By: Richard Averitte, ShiftZen
Not everyone belongs in the restaurant business. Some people belong in a profession where they aren’t responsible for serving people. They may look the part, but that could very well change by their actions and speak. The restaurant industry is not about rolling silverware, stuffing napkin holders or other restaurant related tasks. It’s about providing service to guests.
Too often restaurant managers forget the “service” criteria when hiring servers. When I managed restaurants, I always to tried to hire those who seemed to have a server’s heart. I hired servers, not waiters. You can train anyone to do a task, but you cannot train an eagerness to please.
During the hiring process, I looked for intangibles not found on a application. I often found these intangibles during the interview. Here are four things I always did during an interview that spoke volumes about the candidate:
1. Drop the pen – Sometime during the interview, I always dropped my pen and waited for the candidate’s reaction. If the candidate picked it up (or at least went for it) immediately, I knew this would be a good hire. If the candidate did not even try to pick up, that told me they did not have a server’s mentality.
2. Yes sir/no sir – If they’re not going to say it to me during the interview, they’re probably not going to say it to the guest. You need to hear “yes sir/no sir” (or ma’am) in an interview. Sounds old-fashioned, but it’s actually timeless when providing service.
3. “Thanks” vs “Thank you” – This may be a personal pet peeve, but I am big believer there is a difference between “Thanks” and “Thank you”. The former sounds can be perceived as insincere and snarky, while the latter is rarely perceived as nothing but upmost gratitude. I want to hear my candidate say “Thank you” when the interview is over, not “Thanks”. I want to hear it because I’m sure my guests will want to hear it too.
4. The door – After the interview, I always walked the candidate to the door. I tried to do it when some guests were near the door. I would open the door for the candidate and observe their actions. Would the candidate allow the guests to pass first? Or perhaps take the door from me and hold it for the guests? If the answer to either question is “no”, I would not hire the candidate. The guests is the most important person in the building and they always come before staff. This snapshot told me all I needed to know.
I prided myself on a low turnover rate in the restaurants I managed and I firmly believe these four details were a part. Look for the details during the interview and you’ll hire more server’s hearts instead of warm bodies.
Richard Averitte is a twenty year restaurant veteran and marketer for ShiftZen (www.shiftzen.com), a restaurant scheduling software company in Durham, N.C.