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PJW Restaurant Group

3 Steps to Creating a Strong Team

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These tips can help restaurants keep employees motivated and productive.
By Christopher Webb August 2017 Expert Insights

Because there are so many different aspects to restaurant management, it’s extremely challenging to find and train employees and work productively as a team daily in what’s already a very close-knit, established culture. Success also doesn’t ever fall on just a single person. Solid managers need to be masters at communication, inventory, dealing with staff, customer service, and at times, literally, but more often figuratively, putting out fires. Sometimes the owner doubles as the manager, other times in large hospitality groups, such as ours, it is a separate position but critical to the success and expectations our brand has become known for.

A strong manager and the team that person builds are by far the most essential components for a successful restaurant and the issues it will inevitably face on a quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly basis. I found while there is no magical formula to finding those people and each space may require different skills or needs, I always refer to these three items as a baseline for what I know we need, and it’s suited us well. We have never closed a restaurant since the first one we opened and continue to grow.

1. Recognize Individual Strengths

Quite often I have hired a person not based on the level they are at, but the level I think they could aspire to be in a very quick timeframe. Based on a combination of keen observation and an instinct on whether I think that personality will fit within those parameters and do well has actually been a very positive and successful approach. While there are fundamentals managers need to grasp, I look beyond that at potential strengths. Teaching someone how to use a new POS or inventory system is easy. It’s also easy to use words like ‘team player’ in an interview. I like to look for the qualities that aren’t easily definable and go beyond the resume. I fully consider the opinions of peers or look for impressive, first impression distinctions. In any other industry other than hospitality, that might not work, but in an industry that is fickle and thrives on impressions, I think it’s a must.

2. Team Building is a Process

It’s important for employees to like their work in order to stay motivated, they also have to like the people they are working with, and restaurants aren’t exempt from that ideal. The playing field changes every single day, and just like muscles atrophy or unattended plants wither, so can a strong team. It needs to monitored if not daily, weekly. It needs to communicate and be resilient. It needs to be encouraged and inspired. A little enthusiasm, motivation, and happiness go an extraordinarily long way in this business, and in my opinion, it’s the most important item in this list to consider.

3. Adjust as Needed

The hospitality world is extremely demanding and high-pressured. It takes a very special group of people who can do these jobs correctly and manage their time wisely. A successful team needs to have individual skill sets, but at the same time work in harmonious tandem and provide great products and services to customers. Things will not always go as planned and will at times seem daunting; however, if the team treats all of these problems in a calm, pleasant, and effective manner and with decisive action, it should be not only recognized but rewarded. Alternatively, this industry is not a very forgiving one, and there is no room for second guessers or morale busters. If a management team in either the front or back of the house doesn’t have what it takes, isn’t respectful, or cannot lead by example, it needs to be addressed quickly before that negativity it seeps into the entire ‘family,’ so to speak. I feel we are only as strong as our weakest link, and I like to even keep that weak link not so weak. Team building is tough, but can also be fun, and quite frankly, it’s always fair.

Christopher Webb is the director of operations, PA of the P.J.W. Restaurant Group, which owns and operates 19 restaurants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He provides the leadership, guidance, and operational support to restaurant managers while monitoring daily staff performance and ensuring P.J.W. Restaurant Group standards are maintained throughout the family’s group of businesses, including two of The Pour House locations and 10 P.J. Whelihan’s. Webb is also entrusted with the responsibility for all operations development for new openings and sits on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.