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The State of Restaurant Employment and the BOH

The State of Independent Restaurants, an NRN Intelligence study, found that 41% of independent restaurant operators had challenges staffing the BOH. Full-service restaurants experience the greatest difficulties in this department, with 44% noting problems recruiting kitchen employees. 

Restaurant Hospitality reported on Mario’s Restaurant, an Italian eatery in the Little Italy section of the Bronx. At the time of the report, they had been unable to replace their sous chef. A glance on Glassdoor finds over 11,500 job postings for a restaurant chef across the country, from a sous chef position paying up to $70,000 in Craryville, NY, to a chef de cuisine offering up to $72,000 in Wheeling, WV. 

In comparison, you have restaurant owners like Joshua Pollack of Bridge and Tunnel Restaurant Group in Denver, who state the current market is letting him pick and choose when hiring cooks and dishwashers, thanks to a slowdown in construction. For him, it’s the FOH staff that proves a greater challenge.

It’s clear that your restaurant location plays a role in your current labor situation. However, there are restaurants where employees have stayed the course, some for decades. So, how do you recruit the right employees to fill the needed positions and then entice them to stay? 


Some experts in the quantum physics world suggest the Universe is like a mirror—what you give and how you feel is what’s reflected. If we follow this belief, feeling loyal to and grateful for your BOH staff may be the key to creating a culture of gratitude and loyalty in your employees.

One way to demonstrate loyalty is to provide a clear path for career development and opportunities. Dishwashers, line cooks, and servers should know the next steps for growth and see a direction that can take them beyond their current roles and income level. 

Creative Compensation

Because restaurants run on thin margins, they can’t always afford to pay top dollar. In these situations, they can search for creative opportunities to help increase compensation for their kitchen staff. A restaurant in Queens, Sac’s Place, does just that with an innovative service charge. 

In New York, a tip credit state, sharing tips with the BOH is prohibited. To combat this, the owner, Domenico Sacramone, charges a 15% gratuity for large parties as well as a 5% service charge that goes to the employees in the BOH.

Restaurants that can provide a living wage for their staff are ahead of many employers in the industry. A livable wage model is a market-based approach that includes geographical data to determine the wage required to cover minimum food, housing, transportation, childcare, and health insurance.  

Kindness and Empathy

Managers and owners hold the cards regarding treating employees with respect, kindness, and empathy. For those who have been in the industry for some time, this level of compassion, particularly in the BOH, was at one time a rare commodity. In its place were chefs and managers who were quick to anger, showing little regard for an employee’s feelings. 

This management style creates a toxic work environment and can come from people other than managers. Fellow employees and even customers can treat employees harshly. In these instances, the customer is not always right, as the saying goes. No one should be allowed to mistreat an employee.

Create a safe space and a work environment where employees are comfortable reporting misconduct, knowing they’ll be protected.

Sourcing BOH Staff

Depending on your restaurant’s location and the current labor environment, you may need to take a unique approach when tracking down BOH staff, particularly chefs. A multi-channel approach involves putting feelers out into the community, ensuring you’re touching upon the spaces where people who can fulfill these jobs are located. 

Some spaces where you may find potential candidates include culinary and vocational schools and job posting sites designed specifically for culinary positions. Starting an employee referral program is a great way to actively involve your staff. Consider offering cash, gift certificates, or a paid day off, compensating them after the referred employee is on the job for at least two months. 

Target Workforce

You can also use technology to search for reliable staff. Target Workforce is a proprietary technology that revolutionizes the hiring process. With it, you can locate the highest-quality trained staff at the lowest recruiting costs using advanced geolocation and IP address verification.

To learn more about finding well-trained, dependable staff using the latest technology, contact EMERGING today. 


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