When Kristen Fehrenbach started working as a server at Peli Peli, a South African fusion restaurant in Houston, Texas fewer than three years ago, little did she know that one day she’d be working as the interim CEO.
Much like the military, working in a restaurant provides the opportunity to work your way through the ranks, and that’s just what Fehrenbach did. Hiring from within is part of the company’s business strategy. Why? It helps them maintain their company culture, and that reflects in the service that guests receive. Employees really learn the business from the bottom up. In fact, all Peli Peli managers have been servers at some point.
So, if you already hire from within, or you want to make it part of your business strategy, what should you be looking for at the entry level?
Servers With a Side of Management
When you think about, everyone in the restaurant industry, regardless of their level, should have the “hospitality gene,” or a natural skill for food service. That means every time you hire someone, whether a it’s server or a manager, you should look for qualities like:
According to the Integrity Training Institute, many restaurant managers hire for skills, but fire for character. As a result, they came up with some interview questions that address more soft skills than hard ones. Here are some examples:
- “How did you fill downtime at your last job?” This question can give you insight into how proactive the person is and whether they’ll be a good team player. Did they ask their co-workers if they needed help, or did they go outside and have cigarette?
- “How do you handle situations that could cause you to be tardy or absent?” This question can give you a sense of the candidate’s time management skills and their ability to multi-task and plan ahead.
- “What about your character makes you a good candidate for this job?” This might tell you if the potential hire is a “people person” and a good fit for a customer-focused role.