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How to find top performing hospitality staff - and keep them

The first time a customer steps into your cafe, it’s for your coffee. If they come back? You can thank your staff. Excellent customer experience builds loyalty - and how you train, attract and retain hospitality employees boosts your business resilience.  

The pandemic has seen a record number of people looking for work - but the hospitality sector no longer has access to the migrant worker, international student, and backpacker labour market. With the food service industry finding it difficult to fill roles, it’s a great time for a refresh on competing for high performing staff.

Happy staff = loyal customers

Finding the right people is always a challenge in the hospitality industry, and the pandemic has added a new layer of difficulty for cafes and hospitality venues. You need staff, but just not just anybody will do - high-quality, experienced operators who know how to represent your brand are top of the list. 

Let’s look at why customer service is important, ideal cafe candidates, and how to get and keep top performing hospitality staff on your team. 

Friendly staff keep them coming back 

It seems simple, but friendly staff can be a key drawcard for your cafe. Your customers love you for more than coffee and food - when they pop in for a pick-me-up, a smile and some casual banter can make their day. Add a shot of caffeine, and they’re walking out the door fuelled for the day.  

If you can keep a consistent team that gets to know your clientele, you can cut down on staff churn and save on rehiring and retraining. Take care of your staff, and be proactive about their development; fulfilled staff have less time off, become top performers, and have skin in the game to grow your business.

What makes an ideal hospitality candidate?

It’s all about attitude. Barista, service, and cash-handling skills can be taught - but you can’t do much without an employee motivated to do a great job.

Ideal candidates in the hospitality sector have some similar characteristics. They’re typically:

  • self-starters who get on with the job
  • social and friendly with strong people skills
  • efficient with a sense of urgency
  • open to feedback and continuous improvement.

If a candidate has that positive hospitality attitude, the rest will fall into place.

Bringing out the best 

Who’s your top performer? What do they have that’s special? Use their traits to pinpoint what characteristics you want to attract.

Building a team of high-performing employees starts with setting the tone and offering a nurturing workplace culture. Offering an encouraging and collaborative environment motivates employees to do their best and stay invested in your business's success. 

So, how do you find this perfect person?

How to attract the cream of the crop

Here’s an industry secret that owners and managers sometimes overlook: your employees can also be brand ambassadors and recruiters. Do they know anyone who’s looking for a rewarding job with amazing people? If they have high standards, they’re likely to recommend like-minded people to join the team.

In a tight labour market, your candidate is interviewing you as much as you are them. To stand out from the 20 other cafes within walking distance, dig a little deeper. What do they want to learn? What do they love about the job? What can you offer them that nobody else can? 

The employee experience can go beyond pay and working conditions, and include: 

  • Communication and positive relationships
  • career development and advancement opportunities
  • social responsibility and community investment.

Value your top-performing staff and make sure they know it 

You found a match made in heaven; let’s keep them. Value your employees by encouraging their personal growth and promoting a healthy and rewarding culture. 

We’re all learning to adapt to a post-COVID world, and the work culture your cafe offers can be a lifeline for workers. It’s a golden opportunity to encourage and guide employees to be their best, bring their whole selves to work, and support them in life as well as in their job. 

Human connection matters. The friendly, supportive environment that brings people back for another cuppa benefits your staff, too.  Friendships and a sense of belonging are key to attracting and keeping top-performing hospitality staff. 

The food service industry has faced enormous challenges through the pandemic. We’ve interviewed hospitality icons from established venues to learn from their successes, challenges, and industry insights. Download our latest ebook Fill Your Cup: How cafe owners can maximise value and work smarter to find out more. 

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