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Seasoned Staff: 15 Tips for Recruiting and Retaining a Great Summer Crew

There are many perks to hiring students for seasonal summer employment, from their flexibility and eagerness to work to their energy and availability. To ensure a smooth hiring experience and recruit a team that will help your restaurant thrive during the busy summer months, consider the following 15 tips:

1. Leverage Multiple Recruitment Channels

Use various platforms to advertise job openings, including online job boards, social media, and your restaurant's website. 

  • Post your job listings to restaurant-industry specific job sites like Poached, Culinary Agents, or RestaurantZone.

  • Ask current employees for referrals. Offer an incentives to permanent staff if their recommendations get hired.

  • Geo-locate want-ad media to within about 10 miles of the job location.

  • Partner with other restaurants to host a seasonal job hiring fair. 

  • Contact local schools and universities to advertise job postings through their job boards. 

2. Create Clear Job Descriptions

Write clear, detailed job descriptions that outline job-specific responsibilities, qualifications, work schedules, and any specific requirements. This helps attract candidates who are truly interested and fit the role.  

Emphasize what makes working at your restaurant appealing. This could include perks like flexible scheduling, employee discounts, tips, a great team, relevant experience, and potential for future employment.

3. Focus on Emotional and Soft Skills

While experience is important, hiring staff with a positive attitude, strong communication skills, and a willingness to learn can be even more beneficial. Skills can be taught, but a good attitude and work ethic are invaluable. 

Emotional skills to look for:

  • Kindness and optimism

  • Intellectual curiosity   

  • Work ethic

  • Empathy and self-awareness   

  • Integrity

4. Conduct Group Interviews 

Group interviews can be an effective way to assess multiple candidates simultaneously and see how they interact with others. This is particularly useful for front-of-house positions such as hosting, serving, and bussing where teamwork is essential.

5. Provide Comprehensive Training 

Invest in thorough training for new hires. This includes not only the technical aspects of the job but also customer service skills and your restaurant's culture.

6. Stay on Brand

Your messaging to applicants should display your company’s culture. If your restaurant is casual and fun, your messaging should be, too. If you run a  fine dining establishment,  your appeal should reflect that. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

7. Offer Competitive Pay an Other Perks

Offering a competitive salary that matches or beats other businesses in your community can help attract high-quality workers who are looking for summer employment. These days, even seasonal job seekers have the advantage, so make sure your compensation package includes perks like flexible scheduling, opportunities for college credit, and training.

8. Provide Incentives and Rewards

Offer incentives and rewards to workers who go above and beyond the call of duty and let staff know by posting goals or producing a weekly or monthly staff newsletter. This can include anything from bonuses for exceptional performance and employee of the month awards to perks like weekends off, preferred parking, or recognition programs that show your appreciation for your staff’s hard work. 

9. Create a Positive Work Environment 

Many seasonal staffers aren’t working just for a paycheck. They’re looking for  job that will add value to their summer experience. To attract employees that will want to stick around for the duration, foster a supportive, inclusive, and enjoyable workplace where staff feel valued and appreciated.   Ensure that your restaurant is a pleasant place to work by creating a positive work culture that values and rewards hard work, team collaboration, and excellent customer service.

10. Monitor Performance and Provide Feedback 

Regularly monitor the performance of your summer staff and provide constructive feedback. This helps them improve and stay motivated.

11. Plan for Flexibility 

Seasonal staff often includes students taking summer courses. Be prepared to offer flexible scheduling to accommodate their availability.

12. Keep the Onboarding Process Simple

Simplifying the onboarding process by implementing the latest software and apps can help speed the paperwork.  Simplify applications so they fit on a text screen and reduce the number of questions needed to get an interview. Use social media to engage potential applicants with a link to your “Jobs” or “Careers” page. Once a candidate has applied for a job, take some decisive action within 24 hours, and interview them via texts. 

13. Use Existing Staff for Training

They know your operation and your culture, and  have a vested interest in making sure new hires get up to speed quickly. Pairing veteran staff with newbies also gives seasonal employees quick feedback on how they’re doing, raises self-confidence, and improves service.

14. Have a Backup Plan 

Anticipate potential staffing shortages or unexpected departures by having a list of potential backup hires or keeping in touch with previous employees who may be available for short-term work.

15. Keep them Coming Back

Finally, once you’ve gotten a great summer team in place, give them a reason to come back next year. Offer your most valuable seasonal employees incentives such as a sign-on bonus or a raise if they return the following year. Be sure to ask them for their most up-to-date contact info before they leave to head back to school for the following year’s hiring campaign.  

By implementing these tips, you can effectively hire and retain capable seasonal staff who will contribute positively to your restaurant's success during the busy summer season.

By Eileen Strauss


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