Last week, the New York Post featured a story about “The stunning collapse of one of New York’s top restaurateurs.” According to the article, John DeLucie was an uber-successful and well-liked chef and partner in five restaurants that had revenues of $40 million in 2014. Some of the notable New York City included: Bill’s Food & Drink, The Waverly Inn, the Lion, the Windsor and King Cole Bar in the St. Regis.
It’s been a bumpy road.
His Crown Group Hospitality took a public hit when a class-suit by waiters who’d been stiffed on $575,000 in tips resulted in negative publicity and cash verdict. The Windsor closed, Crown closed and Bill’s Food & Drink will be closing.
When DeLucie was asked about how his business had suffered this collapse, he said, “I was probably a bit naïve. Behind every great chef is a great business person. It’s super important.”
DeLucie didn’t have a great business partner behind him.
His business partner, Sean Largotta, is suspected of a slew of bad things. According to an investigation ordered by restaurant investors, Largotta had been stealing from the company for years, taking kick backs from vendors and using company funds for non company expenses like a divorce.
No matter how talented a chef, manager or business owner you are, if you’ve got some holes (or bad apples) on your team, you could be headed for big and costly trouble.
Nightmares like this are often preventable.
Restaurant success requires more than a team of multi-skilled people. You must have a team of people you can trust implicitly. You also need an infrastructure with accountability checks and balances in place.
If the business management side is not your strong suit, hire that expertise carefully. This means do your homework and investigate background and credit on everyone who has access to the restaurants cash and accounts. Don’t do any less with a friend or family member. This is business. If it ruffles feathers, think hard about John DeLucie’s story.
Beyond the integrity issues, how you build your team is critical to your future.
Here are three wise tips:
1) Hire people that share your work values and that look like they reflect your brand’s persona in style and attitude.
2) Make sure everyone’s roles and responsibilities are mapped out. When new team members are added, have a process in place for proper on-boarding and training, so expectations are clear.
3) Employ simple systems, cross-checks and communication channels to keep dialogue open and everyone working towards common goals.
If you’re just in the planning stages of opening your restaurant, or you think that you’ve got some areas in which you could use some support, answering these next 3 questions will help with your recruiting and team planning.
Question 1: What is the ideal team to work with me toward achieving success? What’s each person’s role?
Depending on the size of your place, these areas will need to be covered.
- Food and beverage director
- Marketing/social media/PR
- Front of the house
- Back of the house
- IT (for ordering, payment channels and marketing)
- Accounting/tax expertise and funding relations
- Staffing/on-boarding and training
Plus to augment your employees, do explore contract help for specialized expertise or short-term areas of need too.
These roles can include:
- Menu and food consultants
- Creatives for marketing
- Marketing/social media/PR specialists
Question 2: What other support(s) do I have or need?
When beginning any new venture, it is important to take stock of all of your expertise resources. These are other trusted people outside of your core team that you can tap into for added knowledge.
Examples of supports are:
- Friends and family
- Business networks
- Industry organizations
- Online groups found on LinkedIn or other social business channels
- Your vendors
List any people or things that are available to support you.
Question 3: Once you find the best people, how will you keep them committed and loyal?
This can mean employee profit-sharing, making equity available to key team members, or creating creative bonuses for exceptional work for the entire team.
Investing time and money in finding the right team is key.
You might be thinking, I’ve already got a team in place. Or, this sounds like a time-consuming, overwhelming process and I wouldn’t know where to start to find what I need.
You may want to consider professional hospitality team recruiters, too.
While they are not inexpensive, in the long-term their expertise can be game-changer and save you a lot of headaches and cash. These types of firms can be valuable for key management leadership and even business partner positions.
If you’ve got a team in place and are looking to improve service and productivity, start with
Mapping-out roles and responsibilities. Make it clear what each person is responsible for and how you’ll communicate. You might find that you literally have too many cooks in the kitchen and you can redefine the rules so that all aspects of your business are getting addressed. Slight tweaks in who does what can have a big impact.
Either way, we’ve got a template may help get your ideas out of your head and put them down on paper. Sometimes seeing your staffing goals and plan written out is a great way to build and keep an A team.
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