How to Hire Back-of-House Staff

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Gabriela Tan
April 16, 2024
Two back-of-house employees are laughing while cleaning a cooking surface in a restaurant kitchen.

Behind every memorable dining experience, there’s a dedicated back-of-house team that works tirelessly in the kitchen. Their skill and dedication are the building blocks of a restaurant’s overall success. While the restaurant industry survived the pandemic and the current outlook is positive for the most part, remnants of the labor shortage still remain. To make matters worse, a recent survey conducted by a restaurant staffing firm determined that 25% of back-of-house workers have left the restaurant industry entirely. As a result, building a robust kitchen crew can be challenging. 

Hiring back-of-house staff may seem difficult, but it’s definitely not impossible. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to hire back-of-house staff for your restaurant. From exploring all of the back-of-house roles to creating a list of interview questions, we’ve got you covered. 

What Does BOH Stand For?

The term “BOH” stands for “back-of-house”, which generally refers to the operational areas of a restaurant that aren’t directly visible to customers, such as the kitchen, dish room, and storage areas. BOH staff includes chefs, cooks, and dishwashers who are responsible for keeping the back-of-house running. 

The back-of-house team works diligently to create dishes, maintain food safety standards, and manage inventory. Even though customers aren’t able to see this portion of the restaurant, the back-of-house team is integral to a restaurant’s operations by ensuring dishes are prepared properly and promptly. 

A prep cook is cutting vegetables to prepare for meal service.

Back-of-House vs. Front-of-House: What’s the Difference?

A restaurant’s success depends on the seamless collaboration of back-of-house (BOH) and front-of-house (FOH). Although both are essential to providing customers with a great dining experience, their roles differ greatly. 

Back-of-house staff are responsible for doing behind-the-scenes work, such as preparing food, cooking dishes, and keeping storage areas organized. In contrast, front-of-house staff represents the customer-facing side of the restaurant, where guests dine. This includes spaces such as the dining area, bar, and reception. The FOH team is responsible for providing guests with exceptional customer service and making sure they’re satisfied. Front-of-house positions include hosts, servers, and bartenders. 

Despite their distinct functions, the BOH and FOH teams must work together and communicate effectively to ensure all restaurant operations are running smoothly. 

What Back-of-House Roles Does a Restaurant Need?

Now that we’ve covered the basic definition of back-of-house and the differences between back-of-house and front-of-house, let’s dive a little deeper. Next, we’ll go over some of the most common back-of-house roles a restaurant will need. 

Kitchen Manager

A kitchen manager is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities of the kitchen staff and ensuring everything in the culinary department is running smoothly. Their responsibilities include:

  • Supervising staff
  • Training
  • Staff scheduling
  • Collaborating with chefs to develop menus
  • Managing inventory
  • Ensuring ingredient quality and cost control
  • Enforcing safety and sanitation standards
  • Ensuring compliance with health regulations 

With their balance of strong leadership skills and culinary expertise, kitchen managers play an important role in maintaining the high standards of food quality and service that guests expect. 

Head Chef

A head chef is responsible for managing the entire kitchen operation. They work collaboratively with the kitchen manager, with the kitchen manager typically handling more of the administrative tasks and the head chef taking care of the culinary aspects. Their responsibilities include:

  • Menu creation
  • Recipe development
  • Ensuring consistent food quality
  • Leading and mentoring kitchen staff
  • Fostering a collaborative and creative environment
  • Overseeing kitchen budgets
  • Ordering supplies
  • Managing inventory
  • Ensuring compliance with food safety regulations

A head chef is the main authority figure in the kitchen, meaning that all the other kitchen staff are expected to follow his or her direction. 

A head chef is instructing two line cooks in the kitchen as they take notes.

