Skip to main content

Foodservice 101: The Basics

When operators first get into foodservice, they are likely not hiring full-time foodservice personnel, and are ideally looking for staff that can easily multitask and help operate both sides of the business — the food and in-store merchandise. As the food business grows, the responsibility of the foodservice personnel will grow, and it will become clear that dedicated foodservice personnel is required. At this stage, it is still important to look for certain skills and attributes in prospective employees that make them ideal foodservice candidates.


One of the most important things to look for in prospective foodservice employees is strong character — someone who is honest, dependable and eager to learn — because these types of people are easy to teach. It helps if job candidates are also food-oriented or have previous foodservice experience, but they absolutely must be friendly, have a clean and hygienic presentation and be customer-service oriented, according to the Convenience Store News How To Crew.

You want employees who will make a good first impression on customers and who will greet them with a smile. These are the types of people who will offer helpful customer service because friendliness and service come more naturally to them. It is also critically important that your foodservice workers' attire is clean and neat, their nails and hair are clean, etc., which will reflect back on the cleanliness of your establishment and the safety of your food.

"Because your hourly employees are at the frontline of your business and are in charge of the customer service experience, qualities that cannot be taught are often the most important," said Jason Hamilton, senior vice president of marketing for Snagajob, an online human resource solutions firm. "You need employees with certain soft skills — a positive attitude, eagerness to do a job right and a team-oriented attitude. [Then,] you can teach employees your store's way of doing things."

How do you attract these types of job candidates? Show them the opportunity of working for a company that stands for something, one expert said, as well as offering a fun work environment that offers opportunity and responsibility. Be sure to also project and protect a positive image of your company — your reputation in the marketplace will determine the caliber of people you can attract.

Also, be constantly on the prowl for good employees when you are eating at restaurants, shopping and checking out the competition — and talk up the benefits of working for your business. And, of course, don't forget to offer current employees rewards when one of their referrals is hired.


Once you hire the right people, train them well to give the highest chance of success. At the early stages of foodservice, staff employees will have to learn everything from making coffee and assembling breakfast sandwiches to running a register, stocking the shelves and cleaning a variety of foodservice equipment, including coffee machines, rollers grills, fountain heads, etc.

It's also helpful to have quick reference guides that employees can easily reference to refresh their memories on tasks and duties. The guides should list the duties and tasks of each shift upon starting and ending, as well as a variety of specific must-dos such as making coffee, cleaning coffee pots, assembling breakfast sandwiches, etc.

Remember that training is not a one-time event upon hiring new employees. Foodservice training should be ongoing. One way to ensure new employees get well oriented and integrated into the business is pairing them with a strong foodservice worker who will mentor them, especially on the basics of food safety. Most experts recommend ServSafe training for all foodservice employees, which goes into great detail about safe food preparation.

Other training must-dos, according to our experts, are to make sure employees are trained by doing activities, not just watching, which helps improve memory retention; evaluate employees quickly and provide feedback; have them review menu preparation and allow them to sample menu items; and train them to handle customer complaints.

Training techniques should be varied to ensure information is retained, including a blend of computer-based training, in-house classroom training with fun exercises, in-store training and outside training (typically, food safety and certification programs).


Motivating and keeping the best foodservice employees is no different than it is for most other employees. According to Hamilton of Snagajob, never underestimate the value of a sincere "thank you" or "good job."

"Employees need to know that their work is appreciated and they are contributing to a greater success," he said. "Verbalize appreciation for their work frequently. Also, employees want to know what's next for them. Make sure employees know about promotion opportunities and career paths." Tell them about how they can progress by earning internal and external certifications based on training they complete.

And when it comes to customer service, "empower your employees to make decisions. If employees encounter an unsatisfied customer, give them the ability to determine the best way to address the situation," Hamilton said. "This is not to say employees should be able to make big promises they can't keep. But give employees options to choose from to address specific situations and allow them the flexibility to choose the right approach."

To ensure you don't lose a valuable employee to a competitor, conduct employee surveys to make sure that the benefits you offer are of value to your hourly employees. "For example, many hourly employees appreciate consistency in their schedules combined with flexibility to be able to switch shifts when something comes up, access to health insurance, employee discounts and competitive pay," Hamilton said.

Other proven ways to keep employees motivated and connected to their jobs and workplace include sales contests with bonuses attached, clearly outlining goals and measuring accomplishments, and giving them meaningful responsibility, focusing on explaining not just the "what" during training, but the "why."


  • Hire for character and personality; train for skills.
  • Draft clear job descriptions that outline key responsibilities and skills required.
  • Make sure prospective foodservice workers make a clean and hygienic personal impression.
  • Quick in-store reference guides can help new employees study and remember a multitude of tasks and duties.
  • Spend the most time on food safety and sanitation training.
  • To keep employees motivated, remember to tell them when they do a good job.

How To Crew Expert View: When You See Good Customer Service, Say Something

As you continuously scout for potential employees, foodservice consultant Larry Miller of Miller Management & Consulting recommends bringing business cards for just such occasions with a hand-written note on the back that you can surreptitiously hand to competitor employees when you see them perform excellent customer service.

"People with staffing responsibilities in retail, no matter if it is a convenience store, fast food or a store in a mall, must always be looking for potential top performers when out in public because you never know when that superstar-in-waiting will be right in front of you exhibiting all the traits you need," Miller said. "When you find them, be prepared to act."

On the back of the business card, write, "Hello, I caught you doing a good job and giving good customer service! If you would like to talk about an opportunity to advance your career, please call me and let's discuss your future."

When they call back, Miller said operators should be prepared to interview them within 24 hours, so you have a real chance of hiring them away.

"Remember to broaden your scope and look beyond other c-stores and QSR [quick-service restaurant] competitors," he said. "Look at all types of retailers including delis, hardware stores, clothing stores or any business where service makes a difference … and don't hesitate to try to recruit management as well."

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds