“A Teacher, Preacher and Comedian Walk into a Room …”
Look Beyond Usual Skillset When Considering Job Applicants
The restaurant industry is one of the most competitive in the country, so when there’s an opportunity for an edge, it’s important to grab it. Thus, it’s a good strategy to hire employees with all sorts of skills beyond the basics of what’s required in the kitchen or front of the house.
After college, Terry Kane set his sights on a life of performing improv comedy. Little did he know, however, the intense training he received at Chicago’s Second City would lead him to a more than 25-year career in the restaurant industry.
As director of operations at Grandview Public Market, a new contemporary food hall and lifestyle destination in West Palm Beach, Fla., Kane oversees hiring staff. He’s prone to seeking out people like himself, unconventional candidates with unique experiences outside of the usual scope. That makes for a truly diverse operation, he says.
“A great many people who’ve worked for me are looking for their big break in acting or singing,” he continues. “I’ve also met people who’ve been in the ministry, and they would use philosophical skills to communicate with guests.”
The restaurant industry is one of the most competitive in the country, so when there’s an opportunity for an edge, it’s important to grab it. Thus, it’s a good strategy to hire employees with all sorts of skills beyond the basics of what’s required in the kitchen or front of the house. Kane, who previously worked as general manager at Michelin-starred Naha in Chicago, says it’s important to change up the questions with each interview.
“I underestimate people sometimes, so now when I interview or when I get to know (employees), I look for small things,” he says. “I ask more questions than I probably should so I can learn more about them and their potential, not what they were hired to do.”
Such is the case with Kelly Carol, the special events coordinator at Martin City Brewing Co. in Kansas City, Mo. Matt Moore, who owns the brewery as well as the adjacent Original Pub and Taproom & Pizza Restaurant, says Carol was initially hired as a server to supplement her acting ambitions.
When Carol’s acting career didn’t take off as planned, she stayed with the company and worked her way up to her current position. Moore says, “She’s a dream,” and a natural at running the 3,000-square-foot private events space that was formerly a church. Carol uses her connections in the entertainment industry to find talent for wedding receptions and special events. She’s also organizing a theater troupe to take over the space once a month.
“We don’t rely so much on experience,” says Moore. “We can mold you exactly how we want you. Your character is most important.”
While Terry Kane uses humor to break up monotony during interviews and training seminars, Molly Melman uses interactive educational skills she attained when she worked for Teach for America. The former kindergarten teacher is now managing partner/vice president for training for the Melman/Meers Division of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, which includes Chicago restaurants Bub City, HUB 51 and RPM Italian.
“The hands-on program consists of the teacher teaching something first, then you doing it together and finally trainees are doing it on their own and you’re giving them feedback,” Melman explains. “We’re constantly looking for ways to evolve.”