Learning and development


Be Prepared for your interviewee

An interview is a conversation between two people designed to quickly get to know the person and their experience level as it pertains to your open position. But be mindful that an interview goes both ways. The interviewee is also learning about you and your organization through what you communicate both verbally and through body language. 

It's important that you know what you want to get out of the interview. Come prepared! Set some goals and establish some targeted questioning. If the position you are hiring for requires special skills make sure the questioning is designed to allow the candidate to talk about those skills and how they used them in previous companies. Saying you have a skill on your resume can mean many different things. 

If you are hiring for a leadership role or service focused role then you'll need to get to know the persons personality. Your questions in this scenario should be targeted to understand how they relate to others and build high level teams.

For example, if I am in need of some major improvements in my operation I might ask a question like this: "What are your problem solving techniques and how do you manage change within an organization?"

If the position is more service based I might ask a question like this: "How do you motivate and inspire people to improve their level of service?"

You'll want to have answers to these questions thought out ahead of time. Meaning, what would be a good answer to you that will tell you this person is qualified? The answer to these or any questions could be varied so in the end you'll be assessing their answers against your pre-determined answers. Are they close? Did they say exactly what you said? Did they say it better than you or differently than you? Or was it clear they did not have the level of experience you need for this current role?

In any case, finding a qualified candidate that you believe fits the company value system is not easy. But if you come prepared you're more likely to find a candidate that will transition easily and stick around.

Essential management skills

The restaurant industry is plagued with under-performing management. But we really only have ourselves to blame. Historically this industry has been one defined by chaos, emergency, and urgency. We've all said the phrase a million times, "have a sense of urgency." Urgency is fine, but it's not a skill set. It's a mentality.

So what are the essential skills a manager needs to effectively manage highly active situations?

1. Analysis skills. A manager needs to quickly understand any situation and make decisions based on qualified analysis. This is not a skill that comes naturally to most. It needs to be learned.

2. Problem solving skills. Big companies have turned problem solving into full time positions. We can learn from them why these techniques are critical to solving the real problems of an organization and not just the symptoms that we see.

3. Leadership skills. Think of it this way. Management is about procedure, leadership is about people. Contrary to what many think are two separate skills, management and leadership can not be seen independently. While we must have as much control over the process of a company as managers, we must also recognize that we are in service to those that do the work. Scrap the term boss. You are there to help the them. Not the other way around!

4. Learning. Learning may not be seen as a skill onto itself. But it is something that needs to become part of any good managers DNA. If you are not learning and pushing your own limits of knowledge you’ll lag behind and eventually won’t be able to stand up against those that are pushing themselves. You’ll run yourself right into not be qualified for any legitimate position. So pick up some books, read the essential magazines, and keep learning new skills.

Let’s be real about how quickly the food industry is changes and as a result the necessary skills needed to manage effectively. It’s not just P&L anymore. It’s deeper experience in areas that have long been absent in restaurant work. If you really want to climb to the top you’re going to need to know more than just how to cut labor and food cost.


Systems Rule

There are two critical reasons why everything you do needs to be systematic. 1. It makes measuring effectiveness much easier. 2. It makes training your staff a breeze. If you’ve ever worked for a big corporate brand than you know that almost everything is written down, in pictures, on video and accessible in a binder or online.

We like to think that the big corporate run guys are lifeless, but in fact what they have learned is that in order to truly bring life to the business you have to remove as much potential for interpretation and decision making for the employee. Think about this for a minute. If you are the owner of a restaurant or food operation don’t you want the product to come out of the kitchen the same every time? Don’t you want the staff to provide the same level of service every time? Don’t you want the way you make money to be so clear that there is no room for failure?

There is only one to get all these things and that is to build systems. To do this you need a method and the time to analyze and write down every movement. Follow these initial steps to start the process:

  1. Rally your team! Get the group together to help you with this. Trust me when I say they want systems and procedures.

  2. Make a list of all the activities that you’d like to have more clarification on. You do things a certain way but you may not know exactly why you do them that way. For example, you may want to systematize the way a team member picks up food and delivers it to a table.

  3. Analyze the process. Use time before you open or after you close or during very slow periods to run the process you want analyze. Have a piece of paper and pen. Observe the test run and make notes of every step. Don’t try to fix things yet. First get the entire process flow mapped out.

  4. Now that you have all the steps written out pinpoint the main steps and the transitions from one to the next. This is called process mapping. For example, step one is the employee taking an order, step two is the order being run into the POS, step three kitchen receives the order, step four food is ready for pick up, step five employee is called to the kitchen, etc.

  5. For deep understanding do this process several times and record how long each step takes.

Now that you have the process mapped out bring the team back in and start to analyze this process with them. Ask what are the challenges they face in this process. Make sure you know what all the problem points are. Ask them how this process could be improved. I can guarantee they’ve been waiting for you to improve the process and are now relieved that you asking for their input.

The next step is define the improvements and test the new system. It may not be perfect the first time around and you should run it several times with the team. Adapt and make immediate changes as you see. Write those down on your process map.

Once everyone is in agreement that the new system is better all around and achieves great results for everyone you can celebrate that you have built a system. Write this all out in detailed steps and present it back to the team at your next meeting. And don’t forget to thank the team for their input and help in your improvement efforts!