Four Ways to Develop Your Restaurant Bench Strength

By. Noelle Ifshin 07th Feb 2013

All companies, large and small, must develop the next generation of leaders in order to thrive, let alone survive.  Using a sports analogy, the best teams have incredible talent, but they also have depth of talent, so they can readily adapt to change and adversity; this is called “bench strength”. The teams with the deepest bench strength often win championships because they can overcome injury, fatigue and unknowns where other teams fold under these types of challenges.

Successful restaurants build depth in their teams, at all levels, to help them through unexpected challenges such as market shifts, turnover in key positions and/or employees falling ill. It is essential that restaurants have people who can take the reins in any situation to ensure continuity and effectiveness. Additionally, having bench strength keeps you ready and poised for growth and expansion. Here are 4 ways to help develop your bench strength in your restaurant:

Find Great Employees

Invest first in people, not ideas.  People are the most important asset to the success of any business, and hiring the right team makes everything else much easier.  Finding great employees can be challenging and takes time.  Make sure to give yourself enough time to find the right people so you don’t end up hiring someone just because you need a body.  Hiring the wrong employees is very expensive because it creates disruptive turnover and impacts the morale of the remaining employees.   There are only so many seats on your bench, don’t fill it with sub-par players!

Ensure A Cultural Fit

As we touched upon in, How to Hire for Attitude as Well as Skill, “great employees are those who have both the technical skills required for the job as well as personal attributes that gel with your company culture and core values.” You can always train, and even re-train, for skills depending on needs, but it is impossible to train someone to be hard working, thoughtful, and honest.  Restaurants that are successful have a continual focus on their company culture at all levels and in all areas of the business.  They are quick to recognize when they made a wrong hire and remove poor cultural fits early on.

Share Knowledge

Cross functional training pays off when a key employee, manager or chef is out unexpectedly, and offers flexibility during periods of high volume.  It allows individuals an opportunity to develop and expand their skill sets, showing that you value their career development.  Sharing knowledge openly with your staff also pays off when a position opens up or your restaurant is ready to expand – you then have employees on your bench ready to go into these new roles.  Spending the time to cross-train can also provide employees with fresh perspectives; encourage service improvements and effective problem solving.

Empower Decision Making

Unfortunately, many managers feel that by empowering employees to make decisions, they lose the ability to lead and control their team.  This is a management myth.  When employees are part of the decision making process, they are highly motivated because they feel that they have control over their job roles.  The only way empowerment works is if there is effective two-way communication and trust between management and staff.  The more information employees have, the better they are going to be at making smart decisions for your business.

Furthermore, if employees are used to making their own decisions, they will be more prepared to make difficult ones as they move up the ladder. They will also have more ownership over a task because they made the decision instead of having it forced upon them.

Putting the right people in the right seats on your bench is crucial to your survival.  A fully trained, empowered and invested team will allow you to be successful in your current business and future growth.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself; do you have the proper procedures and operational guidelines in place to help you be as profitable as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs.

About Noelle Ifshin

Noelle Elyse Ifshin is currently the exclusive real estate agent to a top NY financial services firm assisting in the optimization and realignment of their real estate portfolio - including: rightsizing relocations, dispositions, sub leases and new leases. Noelle brings with her over 25 years experience in the restaurant, hospitality and real estate industries to the consulting

View Complete Profile