Building your dream team: Staffing is key

Building your dream team: Staffing is key

Late last year, the Washington Restaurant Association’s Consulting Network conducted a “boot camp” for Azteca Family Mexican Restaurants. The event was designed to provide operators with an all encompassing toolkit for success that focused on staffing, up-selling, branding, social media and menu design.

One of the most significant aspects of the meeting was the discussion regarding staffing by the Consulting Network’s Kathy Chaffee-Groff and Rick Braa. At the center of the presentation, they both highlighted the need to build an A Team, especially with front house staff. The content of the discussion was so useful, it seemed only fair to pass along a synopsis to the full WRA membership. We encourage WRA members interested in having us develop a boot camp for you, your general manager or franchise owners, to contact the WRA today at 800.225.7166, extension 113.

Building your “A” Team

How important is having a competent, engaged and dedicated staff? Operators work long hours to fulfill the dream of running a successful restaurant. Sometimes, owners overlook the most important piece of that success—staffing.

Braa places staff into three categories: A Team, B Team and C Team. Simply put, you need to reward your A Team, encourage your B Team and get rid of your C Team.

“Why?” someone asked.

“Because A Players want to play on a winning team,” Braa responded. “C Players attract other C Players, then your A Players leave and your B players become C players. All of a sudden you are left with only C Players and cannot attract any A Players to your team.”

So, how important is retaining the best staff? The staff IS your brand. They must live your brand, walk your brand and speak your brand. Can each of your servers repeat your mission statement? With that question in mind, how often do you interact with your customers? How often does your staff?

In almost all cases, servers and hosts have more contact with customers than the general manager. With so much money riding on repeat customers, your staff must be at their best, representing your brand every day.

Braa and Chaffee-Groff also discussed the importance of employee reviews, especially with the A Players. Weekly check-ins give you the opportunity to evaluate your employees’ state of mind, test their brand awareness, offer suggestions for improvement and (most importantly) tell them what they are doing right.

Most often, time is spent dealing with major issues, or talking to employees who need a course correction. We sometimes forget how important that one-on-one is for the staff that performs the best. Without your guidance, they may not even know that they are your best performer. Without direction and a consistent reminder of your brand, it is too easy for people to stray off course.

Reward your “A” players!

Take a moment to reflect on your restaurant. On a seven day work week, which day is your busiest? Which day is your second busiest? Of those two days, which shift is the busiest? Is it lunch, dinner or breakfast? Keep your busiest day, and your busiest shift, in mind. Is your highest performing staff on shift during those periods?

Want an easy way to motivate staff and build your numbers? Reward your best performers with the best shifts, and make sure to place your worst performers on the shifts that are not as busy. However, and this is the most important part, tell them why.

Consider putting up a board and tracking sales per ticket so every employee in the restaurant can see it. Let them know the server with the best dollar per ticket will get their pick of the shift. Let them know the penalty of being at the bottom is a shift on a slow day, but also let them know this is a weekly contest, so even those at the bottom have a chance at the best shift.

Managers can now use it as an opportunity for training. Inform them how up-selling a drink special on three tickets each night can bump them up five spaces. Show them how water is their worst enemy, and how ten extra appetizers a night can bring in an extra $20 in tips.

In a matter of weeks you will start to see a change. Your A team is performing, happy they have the best shifts and are rewarded for their hard work. Your B Team wants the better shift, so they start working harder to get better hours. Your C Team will accept defeat and stick around on the shifts no one wants, ask you how to turn themselves around, or quit. Either way, you win.

With repeat customers relying so heavily on the performance of your servers, it is imperative that you have the best possible staff to represent your brand. Your restaurant and your reputation as an operator depend on it.

For more details regarding the boot camp, or to schedule one for your restaurant, contact the WRA at 800.225.7166. Let us get the best consultants in the state in one room, and help you transform your restaurant into the powerhouse you always wanted.

(Published in the Winter 2012 issue of Washington Restaurant Magazine; written by Shawn Sullivan)

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