How to hire the right people in your restaurant…

I always enjoy learning the various philosophies and strategies restaurant owners/managers use to hire the right people for their teams. On that topic, here’s an exchange I with Jeremiah Higgins during his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked. He is co-owner of Arch Rock Fish in Santa Barbara, CA and partner with HJL Restaurant Advisors.

Wil: “How do you find people to hire that will convey the same passion and love you have for your business to your guests?”

Jeremiah: “I’m glad you asked that question, because hiring the right people is one of the most important things that restaurant operators do. Here’s what I do personally…

I think the interview process has to be a structured, minimum three-part process. Over the years I’ve noticed that when I like somebody right off the bat and I give him or her the job, they usually end up being the first to go. They either don’t want the job, or they don’t show up for their shifts, or they take advantage of it when they do. They’re not the person I thought they were when I hired them. Over the years I’ve learned that people will do better if they earn the position.

I like for them to speak to an assistant manager, then to a manager, and finally, to an owner. So far, I’ve always asked that I have the last decision on who gets hired. You’re never too busy to take 10 minutes to spend with that employee before you hire them. Most owners don’t do that. They leave it up to management to decide. But management may not have the same outlook as an owner does.

So, number one is I would put them through an interview process that’s structured. Number two is I would meet everybody before they are hired. And the third thing is the easiest. I don’t care what’s on a resume. I go off of personality.

If that person engages me in the first two minutes, with a twinkle in his or her eye, or a smile, or a good story, or whatever it happens to be, they’re going to engage my customers. If they don’t have that personality, if they don’t have that enthusiasm and that twinkle in their eye, I can’t teach them that. It doesn’t matter what concept I have, I can teach them the procedures, the menus, the wine lists. I can teach them how to serve a table correctly, and how to say goodbye, and all of that. But I can’t teach personality. So the number one thing that I look for is personality.

Hiring the right people is so important. The nationwide average is about $2,200 to hire and train somebody. Why make a mistake? Why spend all of that money, and then have to do it all over again a week or two later? And that $2,200 doesn’t even account for the cost of lost customers if that server is not the right person at your table, and it’s turning off customers.”

Jeremiah’s comments underscore how important it is to find the right people, and how little he leaves to chance. Let me know if you have other philosophies or processes you use when you hire. I’d love to include them in a follow up blog post. I’m at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com.