Your next star employee learned it all in the front of the house

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The real training for many of our brightest stars may have started in the hospitality sector. The fast-paced, often stressful restaurant environment is the ultimate professional training ground and “networking” seminar, minus the nametags and awkward happy hours. It’s true.
City of Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and GAR Foundation President Christine Amer Mayer both got their starts in the restaurant business. And it’s no small wonder. According to the National Restaurant Association, half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives.
The restaurant experience offers skill development in numerous areas that are fundamental to business, including learning industry jargon — Perhaps you’ve heard the calls of the restaurant wild through phrases like, “in the weeds,” or, “86 the salmon?” Just as important as the ability to learn industry speak is the development of other vital skills. For example:
Teamwork advantage: To succeed, restaurants need employees to work together. When working that closely as a team — with the singular goal of providing guests with the best possible experience — there are bound to be moments of tension, especially during the proverbial “rush.” Restaurant employees learn to avoid conflict through compromise and respectful, often careful, communication.
Multitasking for masters: Restaurant work is highly stressful and requires employees to be “on” for hours at a stretch during busy periods, coordinate service to multiple tables, accurately take food and drink orders, and so much more. It’s all about multitasking with grace and efficiency under pressure.
Whether taking an order, folding a napkin or negotiating with an angry chef about an overcooked steak, they must smile and stay positive. Keeping it all together in these environments helps develop employees with fortitude who can excel at customer relations in any number of professional fields.
Customer “super” service: Any business that serves customers is in the “people” business. And restaurant work is the highest ground in this space. Early on employees learn the golden hospitality rule: “The customer is always right.” Understanding, empathy and listening skills prevail among the strongest employee attributes.
Problem solving takes patience, time and good instincts — it’s all in the care and handling, which helps ensure happy customers. Going the extra mile to accommodate special requests with a smile also helps to guarantee satisfaction, and of course, return visits.
Of all the skills to be developed in this industry, though, I think my favorite is learning to work efficiently. In my family’s restaurant, I was taught never to walk anywhere empty handed and to clean up as I went along.
This fast-moving, highly charged environment does not suit a one-thing-at-a-time attitude. It was in that setting that I and so many others learned to do it all at once, and more importantly, how to do it well along the way. Now that’s the employee I want on my team — any day, all day!
Tommy Bruno is general manager and executive director at 91.3-FM, The Summit Akron/Canton