Developing your superstar employees for advancement is an often-overlooked but essential part of running a restaurant.
The labor pool in any typical restaurant is a diverse grab bag of talent. You have some decent employees who are there to do the job and contribute the minimum expected of them. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but these aren’t the “superstars” or “rockstars” you’re looking for. You might also have the employees who come in consistently late by a few minutes, are always asking about getting cut, turn in way too many time off requests, or make too many mistakes at the POS or on the line. These also aren’t your superstars – and sometimes this behavior is a symptom of them needing to be invited to move on. There are some employees whose hearts may be in the right place and really give it their best shot, but simply lack the talent or skills required to really shine. This can often be remedied by some re-training or a change of department to get the superstar out of them.
Then, you have the true superstars on your team. In the Front of the House, they’re the ones who arrive on time no matter what, are ready to go when they clock in, they rarely make mistakes, they run food, they do sidework without question, and generally keep the team running well. They’re the ones you love to see on the schedule on a busy Friday or Saturday. In the Heart of the House, it’s the line cook who knows every station like the back of their hand, that always reads a ticket correctly, fires the food at the right time, doesn’t serve over- or under-cooked pizza, scrapes the pans out with a spatula, and rotates the stock correctly. Their station is clean, organized, well-stocked, and they truly take pride in their work. These are the employees you feel comfortable “turning over the keys to” and knowing the show will run smoothly. These employees are your bread and butter.
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Of course, there are those superstars also who are just working there while they go to school. They’re content in the position they’re in, and that’s awesome. Again, you NEED these star players on the field while you have them. At some point, they’ll move on and will be replaced by (hopefully) similar superstars. My strategy for these team members was always to put them in trainer positions or key holders when appropriate and possible so they can train their eventual replacements.
The so-called unicorn is the career restauranteur who is a rockstar and wants to move up. Maybe they’ve taken hospitality management classes, or are just so naturally “good” at the business that there’s no holding them back. These are the ones who you know will eventually get into management or ownership, have that special passion and drive, and show it every day. They’re always wanting to learn new departments and help out any way they can. They take the initiative. They ask you questions that go beyond the basics. It’s so important to recognize these star players and start to create an action plan for them.
Unfortunately, often times we can accidentally overlook these employees. We get caught up in running our business and get lost in the comfort of them being around and doing their job. We don’t have to worry about them so we somewhat take them for granted. Sometimes they can get discouraged by the lack of their advancement and move on to the next restaurant instead.
One of the best lessons I learned was to always be on the lookout for someone to train as my replacement. It keeps the business growing and thriving. Most importantly, this legacy planning also trickles down to the cooks, the servers, the bartenders, the hosts, and the bussers.
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A mandatory part of your manager meetings must be employee development and legacy planning. You must develop a plan if you don’t have one. Plan for the “next generation.” Talk with the employees that stand out to you. Sometimes they’ll approach you, but more often than not, it’s up to you to start the conversation. We know that sometimes we’re at the point that losing one server or cook spells virtual disaster. We can’t spin our wheels and stay in that dangerous area. Hire the right people. Train, train, train. Put them in the right departments. Got an employee that’s not working out as a server? Maybe they’d like to be a host. Maybe they’d like to even a cook instead!
Remember, ultimately it all starts with hiring the right people and training them correctly. (Do you have an effective interview, training, and evaluation process?) Then, identify the superstars who will lift your business to the next level and continue to push it forward. Recognize them and lift them up and your restaurant will thrive for years to come.