Hiring restaurant employees, or for that matter the best people for any team, can be a long process, and so having a solid understanding of the key characteristics of the people you are looking for will go a long way to improve your hiring success, and make the process more efficient for everyone involved.
Bottleneck Management has always thought about what makes a ‘rockstar employee’ among our teams, and having to lead around 1000 employees across all restaurants, it is something that Director of Training and Development Bart Vivian has refined over the years.
“Early on, it was fairly easy to find good people because the founders, myself and a few others had a direct role in hiring. In a weird way we all shared the same “gut” on who we wanted to work with based on demeanor, confidence, and energy. We all shared a sort of unspoken vision on what an ideal Bottleneck employee was, but there was no science to our hiring methodologies, it was just something we knew in our bones.
But gut won’t work with 1,000 plus employees and growing. As we evolve and continue to grow, the original Bottlenecker team who started the whole thing aren’t hiring on the front line level anymore, so we had to develop parameters for people who are.”
A company must pay attention to the traits that make their people succeed at their role. It may be that working independently, or working as a team will harness better results. You must know which is the right method for the role you are hiring for, and then learn to ask the right questions, to understand if a potential employee will fit those needs. There may even be a common list of traits that everyone in the company needs; a certain mindset or approach that is essential to fitting in and getting the job done.
The Importance of Fit
When it comes to hiring new people, finding candidates that share a company’s attitudes, values, standards and goals is extremely important. A team should always strive to attract people who believe what they believe – in the way they do business, and interact with guests, clients, and fellow employees. Words like ethics, attitudes, and values are the cornerstones of culture, and finding candidates who “fit” the culture is of paramount importance.
A good cultural fit also fosters loyalty and encourages a spirit of teamwork because he or she is part of an environment that reflects his or her own belief system. This sense of shared values increases the chance that the new employee feels like they found a home, not just a stop-off point, and the reporting manager has found a person that can be lead. All these factors help create stability and decrease turnover rates, which is good for the business, management and employees. When the environment is stable with minimal departures, the identity of the culture is continually reinforced and employee engagement is high.
Josh Patrick, founder and principal at Stage 2 Planning Partners, says about hiring and fit, “There is an art in searching for fit. During the interview process, it’s important to ask the right questions, and give potential employees the opportunity to tell you how they live the traits you’re looking for. You don’t want to ask a direct question […] instead, you might ask candidates to talk about a problem they have solved. Precisely how they solved the problem isn’t as important as their attitude about the problem. The answers should allow you to hear the candidate either taking responsibility or blaming others. Sometimes it’s subtle, but subtle differences can determine fit.”
Technical skills can be taught. Belief systems can not.
It is important to not confuse this approach with finding yes men, or people who simply say that they are willing to do whatever it takes. This is not about “drinking the kool-aid” or eschewing the importance of diversity in the workforce. Bottleneck prides itself on its diverse group of employees from all backgrounds and walks of life, but when it comes to how we work, how we treat our guests and each other, our values and characteristics are unwavering.
The Bottleneck Way
While a more in depth description of Bottleneck culture exists in our training and development material, we have been able to narrow the basics down to a list of traits that our best employees possess. In order to do this, we asked every manager in the company to think of their five best people and describe them. Descriptions could be one word or a paragraph. When the results came in, they were cross-referenced for similarities and patterns, with the end goal of finding commonalities of our best so that we might look for these talents in future hires. In other words, what are the traits of an ideal Bottleneck employee?
We had to take a look and establish the characteristics that set us apart, that make us unique versus any other restaurant group. And the more we looked, the more we saw themes and similarities, even across a diverse work force. Bottleneck employees have a definite identity – there truly is something to it. And that was exciting to discover, because now we had the language. Now we could actively set our searches, our interview questions, our whole approach to hiring towards a collection of uniquely Bottleneck traits. We have frat boys, actors, artists, business and medical school students, musicians, dreamers – a vast spectrum of backgrounds, passions and experiences who we work with. But by and large – and if we’ve done our job – they all share similar values in regards to hospitality and how we treat one another, the very ones that make Bottleneck what it is as a company.
The following list of 13 characteristics illustrates the make up of Bottleneck’s best restaurant employees and team members; the top five characteristics were mentioned with such frequency that they deserved to stand out as absolute must-haves. For hiring new employees, this list works as a blue print of sorts for the type of person that will thrive in and contribute to our company culture, and perfectly correlates with who we are at our best, which is Genuine People providing Genuine Hospitality.
Top Characteristics For Hiring Restaurant Employees
Top 5 Characteristics
1. Team Player
3. Excellent Guest Engagement
Supporting 8 Characteristics
4. Hard Worker
6. Positive Attitude
8. Goes Above and Beyond
Remember, chances are good that not too many people embody every single characteristic on this list. But knowing what you’re looking for is a first step, and the more of these qualities that the candidate has, the higher the probability is that he or she is a great fit for Bottleneck. Identifying which traits are important to your company culture, and using those to focus on throughout your hiring and training programs will make them more worthwhile, and result in building a team that becomes family.