The new generation of employees are far more demanding of their employers than we ever were. 

Do you want to find and retain great people? I discovered the secret to finding great people and keeping them about 15 years ago. Since, I have never had to go find people. They come to me. If you are serious about finding and retaining employees, then continue reading.

I’m going to share the secret with you now. The secret is a combination of three strategies I personally use as a restaurateur and share with my coaching clients. These strategies worked for me 15 years ago, they worked during COVID, and now they are even more important as we enter the “new normal” of restaurants,

Strategy No. 1 Become the Employer of Choice

The new generation of employees are far more demanding of their employers than we ever were. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The new generation wants to feel like they are making a difference in this world, and they expect their employers to respect and appreciate them.

The first step to becoming the employer of choice is to create a great culture. 


Anyone can do that. I’m talking about deciding how you want your guest and employee experiences to be and then showing up every day and executing on that promise. You should BE the Mission Statement. You should be leading the charge. This will help you RETAIN great people.

But. How does that ATTRACT great people? Let me pose this question. When your employees are out at the post-shift watering hole and they are with employees from other restaurants, do your employees speak highly of you? Are you spoken of by your employees better than how the other restaurant employees speak of their boss? 

If so, those conversations get others to want to join you. Your people become your recruiters.

The next step to becoming the employer of choice is to WIN. Are you and your team crushing it? People don’t like joining losing teams. They want to work with winners. Are your online reviews and your reputation letting everyone know that you crush it? Are you busy all of the time? Does your restaurant constantly win “best of” categories? Are your people proud of what you all are building together?

Lastly, make sure you have a great management team. Becoming the employer of choice requires great leadership. If you don’t have that, no one will work for you. Just as important, take care of your front-line leaders (managers). They are the ones that will champion your cause. If you treat them like crap, don’t expect them to treat their employees any better.

Strategy No. 2 Always Be Hiring (ABH)

So, now you are the employer of choice. Now what? Now you need to be available. When someone applies, always take the time to meet with them in person even if you aren’t in need of hiring someone. Look for ROCK STARS. And if you find one, hire them. Even if you don’t need a “body,” you always have room for ROCK STARS. You don’t want to hire when you NEED someone. Reactive hiring usually leads to bad choices.

I don’t hire bodies to fill a position. I hire people to grow our success.

Hire mindset over skillset. In interviews, I don’t look at their resume. Their resume got them the interview. Instead, I ask them “who are you?” I ask them questions about where they grew up, how many siblings they have, what do they like to do when they aren’t working. 

You can find out a lot about people just by hearing their story. You can determine who are team players, who really care about the guests, and who are self-managing. I have very few regrettable hires when I interview this way.

Decide if the candidate fits your culture and processes. If hospitality is a major part of your culture, determine if the person you are hiring is hospitable. If it’s teamwork, ask them questions that require the candidate to answer the question by saying I or we. If they say we, they fit your team culture.

Strategy No. 3 Invest in Your People

Remember what I said at the beginning of this article? The new generation of employees expect more from their employers. They want to feel like they are making a difference. They want to feel like they are growing. There is an old saying that goes, “Once you stop growing, you start dying.” 

Great people actually want to be stretched. They want to accomplish things they never thought they could. In order to do this, we have to invest in their development. This takes our time and our money. It takes a conscious effort to push people to greatness.  In every interview I do, I let the potential employee know three things: No. 1. I am fair. No 2. I am here to support them. No. 3. I will push them to be the best versions of themselves every time they walk into our restaurant. The great people are inspired and the ones that aren’t great run.

Editor’s note: This is the ninth article in a new column from restaurant expert Monte Silva. More on the series can be found here. The first story, on Why Underpaying Restaurant Employees is a Recipe for Disaster, is here. The second, on Why Marketing is Not Expensive, is here. The third, on people-centric leadership, is here. The fourth, on Why Working 70-Hour Weeks in Your Restaurant is Not the Answer, is here. The fifth, on How to Provide Hospitality in a High-Tech, Low-Touch World, is here. The sixth, on ‘The Convertible Culture’ in Restaurants, is here. The seventh, on Why the Old P&L Model Has Set Restaurants Up for Failure,’ is here. The eighth, on How to Scale Your Restaurant Business When There is Only One of You, is here.

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees, Leader Insights