Anyone who has worked in or owned a restaurant knows that it can be a demanding profession. Often what keeps us engaged and happy to serve are the people who work alongside us.
To CALA in Scottsdale, Arizona, general manager Rob Meir recognizes the power of a team player and crafts his staff interviews to identify potential employees who exude a positive attitude.
“For me, it’s our culture. It’s who you hire,” Rob said. “We can teach anyone to do anything. But I can’t teach attitude. I can’t teach personality. And when I interview, my first impression of that person is what the guest is going to get from that employee. So it’s important for me to know how I feel in this interview, how the connection was, because that’s how they’re going to connect with the guests.
More than hiring agencies to take charge, Rob thinks of the big picture and hires to complement his total customer experience.
“[Customers] want to go to a place where people are happy. They spend their money somewhere. It makes no sense for them to come in and all the staff are grumpy.
So how does a hiring manager identify someone who aligns with company values?
“There has to be a sense of structure,” Rob said. “They must really believe in what you say. They must believe you. You must be authentic. They must care as much as you do.
The key to hiring the right people is asking them the right questions. For Rob, this often means asking the following:
- Why are you in this industry?
- Why do you want to be a waiter?
- Why do you want to be a host?
- Have you been part of a team?
- Have you ever played sports or danced?
- Have you been part of a community that asked you to really engage with people or be coached?
In the restaurant industry, it can be difficult to greet every customer with a smile or bring your A-game every day, which is why Rob is looking for staff with resilient personalities and a love for people. .
“It’s a difficult job. I am very straight forward and very honest. You have to be resilient. You have to care about people. You have to care about service. I don’t coat it in sugar. I say, it’s hard work. We work hard. It beats you sometimes, and it’s also amazing. It is also uplifting. You really have to love people. »
This benchmark for caring extends to CALA’s management team, chosen for their ability to coach and their ability to turn criticism into improvement.
“Culture really starts with a strong leadership team,” Rob explained. “I’m not in this building every minute, am I?” So I think we all have to share the same value of caring about people and caring about your service and being really good at what you do.
Another core value of CALA is communication, which helps the team stay in tune with each other and with diners, especially when things don’t go to plan. Customer inconveniences aren’t ideal, but they’re more easily overlooked when a delicious dish is paired with great customer service.
Yelp user David H. left a 5 star review for CALA stating that the restaurant deserves full marks despite having to wait 10 minutes past their reservation time. “The food overall was fantastic. Our server, Jacqueline, was great; really nice. She was happy to be there. She was super attentive and she was busy jostling at all her tables.
“Honestly, I’m grateful for every positive and negative review,” Rob said. “I really appreciated David’s review because I appreciated his understanding, and I appreciated that he had a great time but was honest and didn’t keep us waiting during this small moment.
“The positive [reviews] I focus a lot on. I take it to Jacqueline. I take it to the staff and say, ‘Hey, look! Someone said something good about you,” because it makes them feel good. And then they strive to do better.
“And then the opportunities from the negatives, we take them and say, ‘Hey hostesses, communication about the wait – thanks for letting them know they were going to be 10 minutes and stick to 10 minutes. “These are training opportunities: positive and negative.
Having an honest dialogue like this can help improve one-time experiences for customers and the ever-changing customer experience for the restaurant. Rob said it works best for him when the engagement is timely and consistent. He responds to criticism, positive or negative, and lets the critic know that he has been seen and heard.
“The owners must react. It’s a must no matter what. I am a big defender of it. If you don’t leave feedback, it seems like you don’t care or it’s not important to you. And that’s a big deal because people are going to see it. And for David to take his positive experience and write about it, it makes me happy, and it makes me look forward to giving someone else great service so we can get some more reviews. ‘Cause people are watching, what if [they] read the reviews and want to know how it is before you go they will spend their money on us.”
Rob’s formula for creating a successful customer experience includes three key steps:
- Hire for your company values. Choose staff based on their attitude and character. A good manager can teach anyone how to perform a task, but they cannot teach personality or personal values.
- Communicate with staff and customers. Set expectations with your customers. prevents misunderstandings and reinforces your concern for their experience.
- Respond to reviews and implement comments. A customer who feels seen and heard can increase their review score or even visit your business again. Working with your team on the feedback you receive will also increase your reputation as a customer experience conscious at large.
Listen to the episode below to learn more about Rob and David, and to subscribe to Behind the review to hear about new business owners and reviews every Thursday.
Photos of CALA on Yelp; editorial by Kristi Lindahl and Jenna Spray
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