The Best Tool For Finding Great Employees

Mirrors- The Best Tools for Finding Great Employees.jpg

QUESTION FROM: MM pizza family

"So my family owns a pizza restaurant we opened in November and it has been crazy ever since! We went from 3 partners to just us! It’s a revolving door. For owners that have been in the business for years how do you keep good help or even find good help? My mom is to the point where she wants to close the doors now before they drop even more money but my brother (21) loves it. I myself only work when I can as I am a full time assistant manager of a hair salon so I can’t be there all the time! Just need some advice before my parents loose all this money! Thank you!!!

[So my brother does it all: pizza maker, prep and cook.

My mother runs the front, does the dishes, pay roll, cooks and cleans as well my best friend works there part time. She is an experienced waitress and does prep work when needed. She also makes the grinders when needed.

My brother’s friend also works there part time as an experienced cook learning pizza and does delivery.

We get very busy. Open 11/8 Tues, Wed & Sundays and till 9 on Thursday & Friday.

Mom has Just recently started taking Sundays off. She wasn’t supposed to work at all. This was my brothers thing but stepped it up when things went left as my brother is only 21 and my parents have owned businesses before... just a mechanic shop so it’s completely different. We closed the garage shop after having a buisness partner steel money from us.

Dad went back to work at a dealership running the garage till the dealership closed down and now works from home with his own llc.

We need a good pizza maker that is good under pressure. We had one employee that was a good pizza maker with a bad additude threaten to punch my brother (the owner) in the face after my brother asked him to prep the dough so my brother can practice making pizza (he didn’t last).

We have a lot of people in recovery applying so we ended up hiring them. My parents believe in second chances but when they relapse they end up leaving or people wanting to come and go as they please.

One girl - we had to let go when my mom wasn’t there. She wouldn’t listen to my brother and sat on Netflix all day. We do a lot of take out and I’m not sure how many deliveries. I’m only there when they are in a bind!

Also the guy we desolved the partnership with never paid the bills and spent all the money so my parents electric and gas for the restaurant got turned off one day. That’s when they realized what was actually going on.

We own our own equipment but lease the building (We've spent about $70k on everything so far and it's all cash so it's not like we have to worry about losing our house or anything). My other cousin was one of the owners but he passed away 2 weeks ago. Now his kids own it and they were thinking about possibly buying the building since the liquor store and convince store next to us do very well and has been established for 30 years.]"


Although you seem to think your issue is not knowing how to hire the right people, I really believe you need to shore up the foundation before trying to bring more people on top of it.

Anyone with experience is not going to have the patience to work in such a disorganized environment... and RARELY does anyone want to work for an owner/leader who has less experience than they do. Would you? —-That’s likely one of the biggest reasons you have a revolving door there.

Almost every job I’ve ever had in the restaurant business or more to the point...almost every job I tried to get in the restaurant business, began with me walking into a place that I wanted to work and asking if they were hiring.

Which means, the best way to find new employees (or more employees) is to be the kind of place that people are dying to work in.

The mirror is the best tool for recruiting and developing talent.
— Josh Sapienza |

The bottom line is this: Professional, hard-working, respectful and experienced food service providers attract professional, hard-working, respectful and experienced food service employees.

To be completely honest with you, I really wanted to stop reading after “mechanic shop”.

There is the a common misconception among inexperienced restaurant owners: They believe that if they were capable of having a successful business previously, then they will be able to replicate that success in the restaurant industry.

But a restaurant is not “just another business”. In fact, it’s a living, breathing, ever – changing organism that requires years of practical application experience, nimbleness, flexibility, high attention to detail and the deep understanding of a multitude of moving parts.

You wouldn’t go and open a surgery center because you previously ran a gas station. Books, seminars, guides and/or passion are no substitutes for practical application experience in a business that only looks easy.

Pizza is hard. Believe me.

You have a “business” That is totally unorganized (from the hours of operation to detailed job descriptions/positions), understaffed and owned by someone with NO experience.

Honestly, you’d be better off incorporating as a 501(c)(3)-Giving the pizza away to the hungry and claiming a tax deduction.

This is not a business. And it’s a bad idea for a hobby... even IF your 21yr old brother loves it.

If you end up owning the building - lease it to someone who knows what they’re doing.

If you keep renting the building - the Lease and Equipment are the only assets you have so my advice would be to leverage them.

