April 6, 2015 |

No Train? Mo’ Pain!

By Dan Collier


Hire right, train right, sleep tight


Let’s eavesdrop on a conversation taking place in a pizzeria in Any Town USA right now….

Harried restaurant manager: “We’re short delivery drivers. Thankfully, this guy Joe just walked in looking for a job. I can put him on the road today!”

Consultant hired to improve the business: “No, you must first conduct an interview, do reference checks, give him an orientation and then put him through a training program
before he delivers his first pizza.”

Manager: “What if I do all that work, spend all that money, take all that time, and he leaves after two weeks?”

Consultant: “The better question is, What if you don’t and he stays?”

If you start by hiring the right person, and then invest training and coaching time in that person, you will discover that the employee component of your business is what gives you the least difficulties. To be successful in the pizza business, you need a properly trained crew providing consistent pizza and excellent service. Many large companies have developed training programs that get phenomenal results, but may be too expensive for the operator with less than five pizzerias. So what’s the solution? Believe it or not, there is a proven framework to any restaurant training program. We can apply that same framework to a single operator pizzeria. That framework is:


If you follow this framework, you will be successful in building a competent, cohesive team for your pizzeria. Here are some pointers you may want to consider within that framework:

• Application. Your application should be designed to give you answers to many of the questions about the applicant before you pick up the telephone. That way, you are only calling candidates that meet your requirements. For example: minimum age requirements (do you hire minors?), time and day availability, and school or other time requirements (both now and future). What job are they applying for, and what is their expectation of pay? Are they currently employed and what is their employment history? For delivery drivers, you will want to know if they have a car, insurance, and a driving record acceptable to your insurance company. You may accept resumes, but also require applicants to complete your application to ensure these questions are answered. Based on this information and the job position, you will only be calling candidates that match up with your needs.

• Interview. This should be a scheduled appointment at your pizzeria for 15-30 minutes. You want to learn as much as possible in the shortest period of time. Begin by welcoming the candidate and explaining the interview process.

“I’d like to learn about your work experience and your goals for this job. I will then answer any questions you may have about the job. Finally, I will get information from you for a reference check.”

Use the 80/20 rule. The candidate speaks 80 percent of the time and you speak 20 percent of the time. Use open questions like “Tell me about”, rather than closed questions that ask for a yes or no answer. Verify the accuracy of the information on the application through this questioning process. Ask for one business reference and one personal reference. When the interview is over, explain the next step.

“I will check your references and make a decision within two days. I will then call you to let you know my decision.” Following the reference check, inform them if you have a position to offer them, or not at this time.

• Orientation. The first day on the job will be the most memorable for a new employee. It will also set the standard by which they will be expected to perform. Use a checklist. It should include completing the required paperwork, providing uniforms, reviewing pay rates, pay dates, and benefits. Review your Code of Conduct and workplace rules. Review their schedule and training plan. Introduce them to the entire team. Finally, introduce them to their trainer.

• Training. The two most important aspects of your training program are the trainer and the visual training aides. If you are doing the training yourself, you’ve got that part covered. However, if you are using the ‘buddy system’, for example pairing the new employee with your best pizza maker or cashier, then that training buddy is extremely important. They will be teaching skills as well as the culture of your business. Select wisely, but also give them good tools. You need pictures of your food. Take pictures to document every food process in your restaurant from raw ingredients to the customer’s table. You may accompany these pictures with text, but the picture is the critical item. Laminate these pictures to form your training manual. The trainer removes these pictures from the training manual and uses them at the work station during training.

• Coaching. Training needs follow-up. That follow-up is coaching. The employee has been trained, but is not expected to be perfect (yet). You or your manager must observe the results produced by the employee. This is the opportunity to reinforce good results and correct bad ones. It is also the
opportunity to coach the trainer as to the results they achieved. This is why every team in the world needs a coach. Use the ‘sandwich’ method of coaching. Identify something the employee is doing well. Point out the area you would like to see improved. Then reinforce what they are doing well.

Apply this framework for every new hire. Your employees will stay longer and perform better. You will receive compliments about your employees, and when someone asks what you love most about the pizza business, you’ll say “My Team!” And guess what? You won’t have to hire that consultant. n

Dan Collier aka “The Big Cheese” owns four PizzaMan Dan restaurants in Southern California. Dan is a daily operator with over 30 years in the pizza business, an instructor for the School of Pizzeria Management and a speaker for the International Pizza Expo.