Foodservice 201: Intermediate Insights

At this stage of foodservice, operators should hire dedicated foodservice employees to ensure program integrity, consistent execution and adherence to all food safety standards. Focused employees are needed to help launch new products, and serve customers appropriately and with hospitality.

HIRING RIGHT

While all the characteristics of a good Foodservice 101 employee apply to this level as well, intermediate operators should seek candidates with foodservice experience. Some experts recommend looking for qualities similar to those expected and appreciated from restaurant servers — quick and courteous service, friendliness, competence and knowledge of the menu. It's important to also search for "foodies" — people who love food and find pleasure in sharing it with others.

To attract foodservice- and hospitality-minded employees, make sure your salaries are competitive with local quick-service restaurants. Use all the resources available to find the right employees — word-of-mouth, employee referrals, specialized website job boards, job fairs, etc. Be sure to post compelling job descriptions that outline competitive benefits and the reasons working for your company is the best choice.

One company characteristic that is compelling to most prospective job candidates is a positive work environment, and this is where word-of-mouth referrals from previous and current employees are so vital. It's much more credible when they tout a company's praises than when a company blows its own horn. Your business reputation among customers is also key. Happy customers, their children and extended family and friends can often become your next best employees.

In your travels, if you encounter people you think would make great foodservice employees, "be prepared, wherever you are, to talk about career potential, job opportunities and flexibility," said Larry Miller of Miller Management & Consulting. "Not all good employees are just waiting to find a full-time job. The great thing about the convenience store business is we have the flexibility to be very creative with schedules. There are a lot of people that are partially retired, people looking for part-time or second jobs, workers that have been displaced for many, many reasons. While some of these may end up going back to their original careers, others may settle in and become valuable workers."

TRAINING APPROPRIATELY

Create effective and fun training and skill-development programs that are centered on the company's foodservice business. "The programs should go from basic initial orientation training to progressively higher ongoing training programs to develop their competencies throughout their career with the company," said Maurice Minno, partner of foodservice consultancy MPM Group, who recommends that companies create and publish their own "foodservice career ladders" that show each position from entry level to progressively higher foodservice positions. "This way every employee can progress in the company."

One of the most important aspects of training is consistent and accurate employee evaluation. It is imperative to measure, evaluate and report the skill level of every foodservice employee, Minno said. "Every c-store company has a financial reporting and management system used to track and manage the financial aspects of their business. Similarly, a company's foodservice employees are its human capital that must be evaluated and rated in terms of capabilities. These ratings should then become the basis for determining the training that is required."

Every employee should be evaluated on a regular basis to determine their capabilities in key categories such as customer service, appearance, operations excellence, financial performance, teamwork and leadership, according to Minno. "In addition to numerically rating each foodservice employee, it is equally important to assess and document that employee's capability," he noted.

Training "should-dos" at this level — assuming the must-dos outlined in Foodservice 101 have been incorporated — include teaching employees about the relationship between sales, spoilage and profits so that they can help grow sales and profits; mentoring new employees to create an atmosphere that allows for questions and repetition; continuous evaluation and feedback; clear customer service expectations; new products training; and re-training on the basics regularly.

MOTIVATING TO WIN

Keeping employees engaged in the foodservice business and vested in the outcomes with tangible rewards is the best way to keep them motivated, experts agree. Create programs that not only enhance employee skills and capabilities, but also have elements of fun, competition and recognition.

A "Sandwich Expert Contest" is one way to make it fun and rewarding for the company and the employee, according to Minno. The objective of the contest is for employees to demonstrate their sandwich-making capabilities in accordance with all company and menu standards. An expert panel judges the contest and selects the winner.

The contest could be conducted in each region of the company and then the regional champions would compete in a companywide contest, with the Best Sandwich Expert winning the prize. Minno encourages publicizing the results and recognizing the contestants and winner(s) with appropriate prizes.

HOT TIPS

  • Hire dedicated foodservice employees to ensure program integrity, consistent execution and food safety standards.
  • Seek candidates with foodservice experience and look for qualities similar to those expected and appreciated from restaurant servers.
  • Offer salaries competitive with quick-service restaurants.
  • Create ongoing training and skill-development programs centered on core menu preparation, new menu items, food safety, etc.
  • Motivate employees by keeping them engaged in the business and vested in the outcomes, offering tangible rewards.

How To Crew Expert View: Skills to Look for in Foodservice Employees

As foodservice operations become increasingly complex, it’s imperative to seek employees with skills more typically associated with the restaurant and hospitality industry than the convenience store business. Maurice Minno, partner of foodservice consultancy MPM Group, offers the following list of skills to look for in foodservice staff and supervisory positions:

  • Prior foodservice experience in positions that require comparable skills.
  • Demonstrated customer service.
  • Action-oriented personality.
  • A positive work experience history.
  • Capable of fully understanding and consistently executing the employer’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) standards and operational processes/procedures.

In addition to the above, important core competency skills required for supervisory foodservice positions include:

  • Prior QSR foodservice operations management experience — a minimum of two to four years.
  • A top producer/performer career track.
  • Proven knowledge of foodservice financial reporting and foodservice controls.
  • Ability to prepare and understand foodservice financial reports.
  • Understands foodservice operational controls and the actions required.
  • Is computer literate and able to embrace company electronic foodservice management system and tools.

Communications, time management and leadership skills are also important for supervisory posts. These include:

Communications

  • Develops positive working relationships and interacts appropriately with all key stakeholders.
  • Clearly communicates issues and solutions.
  • Has a consistent pattern of soliciting input from customers and direct reports, as well as managers.

Time Management

  • Is well organized and delegates work tasks to the team effectively and efficiently.
  • Is a self-starter who can work independently and does not require constant oversight.
  • Understands key business performance drivers and is able to prioritize sufficient time on those activities.

Leadership

  • Has a track record as a proven role model.
  • Possesses an effective record as an employee coach and mentor.
  • Leads by example and demonstrates all the “right” customer-first behavior expected of foodservice employees.
  • Deals with disciplinary actions in a highly professional manner.
  • Delegates tasks appropriately.
  • Takes full ownership of the foodservice business.
  • Focuses on overall performance and holds staff fully accountable for their actions and performance.
  • Is a problem solver capable of identifying and resolving foodservice operations issues quickly, efficiently and effectively.
  • Has a customer-first orientation that is demonstrated through behavior and attitude.

"Offering a little extra in compensation can help get good employees working in food that normally may not feel comfortable or that would go to a QSR first."

— Chad Prast, VPS Convenience Store Group

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