Why you should compete for staff (not customers)…

Of all of the “Aha!” moments I had when conducting the interviews for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, the largest lightening bolt struck when Jon Myerow of Tria Cafe in Philadelphia and I had this exchange…

Wil: “Is it challenging to find people for your team that share the passion that you have?”

Jon: “Yeah, it is. There are a lot of people with the passion for the product. Luckily, we sell something that a lot of people love (Jon’s restaurants have a niche focus on beer, wine and cheese). But the secret is to find somebody who has the passion for it, and also has the ability to be a good restaurant employee.

We’ve hired some people with the passion, but they just weren’t very good on the floor. Some people just can’t be good servers. I’m one of them, so I feel their pain. But I think we’ve done a good job with that. We’re very selective. If we put an ad on Craigslist, we’ll get 100 or 200 responses, and there might be three or four people that we consider seriously. I like to say, “It’s harder to get into Tria than it is to get into Harvard!” [Laughs] Our acceptance rate is lower. And our employees know that.

I think the people that work here know that they put up with a lot, but they get a lot back. We try to give much better tangible benefits to our staff than other restaurants because we expect a lot. We have quizzes every single week, and training every single week for every single front-of-house staff member. If you don’t want to learn a lot in your free time about wine, beer and cheese, you’re going to get fired. It’s that simple.

To me the biggest competition is not for customers. It’s for staff. If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow.”

I’ll repeat that: If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow. I love that philosophy. Absolutely love it! It’s unconventional and smart and shows Jon has a long term, big picture focus for his business.

Think that strategy sounds risky? You can read Jon’s entire interview (and nineteen other owner interviews) to learn more about why he’s been so successful by doing things his way and not always following conventional wisdom when you grab a copy of our book on Amazon – paperback ($14.99) or Kindle version $9.99).

Take care…