Line Cook

A line cook works on the kitchen line, typically assigned to a certain cooking station. Depending on the station they’re assigned to, they could be doing anything from grilling, frying, sautéing, baking, or more. Their responsibilities include:

  • Preparing required ingredients and cooking tools
  • Handling various cooking techniques
  • Adhering to recipe specifications
  • Plating dishes 
  • Following the head chef’s instructions
  • Collaborating and communicating with colleagues
  • Ensuring quality control and high standards of food quality
  • Maintaining a clean and organized station 

A line cook’s multitasking abilities and attention to detail ensure the kitchen runs like a well-oiled machine. 

Prep Cook

A prep cook is responsible for preparing ingredients before a meal service and to “mise en place,” which is a French culinary term that means to “put in place.” Prep cooks make sure that all ingredients and cooking tools are ready before any cooking actually begins. Their responsibilities include:

  • Portioning and measuring ingredients according to recipes
  • Preparing all ingredients, including vegetables, meats and seafood, and starches
  • Making sauces and stocks
  • Preparing simple dishes 
  • Maintaining inventory levels 
  • Complying with food safety rules and cleanliness

A prep cook’s role contributes significantly to the kitchen's workflow by allowing chefs and line cooks to focus on creating dishes. 


A dishwasher is responsible for keeping the kitchen clean and organized. Their responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring a steady supply of clean dishes, utensils, and cooking tools
  • Operating dishwashing machines 
  • Taking out the trash
  • Sorting and storing clean items 
  • Collaborating with kitchen staff to manage the flow of dirty dishes

Despite dishwashers working even more behind the scenes than the kitchen staff, they’re imperative to a kitchen’s workflow. Without them, the back-of-house space would be in disarray, and kitchen staff wouldn’t have access to any clean dishes. A dishwasher is a great entry role for someone looking to break into the restaurant industry. 

A dishwasher is washing dishes in a sink.

What Is the Average Cost of Back-of-House Employees?

Pinpointing the exact cost of back-of-house employees can be difficult since this number will vary based on several factors:

  • Location: Labor costs are typically higher in bigger cities or metropolitan areas rather than rural areas. 
  • Restaurant Size and Menu Complexity: Larger restaurants with more complex menus can expect to have higher labor costs than smaller restaurants or restaurants with simpler menus. 
  • Level of Experience: Experienced chefs and line cooks will expect higher salaries than entry-level cooks or dishwashers. 
  • Benefits: Offering health insurance, paid time off, or other benefits can increase overall labor costs. 

Considering all of these different factors, most restaurants will have unique needs when creating a back-of-house team. To give you a better idea of how much it would cost to pay each staff member, here’s a breakdown of the average salaries for each BOH position in the United States:

Keep in mind that the figures above do not include employer-paid taxes, contributions, and benefits. To stay within your specified labor budget, it’s important to factor in these added expenses and to be diligent with managing overtime. Using an automated payroll system like Push can help you easily keep track of all payroll-related costs. 

How Many Back-of-House Employees Does a Restaurant Need?

Similarly to the average cost of back-of-house employees, the number of employees you’ll need to hire depends on restaurant size and customer volume. Although exact numbers will vary, a general guideline is to have anywhere between four to six back-of-house employees per shift for a casual sit-down restaurant that serves around 50 customers per hour. This would typically include a mix of cooks and a dishwasher. 

Two line cooks are working together to plate a dish.

How Can I Attract Top-Tier Back-of-House Employees?

Attracting top-tier back-of-house employees requires a multi-faceted strategic approach. 

Creating captivating job postings with clear and detailed descriptions of each role is a good place to start. We’ll be covering job descriptions more in-depth in the next section to give you a step-by-step guide on what should be included. Once you have a job description prepared, using a variety of recruitment channels can help you widen your candidate pool. Some ideas include online job boards, restaurant-industry-specific platforms, and even networking within the culinary community. 

