How to Find Top Restaurant Talent in Chicago
When it comes to the recipe for a successful restaurant, talent is a key ingredient.
Building and retaining the best possible team for your restaurant has a huge impact on your bottom line. Your team should embody your restaurant’s mission and develop strong relationships with guests so they keep coming back.
With a remarkably high turnover rate (roughly 73% annually in the U.S.), the restaurant industry brings with it a tough race for talent.
For restaurateurs, this means knowing the best possible places to recruit and hire top restaurant talent. In Chicago, it can be even trickier with such a bustling restaurant scene filled with lots of new talent.
Here we’ve shared a few tips on how to beat the churn of restaurant talent in the Windy City by looking in the right places with some proven methods:
Finding Talent for Your Chicago Restaurant
Times have changed in terms of talent. The search has gone global.
A talented chef in New Orleans (who is just the right fit for your culinary concept) might be willing to relocate to Chicago for the right gig at your restaurant. How do you find them?
A strong mix of digital and low-tech recruiting efforts combined with local and global outreach should get the job done. These days, it’s all about mixed methods that get your restaurant in front of the ideal talent market you’re looking to connect with.
Work with a recruiting agency
Say you’re hiring a new chef.
You’ve got a current chef and don’t want multiple candidates to know that you’re hiring. A recruiting agency is likely your best bet.
They can help find a replacement in a discreet manner. Another benefit of going with a recruiting agency is that they don’t collect payment until you actually find and hire a replacement.
Not to mention that while you’re busy running your restaurant, a recruiting agency will do the legwork of finding the best talent and bringing them to your doorstep.
If you’re looking for a few good hospitality staffing agencies in the Chicagoland area, check these agencies out:
While it’s definitely the costlier option, a recruiting agency will save you in terms of time and quality of talent secured in the long run. Give it a try!
Use word of mouth advertising
Engage that network.
You’ve done the hard work of learning the restaurant scene in Chicago, hiring your initial team, and checking out local events for restaurateurs in the area. You likely already know people who can help you in your search.
If your first few employees are happy and skilled, they’ll want to bring friends and former colleagues (who are likely just as amazing) to interview at your restaurant. Talent recognizes talent, which you should use to your advantage when recruiting.
Talk to your suppliers as they know lots of restaurants and can be a great source for new employees. Keep in mind that word of mouth is a bit less discreet, but it’s still a very good way of finding local talent.
Post an ad on an online job board
Don’t be afraid to cast a wide net.
Online job boards are a great way to reach a broad network of talent.
At the same time, going through all of those responses can be very time-consuming, so make sure you have a good process in place to go through all of those applications. The inverse of the recruiting agency route, you’re trading time for money here as the burden is on you to run the process and discern the best talent.
If you’re still interested in keeping things quiet regarding your search, some online job boards allow for anonymous posting (often called “blind ads”). With these blind ads, you can still reach a large pool of candidates while avoiding making your search known to current staff or the local competition.
Two good local resources in the Chicago area for posting job announcements online (and searching for top talent):
One tip: Be as specific as possible in your ad about the nature of the job so you can narrow the applicant pool to those with the best fit for the role. It will save you time in the long run!
Hire culinary school alumni
Take advantage of existing networks.
Lots of culinary schools have strong alumni programs. They have every incentive to get their graduates hired by great restaurants like yours. Reach out to these schools and engage their alumni networks.
It’s a win-win for both parties.
Here are a few prominent culinary school alumni networks in the Chicago area where you can find restaurant talent:
C-CAP Program (for more junior talent)
In some cases, these alumni programs can help you narrow your search and find specific individuals that are a better fit for your restaurant much like a recruiting agency would, but it will take some communication and follow-up on your part.
Stay committed and you’ll find a great new team member from these networks.
Look out for talents at culinary shows
Culinary shows exist for at least one good reason: To showcase top talent.
Take the time to check out a few shows to see what’s out there beyond your existing networks. You may be surprised that the right chef or manager is attending and looking for a restaurant just like yours.
Here are a few local culinary shows in the Chicago area to check out:
By stretching a bit beyond your usual recruiting venues, you could end up with a great new team member through a quick trip to one of these culinary shows. Don’t be shy about turning up at a few each year!
This sort of goes without saying: If you’ve got strong talent on your team, nurture it.
For example, your sous chefs often have the necessary credentials and are already familiar with the tasks required of a chef.
A nice added benefit of hiring and promoting internally is that it boosts morale on your team. Your staff will appreciate that feeling of upward mobility and knowing that they can grow into new roles. Also, many team members worry about a new supervisor coming in and shaking things up (not in a good way), so hiring internally lessens this fear in many cases.
There are also tangible monetary benefits to reducing turnover within your restaurant, so taking the time to develop and train your staff, while time-intensive, can lead to gains in the long run.
The Key to Finding Top Restaurant Talent in Chicago
Find the right mix of recruiting methods that works for your restaurant.
Whether it’s developing talent internally and recruiting via word of mouth or posting to an online job board and connecting with culinary school alumni networks, there are a wide variety of recruiting approaches you can take to find the best restaurant talent in Chicago.
Putting together a few good recruiting approaches that conserves your time while attracting the best talent will help you build a strong(er) team for your restaurant.