Restaurant Briefing: Recruiting Good Managers

Promote Your Business Restaurant Industry By American Express January 5, 2015

Recruiting good managers is especially important given the hard cost of replacing a manager (which the People Report estimates to be approximately $11,000), as well as the opportunity costs when restaurants suffer from not having seasoned managers in place who know the company, its products, and its customers. The People Report also measured a strong correlation between management turnover and same store sales. To find the best manager candidates, restaurants focus primarily on developing and promoting current staff – supplementing with employee referrals and networking with culinary organizations and vendors. Most also conduct a broader outreach on their websites’ career pages and via social media (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, CareerBuilder, craigslist) along with working with industry recruiters.

LOOK WITHIN “Most of our managers come from within the company,” says Marty Shapiro, Founding Partner, Myriad Restaurant Group, hq New York, NY. “Existing employees naturally have a better feel for our systems and expectations, plus our staff has acclimated to them and a mutual respect already exists.” Myriad’s MIT (Management in Training) Program typically takes a year to complete and gives trainees the opportunity to work closely with senior management in purchasing, private events, wine, as well as all in service positions. “Watching people grow up in our organization allows us to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in a variety of areas, as well as their leadership qualities. We find that employing individuals as MITs rather then hiring them from the outside is advantageous as it enables us to work with them in a less high-profile role. Additionally, we find that people will stay with us longer when we’ve made that commitment and investment in them.”

According to Danny McGowan, President/Partner, Big Bowl, Chicago, IL, 25%-35% of his management teams began in hourly jobs at Big Bowl. “Because they know the company and we’ve seen them in action, they end up being on a fast track when moving into management.” He adds that Lettuce Entertain You (Big Bowl’s parent company) has a team of in-house recruiters that propose management candidates from all the company’s restaurants. And Lettuce Entertain You’s college summer internship program also provides excellent managerial applicants. “If you’ve got a great intern, it’s like having a long working interview,” says Danny. The 50+ interns work 30-35 hours a week, eight of which are at the corporate office, working in small groups to create their own restaurant concept which they present at the end of the summer. Danny says these internships have great word of mouth and are promoted at midwestern colleges and job fairs.

First and foremost, I like to recruit managers from within, followed by recommendations from employees and networking within the culinary community – both locally and via Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. I prefer referrals from people I work with and/or know.” – Jamie Leeds, Chef/Owner, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Washington, D.C

Harvest Restaurant Group, hq Morris Plains, NJ, and Fox Restaurant Concepts, hq Scottsdale, AZ, also have management training programs. Grant Halliday, Director of Operations, Harvest Restaurants, says they have a position called a “key holder” or “key employee” that allows interested hourly employees to take on additional responsibilities (e.g., opening one of the restaurants by themselves, working on special projects, etc.) which lead to the management program. Alain Ané, VP of HR, Fox Restaurant Concepts, reports that 97% of their managers come from inside the company. “We recently created a 12-week management training program because we felt formalized training was critical to developing managerial candidates. We promote the program throughout the company and have a dedicated manager who is in charge. She ensures that necessary resources are available to candidates and follows them through the program to make sure they are hitting their marks.” Alain adds that there is a tuition reimbursement program for qualified employees who want to increase specific areas of knowledge and skills that can help them to become managers.

At B&B Hospitality Group, hq New York, NY, Rajan Lai, VP of HR, says the company spends a tremendous amount of time and effort grooming employees for management positions. “If we believe someone will make a good manager but he or she has a gap in education or skill set, we create a customized program.” He adds that B&B is creating an internal job board online for all company job listings, including management, for its 2,300 employees to view and respond to 24/7.

TURN TO THOSE YOU KNOW Alain says Fox Restaurant Concepts’ manager referral program has been very effective. “Employees feel a great sense of responsibility when recommending someone, and we’ve found that they only endorse people who will make them look good.” Fox gives a $1,000 reward/finders fee when referrals stay for a minimum of 60 days. Myriad, Harvest, and Fox use LinkedIn to build industry contacts for managerial candidates and referrals. And Grant advises talking to vendors. “They know the competition and know who’s not happy.”