Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor™

There is a world is full of terrific people and you would be surprised at how many of them are looking for a good offer. The question is how to get them to want to work with you! Marketing to prospective staff members is no different (and no less important) than marketing to your guests. If you create a strong magnet, you will pull in more good people than you can believe! As it is with your guests, nobody is likely to walk in the door if they don't know that you are there or what you have to offer. This brings us to the subject of recruiting.

Don't underestimate the value of recruiting. The Sure-Fire Staff Selection System will help you identify the best of those that apply, but you still need high quality raw material to start with. Never forget that the success of your business depends on the quality of your staff.

Recruiting should be an ongoing project. You always need to be on the lookout for what Mike Hurst of Ft. Lauderdale's 15th Street Fisheries would call a "sparkler." This is that natural talent who instinctively knows how to delight your guests and brighten up your operation. You cannot afford to let a "sparkler" get away because by tomorrow they will be making your competitors wealthy. The people you want may not be actively looking for work. They may not even be employed in the foodservice industry right now.

The simple fact is that you have to market for your staff the same way you market for guests. You cannot open a restaurant and figure that "if you build it, they will come." You have to take your message to the market. It is no different when marketing for your staff. The good people are not likely to be wandering the streets. Good people already have a job. They may not be thrilled about where they are or what they are doing, but they definitely are not unemployed.

So where are these fabulous folks and where can you find them? As a start, consider the following list of sources for staff recruitment:

1. Present staff members (internal promotion)
2. Newspaper classified ads
3. Restaurant guests
4. Culinary schools
5. Computer bulletin boards
6. College bars
7. Radio ads
8. Exchange with competitors
9. Handicapped organizations
10. Fraternities, sororities
11. Referrals from present staff
12. Retiree organizations
13. Former staff members
14. Day care centers
15. PTA meetings
16. Community bulletin boards
17. Apartment managers
18. Volunteer agencies
19. Health clubs
20. Business cards

Even the greatest recruiting idea will not help you if your execution or follow-up is poor. For example, leaving blank employment applications with a high school guidance counselor is a great idea. However, unless you regularly stay in contact with the school to see what interest has been generated from the students, you may miss a potential star. Using the elements of The Sure-Fire Staff Selection System you can make this job easier. Just attach a copy of the Advice to Applicants letter (a 2-3 page letter introducing your company, explaining its goals and detailing how the selection process works) to the Application for Employment when you leave it somewhere. This way, potential applicants will know what to expect and exactly what to do if they are interested in a job.

The next installment of this series will talk more about how to craft newspaper ads that really work. For now, let's look at one of the most potent (and most overlooked) recruiting tools, the business card. We mentioned that the good people probably already have a job. In your day-to-day travels, when you run into someone who impresses you with their attitude and their eagerness to serve, give them one of your cards. You might say something like this: "I have been very impressed with the service you have provided me." Hand them your card. "If you know of someone like yourself who might be looking for an opportunity, please have them call me."

In general, it is best to avoid a direct approach (particularly if you happen to be in a competitor's restaurant!) Half the time that person will contact you themselves. But even if they are happy where they are, they may pass your card along to a friend. Remember that good people tend to hang out with good people and dirtballs tend to hand out with dirtballs. Once you tap into a pocket of good people, you may be surprised at who will show up to talk with you.

Think of how powerful this tool could be if everyone on your staff had business cards and was continually on the look for good people. What? You say you can't afford to give everyone business cards? Well look at it this way: if you have 50 people on your staff and if you can get 500 business cards printed for about $10, that means you would be looking at an investment of about $500 to get cards for everyone. How much advertising can you buy for $500? Would it be worth $500 to enhance your odds of finding the best service-oriented people in your market? Would it be worth $500 to have your staff identify a little more closely with the restaurant?

Business cards are the mark of a professional in our society, so having business cards printed for every member of your staff makes a very clear statement about their importance to your organization. It may help in staff retention. Being able to have your own business cards may even prove to be a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting the right people in the first place! Besides, if you have someone on your staff who is not worth ten bucks to you, you should be seriously questioning what they are doing on your staff!

The point with all this is that you have to do something different if you want something to change. Doing more of what you have been doing will get you less of what you have got!


A final thought on recruiting has to do with start-up staffing. This may be the initial staff selection for a new restaurant or it may be bringing in the summer crew to beef up for the busy season. Many seasonal operations find that gearing up for peak times is quite similar to starting from scratch. Any time you bring in large numbers of new people it places additional importance on how you do it. It is your crew that creates that all-important first impression in the minds of your market. They also influence the culture of your business for years to come.

Selecting staff for a new operation or for a seasonal build-up is a different process from filling one or two openings. First, there are many more applicants to talk with. In a new operation there are the last-minute details of finishing construction and readying the new business for opening that generate time imperatives you cannot ignore. Even a seasonal business still has to take care of their regular patrons while gearing up for the expected summer visitors. You do not have to be starting a new operation to be concerned with large-scale staffing.

When job-seekers arrive one by one to apply, it requires a tremendous amount of time on your part. Each will ask about the same questions, each will need about the same information and each will require about the same handling. Human nature being what it is, the first few people will receive a thorough briefing with a smile. Those who apply toward the end of the process are lucky to receive their paperwork and a grunt! Your staff just wears down.

Why risk alienating good candidates? Why not make it easy on yourself? When you find yourself planning a major influx of new workers, consider holding a series of Employment Seminars. These are group meetings where you introduce the operation, explain your goals and outline the selection process. Depending on your preferences, you could even conduct some generic foodservice training. At the end of the meeting, distribute Advice to Applicants letters and Applications to those who are interested. If you conduct the session properly, some attendees will elect not to apply, relieving you of a certain amount of work. Of those who take the material home, an additional percentage will not return it. This self-screening will save you hours of unproductive time.

Saving time is a plus. However, the major advantage is that employment seminars ensure that all applicants hear the same message and receive the same information. This uniformity is difficult to achieve under any other format. A group meeting also creates an opportunity to build enthusiasm by giving applicants a look at their potential co-workers. If the group gets excited, individuals are more likely to get excited, too. You can do worse than having a group of excited people who want to work for you!

The owner or other high-ranking company officer should conduct, or at least moderate, the employment seminar. When the boss is present, it lends credibility to the process and helps job-seekers understand that the meeting is important to the company.

So there are a few thoughts to get you moving in a more productive direction when it comes to finding the right people. I encourage you to have the courage to try something different and to keep your staff selection standards high. Your guests are worth it.

for more information contact:
Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor™
(585) 606-0000

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