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Building a Starting Calendar

When do you want your staff to begin work? Of course, it would be nice to find sharp people and have them start immediately even though you don’t open for another three or four months. But that is not reasonable or affordable.

Some people you will hire weeks before the restaurant opens; others you will hire just days before. You can’t afford to carry a full payroll three weeks before you open. You have no sales. You cannot pay for it. On the other hand, you do need help setting up equipment, cleaning up after construction, putting away product orders, and more. Also, some necessary training pieces must be put in place before you open.

Every restaurant and restaurant owner has different wants and needs. Depending on what those are and what you can afford, you should be able to determine a preopening labor budget that will get the necessary work done without costing you an arm and a leg. Only you know your concept. Only you know what it will take to train your crew and get the restaurant up and running. But remember, wasting labor dollars can kill your business and profitability.

When I open fine-dining establishments, I hire the chef and sous chef very early in the process. A well educated and trained chef and sous chef will lead the show and help make many of the concept design and layout decisions. I also want to get the leader of my wait-staff in position early for the same reasons. Plus, they all like to hire their own staffs.

When I open a fast-food place, I first want people who have a lot of drive-thru experience and register experience. The fact is, fast-food kitchens are easy to operate because of prepackaged and prepared foods. The bigger challenge is with the volume of customers, so I first find people who can handle that volume without getting frazzled.

Each situation is different. The timing will depend on how much you need to train them, how much previous knowledge they bring with them, how difficult your concept is, and their level of retention. Hire smart people. They retain information more quickly and lower your training costs.

Even if you have a large preopening labor budget, there may not be enough for a full staff to do before the restaurant opens, and you don’t want people to get in the habit of resting for pay. Labor is best managed by keeping people productive at all times. If something needs to be done, get it done. If there isn’t anything to do, don’t have someone sitting around wasting payroll dollars.

Food for Thought: The main issue is not getting a restaurant staffed; the issue is keeping the people you hire. But if you are good, retaining employees won’t be an issue. Great restaurant operators have no problem with staffing. They hire the right people and keep them happy.

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