If you’re permitted to sublet, I would advertise a pizza business for sale TODAY...along with “NO CASH. NO PROBLEM. WILL FINANCE DREAM FOR RIGHT PERSON WITH SUFFICIENT MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE.”

If you lease and don’t have the opportunity to sublet, I would simply make the person a majority partner: You provide the equipment, pay the rent and utils- they provide the business plan (evaluated by another experienced professional), staff and pay for payroll/product/etc.. After the greater of 10% of Gross Sales or rent and utilities total cost is paid - you split the profits.

I’d bet both of my legs, that if your family wants to be in the restaurant business that badly and has enough money to finance one; you can find someone within one month who is qualified to take that money and provide a return for themselves AND your family...and still have a few slices leftover. If not- I will personally help you find someone.

If, however, you decide to muscle through this yourself and roll the dice, I'll share with you the same advice I offer to anyone looking to find good help: 

It’s so much easier for good employees to find you than for you to find good employees.
— Josh Sapienza |


How organized is your restaurant?

Do you have an orientation program?

Do you have employee handbooks for every position? 

Do you have a two week well defined training program for all new employees that includes product knowledge testing?

Do you have processes in place regarding appropriate: behavior, language, phone etiquette, dress/uniform adherance, attendance policy, call-out policy, incident report forms, employee counseling, prep charts, order guides, request off procedure, crash kits for when computers go down, steps on how to handle guest complaints, specific cash handling procedures, pour tests for bartenders if applicable, inventory sheets, tips policy, frequent tastings and line check forms, pre-shift outlines, side work detail, equip cleaning instructions posted, outline of your business’ core values/mission statement/purpose?

It’s not easy...and it requires more than one or two full-time people to accomplish if your doors are already open.

But if you want professional and organized you will never attract a staff a professional and organized individuals.


How much attention do you pay to the lighting? Do you have various settings for various times of the day?

What about furniture and fixtures? Are they attractive, modern and comfortable or do you have pictures on the wall would be more appropriate in a Holiday Inn hotel room in Sioux Falls South Dakota?

What kind of music do you play? What are the volume settings at different points of the day/day parts?

Is your restaurant and staff within it: modern, stylish, polished and fun?

Another words… is it a place the type of people you want working there would want to just come in and hang out?

It’s so much easier for employees to find you than for you to find employees.

Really ask yourself  whether or not you and your business are serving as a role model / template for the kinds of employees you want.

“How cool is my restaurant?”

“How attractive is the atmosphere?”

“What is the caliber of service-the level of confidence-the amount of personal pride and attention to detail that I and my staff exude?”

Because, like positivity, that’s exactly what you’re going to attract.

If you’re not attracting that, start looking in the mirror and ask yourself how you can be more professional - more attentive to the details - more respectful of my business, my product and my staff?


Is your restaurant synonymous with exclusivity, hospitality, success and/or just plain fun?

Let’s face it, I don’t know any popular restaurants (where people want to hang out) that serves horrible food or provides bad service and/or doesn’t have a generally attractive vibe.

I’m not saying that if you want to attract college students that you should make your restaurant look like a dorm room or fraternity house… But this is hospitality - so your service atmosphere will be as welcoming to prospective employees as it is for your guests...and while it’s difficult to keep people away from a phenomenal product, It’s even harder to keep them away from a phenomenal place.

That’s why culture is so vitally important. If you have a positive culture built on mutual respect and service to others (after having a solid game plan and execution strategy) you will naturally attract potential employees who want to be a part of that.

People seek out the kind of environment that they most readily identify with.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs dictates that there are several levels of personal needs. From physiological needs like air, water and food to needs that are more psychologically based and provide a sense of fulfillment. The need to be heard, recognized, appreciated/valued, safe… etc...

The ultimate job for a hospitality professional (whether pizza or fois gras) is to create an environment that meets all those needs. 

If you do, people will not just feel safe in your establishment - they will begin to readily identify with it and feel as though they belong there. That’s what people mean when they say “That’s my place!”.

If you can do that, in a demographic where enough of those people exist- you won’t have to hang a “HELP WANTED” sign in the window.

When you do tighten things down and are “dialed in”… and the applications start flowing, you'll want to make sure the people you've attracted are properly vetted (check out this previous post regarding how to handle the interview process to limit employee turnover ) and trained (check out this post: Restaurant Training 101).

Good Luck!

Josh Sapienza