By Matt Rolfe
Eighty per cent of hospitality owners and managers started their hospitality careers working in the front or back of house. Over time many in our industry rise through the ranks and find themselves leading others rather than doing the work themselves. Does this sound familiar? Was this your journey, or do you have someone running your restaurant who followed this path? If so, this article is for you.
After spending the last 10 years studying top operators across North America, I have come to the conclusion that our industry has an abundance of highly skilled and passionate people. The challenge for hospitality owners and managers is that this passion does not always lead to a profitable or successful businesses. When these individuals develop the ability to lead a team with strength, it is then that a business will often become highly profitable. In order to provide the best experience for your employees (which in turn will translate to a great experience for your guests), you need to have the leadership strategy that your business needs to succeed.
In this article I outline a simple and proven concept I have worked through with our clients; whether you operate a large multi-site organization or a small corner pub this concept can work for you. There is more competition in the market than ever before and if you want to have a successful restaurant, bar, hotel, or quick service operation, doing business the way we did in the past simply won’t cut it any more. The success of your operation ultimately rests in the hands of the people working on the front lines of your business. Now is the time to invest, inspire and enroll these employees in a way that motivates them, retains them and connects them with your vision.
Get, retain and develop your employees
If you are in a manager or ownership position in the industry today, consider yourself as a coach. In my eyes, a coach’s job is to recognize and develop talent. To be successful in our industry, you need a strong strategy to attract talent into your hiring pipeline. Recognizing talent begins in the hiring process; job postings are successful not when they produce the most applicants, rather when they reap the best applicants. The most successful operators take the necessary time to craft honest job ad’s which repel the ‘wrong’ applicants and only attract people that will be a true fit for your business.
Getting applicants is easy, but getting top level employees is a full-out fight in today’s market. As this is your first interaction with potential employees, you need to draft unique job postings that will ensure hiring success. Filtering the candidates by their fit with your culture and vision (rather than strictly skillset or amount of experience) is the next step in recruiting the best employees. The consequences of this can mean that you may end up choosing someone with a weaker skillset compared to another because they align with the vision for your team, and that you will need to invest in time to retain and develop them then.
After you have filtered and chosen the right employees, how can you ensure they stay with your team in the long run? Most hospitality operators in Canada are experiencing over 100 per cent annual staff turnover. This makes it very difficult for us to provide great guest experiences if we have a revolving door of talent. A retention strategy which focuses on reducing employee turnover can fundamentally change your business. I encourage you to think differently about employee compensation, scheduling flexibility, employee meal programs, and how you create a community within your staff. Yes, these all cost money, but factor in how much money or time you are spending screening resumes, sitting in interviews, inducting staff simply to do it all over again every week of every month.
If your employees have made it through the 100-day mark in your business they are now part of the team and should be in a position to assist and support the induction of new employees. Additionally, don’t ignore your staff who have been with you well past 100 days; look to them as the potential managers and leaders in your team. It has been proven that after your employees base financial needs are met what they are looking for from their employers is the opportunity to learn and grow professionally. I encourage you to look for opportunities to develop the leadership skills of your managers by:
- Attending conferences and workshops,
- Bringing in suppliers to grow product knowledge for your team,
- Starting a business or personal development book club
- Bringing in a bank to teach employees about how to get their first mortgage.
- There are plenty of low- or no-cost options that can make a drastic difference when it comes to the development and retention of your managers and staff.
Get, retain and develop your guests
For any business to be successful it must bring guests through its doors. Through all of my experience working with hundreds of operations, I fully believe that the best way to grow your client base is to begin with those already in your restaurant and then wow them. If we have successfully covered the steps above we will now have an engaged, inspired, and enrolled employee serving our guest every time. This might sound easy but recent studies have shown that over 50 per cent of the workforce across all major industries, not just hospitality, is actively looking at other employment opportunities. Before breaking the bank on marketing, social media or other campaigns to draw a crowd, I would double-down on ensuring only the right employees get the opportunity to wow those guests. Focus some energy on prioritizing your budget accordingly; it may surprise you that development of your team may earn you a larger ROI than a marketing campaign or promotion.
Providing your guest a truly remarkable experience will be your biggest opportunity for you to retain your guest. It is not just the food or drink that your guest consumes when in your restaurant that will keep them coming back; it is how you make your guest feel that will keep them coming back, time and time again. I have found that those operators who provide their guest a remarkable experience keep a simple service strategy at their core. This service strategy is discussed, reviewed and celebrated on a daily and weekly basis. A key concept to this success is that service training does not stop after an employee is trained or inducted. Great service is a result of consistent and passionate focus on what your service expectations are as well as how they are expected to show up every night.
When it comes to developing your guest the key is to make sure they know all that your operations have to offer. This means starting with passionate recommendations at the table that will allow your guest to try and experience new or unique items from your menu. I also encourage that you take time to inform your guest about events, nightly specials, seasonal party opportunities, new menu launches. This may seem like a given but I can tell you that having staff provide your guests a reason to return to your location is a huge opportunity in our industry.
As the celebrity entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has said, “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” The get, retain, develop concept is simple enough that everyone in your organization can connect with and understand. That said, it is not easy, it takes focus, commitment and time but I can promise you the payoff is worth it.
About the author:
Matt Rolfe is the CEO of Barmetrix Global, a hospitality coaching and consulting firm that helps clients multiply profits, maximize staff engagement and deliver remarkable guest services by design. Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org to book speaking engagements or to discuss Barmetrix Services. For more information, call 416-367-2263.