The Importance of Working Every Job in a Restaurant

Maybe you’ve heard this advice before, but it’s worth saying again. A restaurant operator or manager should work every job in this business before taking over a store. This business is different from others in many ways. Unfortunately, one of them is the disparity between the front and back of the house. However, most jobs are easy to get a basic understanding of.

For those reasons, it’s a good idea to spend a little time everywhere in a restaurant—from the hostess stand to the dish pit. Many great operators start out as dishwashers or prep cooks. Others come into this business straight from other industries. In either case, there are many things an operator can miss out on by not having a familiarity with every role in the building.

Know When It Could Be Done Better

Every job in this business can be done adequately or excellently. It turns out that most jobs in most restaurants are done adequately. If your bottom line is just adequate, pointing a few employees in the excellent direction may help you turn your performance around.

Being able to state job improvement goals and setting performance standards is best absorbed when it is succinct—in fact, more than two sentences can obscure the point. If you’ve done the job, you will know how and when to get the point across, and move on.

You will also be more apt to know when the job is being excellently, and have the appreciation that is appropriate.

Be a Better Hiring Manager

If you’ve done the job, you’ll be much more likely to find success hiring people for the same job. On the other hand, if you’ve never stepped foot on a kitchen line, for example, you may not know what qualities should stand out in a candidate.

Having worked a position as an employee can help you develop a sixth sense for what traits a potential employee should have. It also enables to correctly describe the demands of the positions and the challenges new hires face when growing into the role. Experience with the job gives you a secret weapon in the crapshoot of employee hiring and training.

On the other hand, a lack of experience with a position can leave you shooting darts in the dark (to make up a new expression) when it comes to hiring. In most cases, operators hiring for positions they know little about rely on managers, second interviews, resumes and recommendations a little more than they should. They also tend to draw conclusions based more on universal qualities than job-specific strengths.

In other words, knowing the position more often means knowing the right candidate.

Develop Better Training Procedures

Training that is all-encompassing is usually less effective than job-specific requirements and orientation. Trainees can be overwhelmed by the new environment and flood of new co-workers. Trim the fat and make training just about the new hire’s duties. The best way to know them intimately is, of course, to have worked them.

Additionally, effective re-training procedures require knowing a job inside and out. This is so an employer can both compose the right type and amount of re-training. It also helps an employer recognize when re-training is appropriate, and when it can help an employee take his performance to the next level.

Re-training should be standard in high-performing restaurants. Re-training is about streamlining the process—packing helpful tools into the employee’s toolbox within the constraints of the job. The best re-training programs are created by former employees who’ve mastered the position and moved into management. Or, an operator who knows what he’s doing.

Don’t Get Fooled

Employees are smart people too. Many people enter this business because it’s one in which they can do just well enough to get by. These are…

· Servers who are good talkers but not good anticipators.
· Line cooks who are lightning fast on the sauté station, but have trouble prioritizing.
· Hostesses who are organized but lose interest easily.
· Bartenders who don’t control liquor cost.

Many employees start strong, reach the level they want, and peter out. As an operator, you should be able to see problems in advance, rather than finding out too late or relying on someone else to tell you.

If there’s a position in your restaurant you haven’t stepped into before, take a couple of weeks and get to know it a little better. The business will benefit and you’ll know what you’re talking about.