Ep. 6: 5 Ways to Create a Strong Team and Culture
Opening Soon is a weekly show about the journey of opening a restaurant featuring conversations with some of the world’s greatest chefs, restaurateurs and the vendors that help take their business from an idea to opening soon. Opening Soon is hosted by the founders of Tilit NYC, Jenny Goodman and Alex McCrery, who bring their unique perspective as hospitality industry insiders and many questions as the former proprietors of a now shuttered restaurant. Each week we'll extract the strongest takeaways from our guest interview so that if you don't get the chance to listen you can still get the drop.
1. Have a clear vision that is easy to communicate to employees. It’s important to make sure that all of your staff are on the same page. You may find yourself repeating the mission statement often, but you have to ensure that the message isn’t forgotten. An employee handbook (that’s legally reviewed!) that goes over rules, federal compliance, and things personal to the restaurant is a great way to make sure expectations are clear for all new hires.
2. Understand your employees and what motivates them. Sit down and talk with them! Guide employees to new roles that interest them, and find ways to challenge them so that they remain engaged. Have honest conversations; sometimes you have to encourage employees to leave so that they can continue to grow - your employees will appreciate you more for it.
3. When hiring new staff, the interview is crucial for judging whether or not the person is a good fit for the team. Trial runs are a great way to evaluate if the person is right for the job, since you can see how the person acts in the environment they would be working in. Ask them why they left their previous job and double check their references.
Key Tip: Reduce the amount of interview no-shows by sending a detailed confirmation email to interviewees after setting up the interview time. Include information like the exact location, directions, attire, etc. Reiterate that the interview time is reserved exclusively for them, and request that they give you advanced notice if they cannot make it to the scheduled time.
4. Team-building exercises create stronger bonds between your staff. For example, at Tail Up Goat, cooks work four days in the kitchen but one day at front-of-house per week. Front-of-house staff can also learn things in the kitchen if they choose. This practice is especially beneficial for the cooks because they can see customer reactions to their food firsthand, and can create valuable customer connections. Even simple team outings or White Elephant parties at Christmas can increase respect and kinship among staff.
5. Create some of the benefits of a 9-5 job at your restaurant so employees view their jobs as careers. Restaurant jobs were previously only seen as part-time jobs, but the culture around service jobs is changing. Some of the servers at Miller Union are career servers, and these are the employees that customers ask for by name. Your hosts and servers are the face of your restaurant - ensuring that they feel supported in terms of pay and benefits means happier employees, which translates to better customer connections.