While using different recruitment methods can help you get a larger applicant pool, it can still be a challenge to attract top talent. Some ways you can try to stand out amongst other restaurants are: 

  • Offering competitive wages and benefits packages
  • Providing opportunities for career advancement
  • Highlighting your restaurant’s positive work culture and work-life balance initiatives
  • Using social media to enhance your employer brand

With the restaurant industry still recovering from the back-of-house labor shortage that the pandemic caused, the key to attracting top talent is to go above and beyond what other restaurants are offering. Researching current job postings for similar roles in your area can give you a better idea of what you might be up against. Using that information as a benchmark, you can craft the optimal job description and compensation package to hire the best candidates

What Should Be Included in a Back-of-House Job Description?

Writing a clear and engaging back-of-house job description can help you attract qualified candidates who are well aware of the role’s duties and responsibilities. 

Starting off, the job description should outline the specific position title and its reporting structure within the kitchen hierarchy. Next, detail the main duties and tasks associated with the role — for back-of-house roles, this should include anything pertaining to food prep tasks, cooking methods, and sanitation standards. After that, specify any qualifications, experience, or physical requirements that would be essential to succeeding in the role. Requirements may vary depending on the role and could include anything from culinary education and certifications to the ability to stand for long periods and lift heavy objects. Lastly, the job description should mention information about the work environment, such as the pace of the kitchen and the restaurant’s culture. 

If you’re writing a job description for a BOH role and you’re finding yourself stuck on any part of it, try conducting a job audit. By reevaluating a role’s duties and responsibilities, you can create a more accurate job description and offer a salary that matches the demands of the role. 

What Should Be Included in Back-of-House Training?

No matter which position you’re onboarding, all BOH staff should be trained on kitchen procedures and protocols to prevent cross-contamination and ensure compliance with food safety regulations. This includes proper food handling, storage, and sanitation practices. After getting the basics out of the way, training on equipment operation and maintenance should be next. Since each role uses different equipment, it’s important to tailor this part of training. Once the new BOH hire has a thorough understanding of the equipment, training on specific duties and responsibilities should begin. For example, a dishwasher may be taught how to manage the flow of dishes efficiently, whereas a line cook is taught how to grill a steak to meet restaurant standards. 

Back-of-house training should also include some soft skills. Think about incorporating training on teamwork, communication, time management, and organization skills. While soft skills don’t seem as critical as hard skills, they are still a necessary part of a well-run kitchen. 

Last but not least, keep an eye on a new hire’s skill development and integration into the team. Create an environment where you can politely provide constructive feedback and ongoing support. Having a culture of continuous improvement can help new hires feel more confident in their roles. 

A head chef is holding out a plate as a line cook plates a dish.

Can Back-of-House Receive Tips?

While traditionally tips go to front-of-house staff who directly interact with customers, whether back-of-house staff receive tips depends on each restaurant. 

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the United States, a restaurant business can claim a tip credit to reduce their minimum wage obligation for tipped employees. If a restaurant chooses to claim this tip credit, then only staff who customarily receive tips are allowed to participate in a tip pool. This means that back-of-house staff would not qualify in this case.

However, restaurant businesses can choose not to take the tip credit and pay all employees the full minimum wage. In this case, they can create their own tip-pooling system to include back-of-house staff if they wish. 

It’s important to remember that whichever tip-pooling system you implement at your restaurant must be fair, legal, and clearly communicated to all employees. 

Wrapping It Up: Putting Your Back-of-House Hiring Plan into Action

With a well-defined hiring strategy and a focus on attracting qualified candidates, you’ll be on your way to building a strong back-of-house team. Even though an offer letter feels like the end goal of the hiring process, remember that successful hiring doesn’t end here. Investing in onboarding and ongoing training allows your new hires to start their roles on the right foot, eventually leading to a more productive restaurant. By putting your back-of-house hiring plan into action, you can build the ideal team for a smooth operation, keeping customers coming back for more!

Staffing your restaurant with the perfect team doesn’t have to be difficult. From hiring and onboarding to time tracking and payroll, Push is an all-in-one people management solution that can help streamline your operations. Book a demo with us today to experience the difference Push can make. 

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April 2024


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