring other interests in life, and that’s OK. … But, to be sure that work is getting done in your restaurant and employees stick around, focus on emphasizing the fun elements of the job—meeting new people, working alongside co-workers who become a second family and more.” —Jot Condie, president and CEO, California Restaurant Association

Source: Alaina Lancaster for Restaurant Business