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My husband and I are in the process of opening a small café and bar outside of Dallas, Texas. We have spent the last few months remodeling the once-closed restaurant and now we want to hire waiters, waitresses and bartenders. What do we look for in staff? We have never hired anyone before, or, for that matter even worked in a restaurant in the last twenty years. We met while working at a restaurant in college and have always dreamt about owning one. Now we do. What do we do next?
Romance in the Kitchen.
Dear Romance-What a cute story. Fulfilling one´s dreams is always a great feeling. Like all dreams though, the life of a restaurant owner can turn into a nightmare unless you both wake-up and smell the burning stock. And, I am not talking about the soup. If you are going to succeed you have to look at your business as a business. Many people like to play restaurant when they first open. By the time they realize the business is not a game they are behind financially and seldom have enough capital, time, or customers to recover. Hence, I would presume, your opportunity to purchase the once-closed restaurant.
When it comes to staffing the type of environment you plan on creating will govern your requirements. If your café and bar is going to be very casual, you can hire staff that has that air about them. If you are looking to emulate The Four Seasons you will need to find a more professional group of people.
As in any endeavor, your selection of peers will define how your future will grow. You have to keep in mind that since you have little experience in the business you do not broadcast this to your newly hired, seasoned staff. All it takes is one person to think you don´t know what you are doing and you will be at a disadvantage.
Before you even begin the interviewing process, make a list of what you like about waiters and waitresses that wait on you when you go out to dinner. If you have been doing a lot of the cosmetic remodel of the new space I am sure you have had your share of late night dinners out.
How does the staff treat you when you walk in just before closing? Are they in a rush to get you out the door? Or, are they congenial and welcoming? These are all small traits that make a difference if customers know your operation is professional and sincere in its welcoming mission.
Develop a few questions that show you know what you are talking about. Staff applicants should know the basic tools of the trade.
Does a bartender know how to change a CO2 container?
Does he/she know how to pour a good draft beer?
What are the three most important steps in a waiter´s side work or closing responsibilities after a shift?
Do they know how to set a table?
Can they fold a napkin with relative speed and accuracy?
And, the list goes on and on.
After your first hiring round, and there will be many, you will become more instinctively accustomed to what your needs are and will be able to handle the process easier as each new hire steps in front of the bar, application in hand.
Above all else, DO NOT BE NERVOUS when hiring staff. A professional wait person can tell when you are having anxiety attacks, and, in many cases don´t want to work in a setting where the owner can´t deal with something as simple as interviewing.
The restaurant business is similar to dating. Owners and staff have to get along and enjoy each other´s personalities for the relationship to work. Even if the owner is an absentee moron, as many of us can be at times, the staff doesn´t appreciate or respect owners who do not have a good knowledge of the business. And, in the world of competition, none is tougher than the restaurant business.
As you move forward towards your goal keep the seriousness of your business in mind. Often, because of the casual atmosphere of a café or dining room, owners forget that the real reason to be in business is to make money. And although this has been a long term dream, keep your eye on the operation, enjoy the lifestyle and diligently work to meet your goals.
By following your dream with a lot of business discipline you be successful and sleep better at night.