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The Restaurant Coach: How to Hire Smarter

This is Part I of a two part interview series on the hiring challenges restaurants face. Donald Burns didn’t think he’d end up in the restaurant business. Growing up in the hot zone of the back kitchen, he wanted to carve out a different path. But following a stint in the military and a degree […]

This is Part I of a two part interview series on the hiring challenges restaurants face.

Donald Burns didn’t think he’d end up in the restaurant business. Growing up in the hot zone of the back kitchen, he wanted to carve out a different path. But following a stint in the military and a degree in marketing, the lure of the line led him back to his roots.

He opened his first restaurant and like a lot of first-timers, it nearly failed. But Burns managed to turn it around and even decided to open a second restaurant. What he learned during that experience and for the next 30+ years stuck with him.

Today, Burns is well known in the industry as The Restaurant Coach™. He helps restaurant owners, operators, and culinary professionals around the country get the most out of their business, career and life.

After attending his Webinar: The Hire Right Attitude, we tapped Burns to get to the heart of the hiring issues facing restaurants today and find out what it takes to hire smarter.

So Donald … let’s get right down to it. What are the biggest hiring challenges facing restaurant managers today?

The biggest and most obvious challenge is finding top talent. That’s always been at the heart of the issue, but as more and more restaurants enter the marketplace, the competition gets tighter and tighter, making it harder to attract people who match your culture.

What do you think is harder: sourcing candidates or actually hiring them?

Sourcing candidates is the hardest. One of the most important lessons I learned during my time operating and managing all different types of teams, was to “always be recruiting.”

If you’re only recruiting when you’re desperate to fill a position, your odds are pretty bad. Superstars don’t show up when it’s convenient, so you have to always be looking around at who might be that next great hire for your team, otherwise you get stuck in a vicious cycle of panic hiring.

What are some ways hiring managers can “always be recruiting?”

The best way that I’ve seen is through referral programs. Restaurants use referral programs all the time – especially in the medium to high-end space where they can be a little more subjective about who they hire.

What about the quick service and fast casual spaces where there’s typically higher turnover?

They’re looking for great team players too – and so even though they might not be as subjective, there’s no reason why an employee referral program wouldn’t work in that operation.

And then just constantly being on the lookout for people who show behavioral traits that match the position you’re hiring for.

Can you explain what that referral program might look like?

Sure. I like programs that have a three tier structure. If a current employee recommends someone for an interview they get $10. If their candidate is hired and stays on for 90 days, the employee gets $50. And if the new hires stays for six months, then they get $100.

What restaurant managers need to remember is that they are only as good as the weakest link on their team. Incentivizing your employees to help you find good people is a great way to “always be recruiting” without losing too much time.

What are some other good recruiting strategies?

Keep your cards on you at all times. And have your pitch ready. If you’re always recruiting, you’re always on the lookout for people with the right behavior. Some of the best people are found when you’re out at the grocery store, at the bank or at a retail store.

Where does technology fit into this? How should restaurants use recruiting software in their restaurant?

Apps like HotSchedules Recruit are different from your run-of-the-mill free job posting Websites. And I’m not just saying that. I really think HotSchedules is shaking up the industry with a better way to approach the entire hiring process, using the power of referrals and networking.

If you’re always recruiting, you need an online tool to help you find restaurant staff and you need a way to manage referrals coming in from your employees.

About: Donald Burns’ Performance 7 Restaurant Consulting & Coaching offers cutting edge programs that combine behavioral science with the tools and techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He works with the restaurant and hotel industry and culinary professionals.

You can learn more about his coaching and consulting services on his Website at donaldburns.net

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