Temporary Restaurant Staffing: How to Hire Short-Term Employees

By Katherine Pendrill

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You’ve worked hard to build a dream team at your restaurant. Occasionally though, your roster of permanent staff needs a little backup. In times like these, temporary restaurant staffing can save the day.

Hiring temporary employees can be a flexible solution during a staffing shortage or a busy time of year like the holiday season. Considering that 75% of restaurants experienced staffing shortages before COVID-19 – and the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue – the chances are good that you’ll need to tackle this challenge at your restaurant sooner or later.

In this guide to staffing a restaurant, we’ll cover:

  • Benefits and drawbacks of hiring temporary staff
  • How temporary restaurant staffing works
  • 4 key considerations when using a staffing agency or app
  • Best practices for temporary staffing

Get ready to build some bench strength!

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Temporary vs. Permanent Restaurant Staff

There are two sides to every coin. Staffing a restaurant with temporary employees has clear benefits in certain situations, but there are also downsides to consider. Let’s compare the differences between temporary and permanent team members.

Benefits of Hiring Temporary Staff for Your Restaurant

Hiring temporary employees is a smart move if you need backup to make it through a staffing shortage, or to meet labor demand during a busy season. There are three main benefits to taking this approach.

1. Plenty of Flexibility

Having a few extra team members on your roster temporarily gives you scheduling flexibility, and enables you to meet busy times of year head-on with a strategic holiday staffing plan. 

Hiring temporary help for a short time is much more efficient than undergoing the heavy lift required to hire a permanent employee, who you would then have to lay them off when your busy season comes to an end).

2. Lighter Human Resources Burden

When you hire a permanent staff member, especially someone who’s going to be working full-time, you want to be involved in the recruitment process to make sure your chosen candidate will be a good fit for your restaurant over the long term.

In contrast, when recruiting for a temp, you can easily outsource the task to a restaurant staffing agency. These agencies are well-equipped to find you the best candidate possible for a short period of time, taking the burden of recruitment off your plate.

3. Lower Cost

When you hire a full-time employee, you may want to provide them with a competitive offer that includes benefits like vacation time and health insurance. These perks will make your restaurant a more attractive option for job-seekers, but they’ll also cost you money.

Alternatively, hiring a temporary staff member carries a lower cost than bringing someone on board full-time. When working with temps, you don’t need to offer paid time off or healthcare.

Downsides of Temporary Staff

1. Training Time

Every new employee you hire will need training. However, the training process for permanent staff can often be spread out over several weeks. 

The difference with temporary staff is that they have to get up to speed quickly. So, you may find that there is a lot of training involved upfront when you bring a temp on board. If your restaurant is already slammed, this can feel like an extra burden.

2. Commitment and Customer Care

Temporary employees might not share the same level of commitment to their role at your restaurant as your permanent team members. This – along with any potential training issues – could mean that your customer service will suffer.

It’s important to remember, though, that service will likely also suffer if you’re understaffed. So, taking a chance on a temp may be your best bet.

3. Recruitment Fees

Although you’ll be able to save money on paid vacation and health benefits when you hire a temporary employee, you might have to pay high fees for a restaurant staffing agency or recruiter. 

Try to budget for this expense in advance if possible, and be sure to shop around for the most competitive restaurant temp agency fees.

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How Does Temporary Restaurant Staffing Work?

If you know it’s time to hire extra help, there are a few ways you can approach finding temporary staff. For instance, you may want to use an app, or work with an employment agency or recruiter. The ideal route to take depends on your specific circumstances.

According to Staff Management, “​​[Using an app] might be okay if you’re just looking to fill a few last-minute shift openings. However, if you’re looking for a more consultative partner who can help you evolve your workforce strategy as business needs change, then a traditional staffing provider would be a better fit.”

If you decide to work with a recruiter or restaurant temp agency, be sure to provide them with detailed job requirements so they can find the right matches to fill the roles you need. 

In contrast, if you’re planning to browse candidates’ profiles yourself on an app, having a clear sense of the qualifications you’re looking for before you begin will speed up the process and help you get the best results possible.

Top Considerations When Using a Restaurant Staffing Agency or App

Now that we’ve explored the benefits and drawbacks of hiring temporary restaurant staff, as well as how temporary staffing works, it’s time to dish out some tips on the recruitment process!

You may already have a favorite staffing agency or app that you use to help you land top talent. If not, this list of the 2022 Best of Staffing award-winning agencies for the food service industry might come in handy. Or, if you prefer to use an app, Fliptable, Gigpro, SnapShyft, and GigSmart are a few popular options.

Hold the phone! Before you start your search for new workers, keep these considerations in mind when deciding which agency or software platform to use.

Available Workers and Location

First, ask yourself how many temporary staff you need to cover your labor shortage or busy season. 

Whichever agency or app you choose should have access to a decently sized pool of workers in your local area. This becomes even more important if you’re looking to hire two line cooks and four servers, for example, instead of just one server. The more workers you have the ability to reach, the better chance you’ll have at finding the perfect fit.


In today’s world of ever-rising food costs, budgets in the restaurant industry are especially tight. Staffing is expensive, so make sure you do your research to save money on the recruitment process wherever you can. When comparing different agencies and apps, find out whether the ones you’re considering charge a fee, and how much it costs. 

According to Advance Partners, “The average staffing agency markup for temporary employees or independent contractors can range anywhere between 20% to 75%.”

Now it’s time to do some math. Calculate the costs of using an agency or platform verses hiring someone on your own. This, of course, includes your own time spent on the hiring process.

Turnaround Time

Knowing your timelines (i.e. how fast you need to fill a temporary position or multiple roles) is critical to a successful recruitment process. Be sure to ask any agency or app you’re considering how quickly they can get you a candidate for the job.

Hiring timelines can vary widely, from under a week to two months. While planning in advance isn’t always possible in the case of staffing shortages, sometimes it can be done. For instance, preparing early for busy times like summer and the holiday season can ensure you start the recruitment process far enough ahead so you won’t be scrambling when it’s time to hire.

Terms and Conditions

As with any important business decision you make, always read the fine print! Understand what you’re getting into when you sign a contract with a staffing agency or platform.

Here are a few questions to make sure you get answers for:

  • What happens if the new hire doesn’t work out?
  • How does the app or agency handle disputes?
  • What kind of background checks are conducted?

Unlike when making a hire directly through your restaurant, the more cooks you have in the kitchen, the more complicated things can get, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Best Practices for Temporary Restaurant Staffing

Working with an agency or app you trust is essential for peace of mind. After all, the whole point of using one is to take the burden of recruitment off your plate. However, you can’t walk away from the process entirely.

In addition to having a detailed job description, there are two other key things you can and should do to ensure a successful hire.

First, put a training program in place to get temporary workers up to speed quickly. Creating materials like a new hire checklist for restaurant employees and a restaurant employee handbook is a great way to streamline the onboarding process so everyone’s receiving the same information. 

This will also make the process more efficient by providing new hires with a place to go for answers to simple or common questions, rather than spending your time answering the same questions repeatedly.

Next, leverage software and tools that make it easier and more efficient to manage temporary workers. For example, TouchBistro’s Restaurant Staff Management software helps you simplify shift management, streamline payroll, optimize labor costs, and more.

Crunch time caused by a staff shortage or busy season can be a challenge, but with the right tips and tools, you have everything you need to sail through it like a champ. You’ve got this!

Photo of Katherine Pendrill
by Katherine Pendrill

Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.

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