Gastronomy, Inc's HR Director Catherine Burns on Hiring Restaurant Workers

October 29, 2018
Forty years ago three young businessmen came together to build one of the most successful restaurant groups in downtown Salt Lake City. Gastronomy, Inc., better known for their Market Street Grill, the Oyster Bar and the New Yorker! With their eye on the business principle of high-quality service, casual surroundings and delicious food at a perceived value, they were the pioneers of "fresh seafood" in Utah.

Sticking true to their business feature of excellence, while they are known for the amazing variety of fresh seafood that they serve, Gastronomy is also known for the quality of their steaks which are every bit as good as the seafood. The clam chowder, served with a delicious sourdough bread, is known all over the country.

We got in touch with their Human Resources Director, Catherine Burns, to share her expertise in hiring for a successful restaurant business. Prior to that, she worked in their fine dining restaurant (recently closed) as a server, hostess and manager. Gastronomy, Inc. employs approximately 400 individuals and her main responsibility is to make sure they have a great work environment for the staff. Catherine is also in charge of workplace safety, food safety and participate in their marketing efforts. She is also the manager of the corporate office.

The organization has been successful because the owners and managers of its restaurants demand top performance from themselves and their employees. With more than 25 years in the restaurant business and nine successful operations, Gastronomy, Inc. continues to expand.
Each new employee is assigned a mentor manager who provides extra care for their training and well being.
Q: What have your experiences been with hiring hourly workers?

Catherine: It has been very difficult for quite some time now. There are too many restaurants in Salt Lake for the number of individuals interested in working in them. Line cooks and other back of the house are especially hard to find. Lately we have hired some excellent servers, but that is not always the case. Unemployment nationally is low, but it is especially low in Utah.

Q: What has worked most for you when hiring hourly workers?

Catherine: Making sure we are very clear about the expectations and then making sure we make the person comfortable and welcome when they start. Each new employee is assigned a mentor manager who provides extra care for their training and well being.

Indeed is working fairly well, we have a local job board called KSL which also produces applicants. Workstream is partnering with both of these so it makes it efficient to place ads. We also have a robust employee referral program that results in new hires.

Q: Where are your go-to channels for sourcing and hiring?

Catherine: Indeed, KSL, employee referral, refuge programs, temporary staffing agencies, social media, job fairs (although usually not very fruitful).

Q: What innovative recruiting technologies or methods have you seen recently?

Catherine: I think the newest thing that could help us is the text to apply feature that Workstream has set up. Otherwise, you just have to get the word out that working in restaurants is lucrative, flexible, fun and can set a person up with vital life and/or workplace skills and behaviors.
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