Creative and Efficient Ways to Interview Potential Restaurant Staff

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Creative and Efficient Ways to Interview Potential Restaurant Staff

Just about every week during my group coaching calls with restaurant owners someone asks for tips on finding and hiring great employees. Restaurant owners share their successes with things like how to write job descriptions to attract employees who want to work in a great culture, suggestions for where to place those job descriptions, how much to pay their employees in their different roles and what to look for in prospective employees. Recently one of the restaurant owners in the group shared how he went about interviewing a huge number of people to work in his restaurant when he opened a new, bigger location. What he suggested was definitely not what anyone expected.

In this episode of my podcast, The Restaurant Prosperity Formula, Avery Ward, CEO of Little Italy Pizza in Groveport, Ohio, joins me to explain how he used a group interview model to hire an additional 20 employees after previously hiring around 25 new people for the new restaurant. In a time when everyone is asking how and where to find quality employees, Ward managed to get 40 people to show up for two group interviews and hired about 20 of them. Listen in to learn how this style of interviewing works and how you can apply it to your restaurant hiring process. Bonus content includes important insights about moving a restaurant into a new location and what you can learn from Ward so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. 

You may recognize Ward because he was my guest in episode 59 of this podcast. Since that episode he's experienced explosive growth. He moved his family’s restaurant location, which started in 1979, to a newer bigger building. We talk about how the new location created new staffing challenges because his sales literally jumped overnight 140%. Ward shares how having a vision for your company, creating a great company culture and being an employer of choice is an integral of making the group interviewing process work.

Ward’s new location is 5,200 square feet compared to the 2,000 square feet of the previous location.

“We almost tripled our location size, and our kitchen in our new restaurant is the size of our whole old building. It fits inside of our kitchen plus 270 something square feet, so it was definitely a huge upgrade for us,” said Ward. “That’s come with a lot of challenges and learning opportunities. 

During our conversation, Ward explains they’ve had to learn how to support really quick growth.  

To accommodate the new location, Ward hired 26 people and thought that was going to be more than enough once combined with their original team of 40. But there were new services in the restaurant and new jobs to be done. For example, there is an ice cream bar, a dedicated pick-up window, a full bar, more seating, and they still deliver pizzas. Ward found the saying from “Field of Dreams” is true for him: If you build it, they will come.

The first few weeks Ward and his managers were all pulling 80 ­– 85 hours the first several weeks. He says they literally looked at each other and said they had to do something because the situation at the time was not sustainable.

Ward found that moving to the new store and being overwhelmed with the demand led to dropping systems that had worked so well in the old location. They knew they had to go back to checklists, monitoring systems and budgeting systems were all out the window. It was leading to chaos without a fix in sight. Something had to be done to fix it and it had to be done fast.

They knew they needed to hire more employees, but they also knew they couldn’t bring in. more employees who weren’t properly trained. Ward pulled managers off the line so their newest employees could be properly trained, checklists could be made and the old systems could be put back in place.

Then they put out a post that they were hiring in the new location and started talking about their story on their social media. The applications just started flooding in with close to 200+, and Ward and his team knew they couldn’t spare the hours upon hours they’d spent in the past to conduct individual interviews with the applicants.

“In the original round of hiring we did for the new location, we did individual interviews and spent 12-hour days interviewing candidates. I mentioned it on one of the calls the group calls, and you [DSP] were like, “Why don't you do group interviews?” Ward said. “It didn't really click at that moment. We kept doing the individual interviews until we thought we were good. Then we were stuck on the line in the new location and it very quickly became clear to me we had to do it differently.”

Ward is a restaurant owner who had a dream and took action. He’s made a huge impact on the business and his community but also on his family and in his own life. Tune into this podcast episode to get the rest of the story, including how the apple brand played into the process, and how Ward and his team conducted their group interviews. You’ll also get a great explanation of how Ward’s family’s core values have mattered in the restaurant and what he’s doing to make sure he carries those same values forward while also making sure the restaurant makes money.

Click the podcast player above to listen in, or you can watch the video on YouTubeclick here to download the latest episode

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