The groundhog was definitely wrong with his predictions this year, but before you know it, your customers will be ready to dine alfresco; but are you ready? It’s important to plan as if your patio is additional space; it should have its own staff (don’t borrow from the inside, it won’t work), bussing station, condiment supply, utensils and floor plan. Most importantly, you need to hire specifically for the patio season.
So how do you find the resources for the patio? In the Midwest and northern states, the patio season begins in late May through August. Finding the right person is sometimes harder then it seems. After all, the US Unemployment rate is at 7.6 percent; there are likely good workers out there for your restaurant, but it takes planning.
One of the most successful plans I had for the patio was to hire college students. The timing is perfect and with college expenses on the rise, the average college student will need to find a summer job to cover their expenses next semester. Hiring the right college student is key. Although they are summer time/temporary workers, they will still represent your brand and will be responsible for your customers.
If you are looking for a college student, start with the college itself. Many colleges today have a job site where you can list your job opening for free. If you have an alma mater, it’s an easy place to start and a great way to pay back to the higher educational institution.
Even if you are a day away from opening the patio and don’t have dedicated staff, don’t compromise your position – quality always wins. If you’re opening the next day, bring in extra servers. Don’t be short or expect your regular staff to cover the patio along with their station. Everyone will suffer – your servers, kitchen and customers. If your brand is at stake, don’t give in.