December 21, 2012 |

2012 December: Building Your Team

By Pizza Today

2012 December: Building Your TeamTired of having another week of employees calling off, being late or making complaints like, “I hate it when it’s busy”? Feel like you are in the dark, with no idea where to turn to help improve your pizza operation?

Stop the insanity! While there is no one simple solution to this restaurant dilemma, there are a number of proven strategies to help make running a pizza restaurant more efficient, effective and profitable.

If you’ve ever played darts, chances are you never did so with the lights off. You wouldn’t know if you hit the target, how many points you scored or if you won the game. However, too many pizza operators and franchisees take this approach to building their team: ill-defined or non-existent hiring profiles, interviewing by “gut-feel,” training by the seat of their pants and little-to-no recognition or rewards. And then they wonder why their restaurant struggles!

Stop playing darts in the dark. To move sales, service and profits forward, these effective points of light can help you perform better:

1) Have hiring traits established by position. A delivery driver or server requires an entirely different skill set than someone in prep or a cashier. What traits do your top performers in those areas have? List them, and then interview for those traits. Hire only those people who have the characteristics needed. Examples vary by position but often include integrity, friendliness, attention to detail, sense of urgency, and so on.

2) Know your needs. Do you need full- or part-time? Nights or weekends? Over 18 to use the slicer/mixer? To effectively recruit, these needs must be known, and the way to do that is to create a manpower plan.

3) Know your employee turnover and recruit BEFORE you have a hole to fill (so you can avoid crisis-hiring). If you have 20 employees and your turnover is 150 percent, you hire 30 people per year, or 2.5 per month. Build this into your plan to be proactive.

4) Use behavior-based questions that search for the personality traits you’re seeking. Avoid hypothetical questions such as, “What would you do if ___?” You will get hypothetical answers. Instead ask, “The last time ____ happened, what did you do?” These types of questions will be answered by what they did, not what they know they should have done.

5) Seek a cultural fit. The final point in the recruitment and selection process is where you should ask, “Will he or she fit in here?” If your environment is a bit edgy, for example, you’ll want different employees than if it’s mainstream.

Once you hire the right person, the next set of lights includes training, rewards and recognition—all designed to help retain that employee and ensure he or she performs at peak levels.

Training today’s generation is a far cry from even 10 or 15 years ago. Long gone is ‘linear’ training filled with manuals, videos and memorization. This generation simply wants to know what is needed, when it’s needed, where it’s needed. Think Google versus VHS. Make it easy to find out information when it’s needed (i.e. Google) instead of relying on a large operations manual or lengthy training videos that are hard to navigate through to find specifics.

Training content should be short bursts of information, followed by intense practice of that skill. Build behaviors more quickly by ensuring the trainers have more time to spend on skill practice and coaching versus giving out information.

Have staff members create short video snippets or PowerPoint presentations (basic “e-learning”) to ensure the consistent delivery of information. A new employee watches the video or module and then practices with the trainer to refine quality, accuracy and the speed required in the position.

Additionally, link QR codes to the short video clips to make them available for ongoing training, such as refresher courses or as pre-shift meeting topics. As the GM Truck Ad says, “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Pros practice until they can’t get it wrong!”

The last light is reward and recognition. Think “MBA” (Mutually Beneficial for All). Reward performance that drives your business. Here’s an example: Instead of a raise to get the kitchen staff to lower food cost, create an incentive of 10-20 cents per hour for the kitchen team to get your food cost down to ideal/theoretical levels. No change in food cost? No incentive pay out of your pocket!

Need to drive sales? Put an incentive together for employees who bring you large orders of five pizzas or more. Reward them with 5 percent of the orders they bring in. You save/make more money and also reward those who helped you get there…MBA!

We’ve all tried to run a pizza restaurant by ourselves, and it can’t be done … very well, at least. Those operators who are successful surround themselves with talented people who are matched best for their positions and the brand. Intense focus on hiring standards, rigorous training and an MBA approach to rewards are the lights to help you see the bull’s-eye—and hit it by creating a team of top performers.

TJ Schier is a speaker and consultant with one foot in the restaurant business, as operator of more than a dozen Which Wich sandwich shops. He will give seminars at Pizza Expo 2013 on Training Tactics for Pizza Pros and 10 Tactics to Make Your Frontline Improve Your Bottom Line.

For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit

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