We can look for countless qualities in a restaurant manager candidate…
- How many years management experience does he or she have?
- How many people have they hired or fired?
- Do they have experience managing food costs or labor?
- What experience does he or she have in training and developing team members?
- Do they have experience handling cash?
The overarching question is, while all these aspects of management are important, what do I look for when actually seeking to hire someone who will become one of my trusted restaurant managers?
The answer is simple: I look for individuals who are prepared to work hard, learn, and genuinely care.
Over some twenty years of working in the food business, I have learned that you cannot teach some people to work hard, or to be willing to learn, or to care about their work or the people they serve. Yet, these are three of the most intangible traits that all great managers possess. I can teach a candidate who is prepared to work hard how to manage the daily life of a restaurant. The candidate who is willing to learn can be taught to write a profitable schedule or manage food costs since he or she will invest the effort.
Candidates who truly care about what they do will have the patience to train, teach, and coach others.
Here is more about each of these three critical qualities needed to become a leading restaurant manager:
To determine if a candidate has the appropriate work ethic, I like to make pre and post interview surprise visits to his or her current restaurant. I tend to go during peak time to observe his or her actions. How actively is the shift being managed? Depending on the concept, is he or she a unit-producing person or not, prepared to get their hands dirty (then clean them appropriately!) when needed?
During the interview process, I ask what the candidate would do if he or she took over a troubled store that is underperforming, and what might be done in the first few weeks to turn things around.
“Willingness to Learn”
The restaurant industry is an ever-evolving marketplace, so how we manage them must evolve likewise. Too often, we hear managers-in-training say “I know how to do that”. I cringe when I hear such words because they are the tell-tale sign of being unprepared to learn. Restaurant management is an art, and while we paint with similar canvases, we don’t all use the same paints or brushes.
When interviewing I like to ask, “What does your current company do differently from others, and how has learning such new skills helped you in your career, your personal and professional growth?”
“Do they Care?”
While on a surprise visit to a candidate’s current place of employment, I will inform a non-management staff member that I am displeased with an item that I ordered, and ask for the manager. Observing how the candidate handles this situation offers insights into whether he or she cares about the customer and the experience…or not. I often ask candidates, “What type of community outreach programs did you initiate at your last restaurant?”
The candidate’s responses not only to my questions but also to my surprise visit make it apparent whether or not the candidate has the ability to adapt and think on their feet. Did they handle the surprise visit well or did they fumble? Candidates can tell you whatever you’d like to hear during the interview, but seeing their reactions to real-life scenarios speaks volumes.