It shouldn’t be much of a revelation that your servers, hostesses, chefs and bussers are your most valuable people. Yes, managers, GMs, owners and investors lead the business from the top, but your service staff allow it to operate on a daily basis. The best racecar driver in the world is useless if he neglects to refill the tank and his car runs out of gas. Leading restaurant staff is of course more complicated than maintaining a car, but they both share the themes of consistent assessment and reflection on how to improve.
Valuing your service staff is far from formulaic, and relies more on creating an overall positive culture that naturally fosters motivation and performance. That said, here are a few best practices that can help you empower your service staff to be the best they can be.
Focus on each person individually.
Everyone’s unique. This is far from new news as well, but surprisingly managers and executives across industries continue to put everyone in similar job functions in the same bucket when it comes to communication and incentivizing. In the end it’s actually much easier to develop relationships with your people and assess what motivates them as individuals, rather than wildly guess at one central policy and hope it resonates with everyone that the policy affects.
Take the time to meet with your service staff one-on-one. What do they do outside of work? What drives them in life and how can you apply that motivator to help them be their best under your wing? If you run a huge operation and can’t possibly have these conversations with everyone, then be sure that your management team does, and that you have these conversations with your management team. There should be a personal connection at every level. Sure, it takes time at the beginning, but this approach sure saves time and helps you achieve the results you’re looking for in the end.
Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.
If your service staff operates under a culture of fear, then there’s minimal desire to take risks and try out approaches that could improve restaurant sales or efficiency, not to mention that your turnover will be quite high. Allowing your executive chef to explore new recipes and kitchen procedures might lead to a new signature item and faster turn times. Giving servers the chance to try out different upsell approaches could improve your average check.
"What’s important is matching their desired means of recognition—this goes back to developing personal relationships"
Not every experiment will go well. New menu items can flop. Different communication tactics can accidentally alienate a group. The way to go about these situations is by direct, positive communication where the genuine goal is to assess what went wrong, how to alleviate the situation and how to improve from here. By focusing on the upside and showing your appreciation for their collaboration, you’re empowering your staff to continue thinking critically for the betterment of your business.
Reward positive performance frequently.
Not everyone likes to be recognized or rewarded in the same way, but everyone likes to be recognized and rewarded. Chefs that consistently turn out killer food and servers that frequently earn rave reviews are not ‘just doing their job,’ they are doing their job very well and deserve to be recognized as such.
To reward a staff member for positive performance, you don’t need to put on a big show every time, or even most of the time. What’s important is matching their desired means of recognition—this goes back to developing personal relationships and knowing whether someone likes being called out in front of a group vs. privately, for example—and doing this often. Convey your appreciation with a simple ‘thank you.’ Perhaps a better shift or a comped meal every once in a while will help, but it’s the direct validation from you that can be done most often and will hit home.
Be sure to keep things in check: you want to make sure you’re communicating with each of your staff frequently, so even if someone isn’t going above and beyond you want to talk to them often to see how things are going and what you can do to help them improve. Convey that you love having them on staff and they’re not doing anything wrong [unless they are], and if the trust is there they will work with you to rise above and beyond.
These cultural practices are much easier said than done, and there are so many more to be discussed. Be on the lookout for future points on this topic.
Anacapa Brewing Company is somewhat of a historical Landmark along Downtown Ventura’s main street. With the large beer vats right on the other side of the bar—and it’s a long bar—there’s nothing like the assurance that your beer is being imported from arm’s reach, fresh as can be. The place has been brewing up a storm for 16 years and counting, and serving up some delectable brewpub fare to go along with.
Anacapa Brewing Company’s beer selection is about as intimate as the restaurant itself, enough to navigate comfortably with little to worry about getting lost. The Oktoberfest German amber lager is suitable for anyone looking for deep flavor without an overwhelming IBU, while the rock-knocker amber has that bitterness some actively seek out. The drink menu also has a healthy bottle selection, as well as house-made root beer.
Food-wise, the Asiago cheese dip is not to be missed, with a spectacular beer bread rich with cheese and onions fused within. Add the ahi rolls to the list, with very generous portions of seared ahi meld with avocado and a cucumber wasabi ranch dipping sauce.
On the entrée end, the pretzel fried chicken is a novelty worth the indulgence, with spikes of salty crunchiness and a mushroom ragout complimenting what was already a finger-lickin’ good recipe, plus beer-infused mashed potatoes alongside. It’s worth noting that Anacapa Brewing Company actually makes three different recipes of fried chicken, fitting in with selections such as the chicken and waffles and the Louisiana fried chicken salad.
The Mission fig burger features a fun spin on the blue cheeseburger, adding fig marmalade and bacon. Additional items include salads, brick-oven pizzas, pastas and other sandwiches. And for dessert, the white chocolate bread pudding is every bit as decadent as it looks.
Anacapa Brewing Company is located at 472 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001. Open 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun – Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Fri/Sat. Avg. out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$45/person. For more information, call (805) 643-2337 or visit Anacapa Brewing Company online.
Locali is a direct response to LA’s growing demand for quick, healthy dining. Meat is available on Locali’s broad menu, but ironically is more the exception than the norm given the restaurant’s dedication toward all things vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and other iterations of hip-and-trendy restrictions. The franchise continues to grow, and offers an experience that appeals to both the health-conscious and the broader market.
Hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches, salads, quinoa bowls, toasts, and an array of drinks and smoothies provide a plethora of options for guests to indulge without feeling quite as sinful.
It’s the all-day breakfast, however, that takes center stage. The badass breakfast sandwich is the killer choice, served in decadent fashion with rich taste and consistency that would surprise just about any meat and cheese lover that it’s vegan. The brekkie burrito is another favorite and another big surprise, served piping hot with an excellent chipotle mayo.
For meat eaters that wouldn’t have it any other way, the Vernon delivers what you’re looking for in a buffalo chicken sandwich, albeit with a melted vegan cheddar that’s just as rich and bubbly as its traditional counterpart. The Reuben is another hot specialty made with zesty turkey. In all cases, the paninis come out with bread crisped to perfection.
If you’re going to smoothie, the warrior is a must. Made green through spirulina and maca, the warrior bears odd resemblance to a mint chocolate chip milkshake. Considering the nutritional benefits, the $11 price tag seems much more justifiable.
Vegan and gluten-free desserts include fresh-baked cookies and whoopee pies. Locali also has serves beer and wine, as well as a plethora of kombuchas and other health-oriented drinks and packaged goods.
Locali has locations in Venice, Hollywood and West Hollywood, as well as Downtown Los Angeles [Localita and the Badasserie]. Open 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. 7 days a week. Average out-the-door price for entrée and smoothie is ~$28/person. For more information visit Locali online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.