To answer some of our burning questions about Staff Recruitment and Retention ahead of HRC, we sat down with Isobel Cripps, Restaurant & Hospitality Staff Development Coach to find out about the ideal qualities employers look for and staff development.

Q: How did you get into Restaurant Team Coaching?

I was managing my first restaurant back in the late 90’s and realised it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I learnt very quickly that to bring out the best in people, you had to empower them to do the job well, not criticise them for doing things badly; so I read The Tao of Coaching by Max Landsberg and coaching became part of my general approach to management. 

I spent a decade working with a large Italian group, where the one thing that was completely missing was staff development and autonomy. It was a dictatorship; subsequently everyone was undermined, miserable and stressed! When I moved on, I recognised more than ever the need for happy and engaged staff, so coaching as a career was a natural progression.

Q: What are the ideal qualities you look for in restaurant front of house staff?

Well everyone’s coachable (well, almost!) but some are more coachable than others, so here’s my top 5: -

  • Attitude – a poor attitude and an unwillingness to learn or take instruction rarely results in a good team member in my experience. You can coach anyone with a positive and willing attitude
  • Awareness – general awareness, curiosity and interest in your customers is essential, not just from an efficient service point of view, but from your customer’s point of view – they want to feel you have your eye on things. I have also seen how a lack of self-awareness can cause friction in teams.
  • Appearance – if someone takes pride in their own appearance, they’re more likely to notice and care about the appearance of your restaurant and the food they’re serving.
  • Empathy – you really need your staff to understand and engage with how the customer is feeling. This really helps when dealing with complaints.
  • Commitment – hospitality is not for the flakies! You need to be totally committed from start to finish of every shift. The floor is your stage and you can’t afford to deliver a half-hearted, inconsistent effort – you never know who you might be serving!

Q: Why should restaurant owners be taking staff development through coaching and mentoring so seriously?

For a business to maximise on its success, I believe it should be an integral part of their business plan.  When you invest in your staff, you invest in their confidence and overall happiness and that shines through in their work. Let’s not underestimate the importance of a happy team; if they’re happy, it rubs off on your customers!

All the evidence and stats support the fact that investing in your people demonstrates a belief in them, which results in highly committed and productive employees. It’s not rocket science, it’s just a very human approach.

Q: Why do you think so many restaurant owners do not have a staff development coaching policy in place?

I think perhaps firstly it’s the cost. They don’t budget for it or see it as a necessity, and yet it’s the key to the on-going success of their business. It’s often left to the manager to ‘train’ people, but that’s generally about teaching them the systems, whereas coaching is about empowering people to make decisions and take responsibility. The likelihood is your manager may never have been coached before and regards it as ‘too time consuming’ or is ‘too busy to cover that kind of thing’.

I also think there’s a fear factor. Employers are often frightened that if you develop someone’s skills they’ll either leave or ask for more money. That’s rarely the case. It actually, more often than not, encourages staff loyalty and progression within the business.

Q: How frequently would you advise employers to coach/mentor their teams?

In terms of using a Consultant Coach like me, most of my clients appoint me on a monthly basis, running 1-2 hour sessions with their teams. Individual sessions with management are also very beneficial for instilling in them the coaching culture, to develop their own teams in the long run.  If you make coaching & mentoring an integral part of your team culture, every member of that team will have the opportunity to grow and shine, and your business will do the same.

You see very quick results in people that are willing to be coached, it’s an incredibly rewarding job.


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