Aside from handling a goat and the occasional curse, helming a World Series-winning baseball team might not be all that different from running a restaurant. “If you want to win the World Series, you have to get there as often as possible,” said Tom Ricketts, owner and chairman of the Chicago Cubs, during the National Restaurant Association’s annual show. “To do that, you have to build up a young core of players.” The Major League Baseball proprietor said he had to give his rookie players time to grow—which is not always a linear progression.
Ralph Brennan, the celebrated New Orleans restaurateur, echoed Rickett’s sentiments. “The restaurant industry is an industry of young people, and we need to help them to grow and develop,” said Brennan.
Here are some tips they and others offered during the conference to help draft an all-star team.
1. Mind your manners
Just knowing someone’s name means a lot, said Ricketts. That’s one of the ways the management staff lets all members of the Cubs organization know they are important. During the World Series, the team flew out the support staff and announced each of them like players on the field to recognize their hard work.
Part of the culture at The Broadmoor, the landmark hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., is greeting every guest and employee by name. The policy is baked into the resort’s service standards and training. “It helps bring a sense of place,” Senior Training Manager Danielle Dally said. “Employees think, ‘They care about me as an individual.’ That’s something guests notice.”
Managers are trained to offer detailed and specific thanks to employees at Seattle-based Ivar’s Restaurants, said Patrick Yearout, director of recruiting and training. The chain also hands out thank-you notes to give staff something tangible that they can share with their loved ones.
2. Share your vision
Back in 2010, the Cubs still weren’t winning and many people questioned whether Ricketts and his management knew what they were doing. He made sure that he attended games to field questions from fans and other stakeholders. “We weren’t hiding from it,” he said. “I went to every game and handed out baseballs and let everyone know that there was a strategy.”
Millennials don’t do what they are asked to just because their managers say so, said Gabe Hosler, VP of training and operations for San Diego-based Rubio’s Restaurants. Operators have to market new policies to help team members get excited and invested, he said.
3. Allow team members to be themselves
Ricketts recommends not being too hands-on with managers. “Once you’ve decided you need someone and you find them, you need to let them do their job,” he said.
Hosler said Rubio’s has rearranged scripts to bring out employee’s personalities. “We spend all this time finding that perfect team member based on their personality, and then on day one we try to turn them into something else,” he said. Now, the restaurant group just asks employees to say thank you to customers and close with a directional comment, such as, “Check out the salsa bar” or “Enjoy the Red Wings game.”
Rubio’s employees also take personality tests to help the crew members and their managers zero in on their soft skills.
White Castle has employees take personality tests as well. The scores of high performers are measured to help the chain know what to look for in recruits, said Chief People Officer John Kelley.
4. Invest in your operation
You are what you tolerate, Ricketts said. When the executive arrived at Wrigley, part of the staff worked out of outdated offices, and the rest worked out of on-site trailers. “You can’t tell people they are at a first-class organization and give them third-class facilities,” he said.
Similarly, investing in training can also help reduce staff churn. Restaurants with a four-hour orientation have 14% less turnover than concepts with a three-hour orientation, said Sara Anderson, director of workforce development at the NRA.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.