(Blogger’s Note: Readers Write appears each Monday. We publish a letter or comment from a reader and attempt to offer a bit of advice. )
Would you be willing to discuss with me my current dilemma? I am trying to get a concept-stage restaurant idea off the ground and need to find executive management to run it for me. It is most likely going to be a larger-scale startup than normal, so I am looking for executives with experience running and developing a chain of restaurants, yet willing to get their hands dirty again with a concept-stage venture. Would you know of any good places to look for talent of this nature?
Thank you for your time.
You are not alone. There are many people with ideas, leases, financing, and a group of investors or supporters who face the same dilemma. As a matter of fact, I know a plethora of restaurant owners currently operating that are looking for the same type of person you are. Don’t give up hope….
However, you may have a tough time of it as many executives that are running, or involved in top management have already had their fair share of hand dirtying and are looking for someone to fill their shoes in that department. The competition for great management, with drive, passion, experience, vision, and the ability to drop all the glamorous stuff, clean the bathroom or pick up the dessert from the dining room floor if walking through the culinary catastrophe at dinner hour are few and far between.
One reason for this is the job security and highly sought after compensation packages the large multi unit operations offer. It is hard to compete with a Cheesecake Factory in their employee perks and compensation. However, it still can be done.
One of the other problems that you will constantly be facing is your unproven concept. So this is what I suggest:
1) Find an executive or general manager with experience on the executive level you feel you need and contract with that person to work as a consultant for a period of time. Once you get to know each other the consultant contract frequently turns into full time employment if both parties are pleased with the concept and the potential growth.
2) At the same time find an assistant manager at a large chain that isn’t moving up the ladder as fast as possible and offer him a manager´s position.
3) Offer that assistant manager, now turned manager points in your new venture – a small piece of equity goes a long way.
4) Once the business is up and running it may be easier to find someone too handle the operation.
Now, where do you go to find that person? That is the tricky part. And, it takes a bit of ingenuity. I am sure though if you have gotten this far the ingenuity factor has already entered the picture.
Make sure you have business cards printed with the name of the concept on them. If you have been talking about your new venture a lot, ramp up- talk about it more. Inform friends, waiters, restaurant managers, and strangers you run into about the venture. Go on the Internet in chat rooms and when you are really tired of hearing yourself talk- start talking. Everyone knows someone in the restaurant business and your trek to Executive stardom will not be easy. If you want easy, hire a Sherpa and scale Everest. This is the restaurant business- it isn’t easy but it is more fun. (However, Everest is cheaper.)
Secondly, there are executive search firms that can help you but these are very costly. Google culinary and restaurant employee sites to get an idea of cost. I would bet, though, that you are going to need to find someone from an already existing position in your area and begin to entice that person to join your venture.
As far as getting their hands dirty that is something you will have to probably refresh their memory on. The dirty hands part of the business is usually always reserved for the owners. I don’t know of a restaurant owner who doesn’t always have a pair of rubber gloves handy- usually in their size.
Good luck with your trek. Keep us posted. Welcome to the club.