Hiring and retaining a great team is one of the greatest challenges we face in the restaurant business, but the definition of team can vary widely among operators. In this transient, high-turnover industry, many restaurants simply hire to fill openings, without concern for developing the team. I get it: Someone quits without notice or there’s an injury that leaves a hole in your dining room or kitchen and the show must go on, but there’s a much better way with better results.
Recognize that your team is the foundation of your business. To deliver the best service experiences to your guests, you have to hire, develop and nurture your staff, not simply find replacements and turn them loose. That approach delivers marginal results and a marginal restaurant. Your guests will be the first to notice and move on to the next restaurant.
Instead, focus on a new approach that begins with hiring. Your goal as an owner or manager is to find, hire, develop and retain the “best” people that not only fit your culture and team, but deliver unforgettable dining experiences. This is how to build a strong brand, because again your team is the foundation of your business. See the difference?
It constantly amazes me that help wanted ads for restaurants always seem to seek experienced people. By contrast, I have had far more success hiring for attitude, personality and desire to serve over prior experience. You can train for skill, but the core values of attitude and desire must be innate in your hires.
So how do you find these people? The most effective way is asking your all-stars, your “A"-Team, for their referrals. Your best people know your restaurant, its culture and your standards. They know who will fit best and share these core values to augment the team, not bring it down. Know that average people deliver average performances and guest experiences and these employees can easily destroy your hard-earned culture of hospitality, teamwork and respect. Get rid of your “C” team immediately before more damage is done and focus on leading your “A” team to develop your “B” team—those who have the potential to be great, but just need a little polish to shine.
When you have a promising new candidate, regardless of experience, ask challenging interview questions that will provide insight into the person’s values and character. Anyone can tell you what they think you want to hear, but questions that require poise to provide authentic answers from the heart will identify the type of people your restaurant should be hiring.
Ask questions like:
• What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
• Give an example of how you made a difference in another person’s life.
• How would a former teacher describe you?
• What does serving the public mean to you?
When you have a solid “A” team staff, your restaurant will be unstoppable. First, your team will have more fun and make more money as they make friends with your customers. Suddenly, you have a team of “brand-builders” who authentically create repeat business. In turn, your customers will have more fun and spending more money, while they become your best most effective form of marketing. Best of all this is free promotion and a competitive advantage, all for the cost of your time as a manager to lead, develop and reward your team of all-stars.