It’s a humbling endeavor to hire people. It’s on par with being a good coach, or teacher, to aspire to be a good boss. After working jobs you might not have liked growing up, with people you didn’t choose and a boss who did things you didn’t like, now you can do all of it the right way. We can hire who we want, and we can be the boss that we always wanted to have. That is not only a gift; it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously, and it’s a responsibility that I think is super cool and fun.
When it comes to young talent, you are only as good as the motivation and principles you bring to the table. All of your staff are INTO something. All of them care about something. And there is a way to make whatever their passion is, work for you and your business. Utilizing and appreciating your staff’s passions can bring more profit to your restaurant and achieve a lower attrition rate. When you burn staff out quickly and they quit, it’s not only demoralizing, it’s also costly.
Any of your employee’s hobbies, skills or passions can be utilized to energize their loyalty and love of their job. It will also make life for you, their boss, on a more stable footing. Not only more stable with your staff but also with your customer base. It’s done by nurturing that which your staff is passionate about and developing that talent. The easiest one to nurture is baking and a love of pizza. If they love pizza as much as you hopefully love pizza, yes, this is an easy start. A pre-disposition to baking is a good situation that you can monetize. You can push their dough throwing skills, new recipe inventions and anything else they do pizza-related on social media.
Let’s go beyond that; let’s think beyond just pizza and your brand. Let’s say you have a bunch of kids who love Pokémon or Dungeons & Dragons, or some highly nerdy but super niche and specific offshoot. Encourage them to hold Dungeons & Dragons competition night at your restaurant and invite all their friends. One of two things will happen. Either a few people show up, and if nothing else, your staff know you care about them and de facto increase loyalty. Or, potentially, it could blow up, and you have a whole subset of people coming into your restaurant each week that would not have otherwise. Regardless, there is no scenario where this doesn’t garner some positivity.
If you have staff into graphic design, whether doing it in high school or college, have them do some odd jobs and see how it plays out. I’m not suggesting having your whole brand rely on them day one, but have fun with it and throw them a job or two. Maybe some menu updates, a few flyers, or some social media images with text overlay. Start small and see how they do. Also, make sure to pay them for it like a regular vendor, invoice, and all, so they learn the business side of things and feel like a professional. If they are developing their passion under your roof, your pizza place just became a big part of their career development. If they can take work for you and add it to their portfolio, it will increase their loyalty to your restaurant. This employee might also turn into an affordable graphic design option that you prefer not only because they’re cheaper but also because they get your brand better from working there.
Be ahead of the times because the big boys are starting this practice as well. Dunkin’ Donuts just started paying ambassador employees who post TikToks. Imagine that; paying for staff on the clock to create and post goofy videos. Instead of getting mad, this publicly-traded company is monetizing its staff’s youthful energy. Instead of only paying a corporate commercial design firm, they’re letting their staff have fun, do their thing, record TikToks, videos they probably wanted to do anyway. And because they’re potentially getting paid for it, the staff will make sure they mind their Ps and Qs. Dunkin is now spreading their social message in a very organic, natural and morale-building way.
It’s motivation, and motivation is the gasoline in the engine of any restaurant. It increases pride. The pride you want staff to have a feeling of, “We do something cool and interesting here. We’re not just microwaving bland garbage, but instead doing something that I’m into and stoked about. I’m proud of this job because not only am I a better worker as a result of this restaurant; I’m also a more well-rounded individual in the thing I’m most passionate about that I want to develop.” That’s the north star you want them to feel, so let your business be a catalyst and portal to that end.
These are the ways you keep staff with you longer. Keep them happier and utilize their talents beyond just being bland automatons that do task X or execution Y at your will.
To tap into this, you have to communicate. As much as you can do it working the line with them, I find it best to do it in a very formalized sit-down fashion, so staff knows you take it seriously. Set up quarterly evals, sit them down, talk about what they did well, what they could do better, give an appraisal of their performance, and then ask them what they want to do in life. It’s on you to let a natural rapport-building conversation occur. You’ll be baffled by how many cool and exciting things your staff are into and how many ways to cross-promote that natural enthusiasm you have in front of you. That assumes you have the wherewithal and ingenuity to use your restaurant as a vehicle for this enthusiasm. This practice is not using staff or taking advantage of cheap talent. This is seeking happiness for the people that are your responsibility. Happiness comes from self-worth, and throwing dough and serving tables alone won’t be enough for all employees. That’s where you come in, and there’s never been anything more fulfilling and productive than the opportunity each staff member provides you each day.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma.