better people bring bigger profits

When you first think about hiring employees for foodservice, do you assume that applicants with previous experience serving food would be preferable to those who've never made a sandwich?

If so, you're looking for the wrong thing, says two important players in the convenience store foodservice arena. High energy, a love of multi-tasking and good customer service skills are far better predictors of foodservice job success.

With the exception of some deli managers, most new food service employees at Rutter's Farm Stores (York, Pa./50 stores) have no prior food service experience, according to Rutter's President Scott Hartman. "Other than stockers and cleaners, most of the attributes we look for are the same whether the employee works in foodservice or at the front-end," Hartman says.

Foodservice profits demand volume sales and people with a production mentality, Hartman adds. "Food servers should be friendly, but output-and speed-oriented."

Rutter's has successfully been serving food since the company opened its first c-store 36 years ago. Discipline in the operations is absolutely critical, Hartman says. "Too many folks think it is a highmargin business and should be easy. Learn from the fact that restaurants are the No. 1 family business that goes out of business."

Earl Springer, HR Director for Sheetz Inc. (Altoona, Pa./325 stores) says his company has found that its best food servers are high-energy people who like to multi-task. "A few people prefer to be always in foodservice, but the majority prefer that no two days are alike," Springer says. "We look for people who want to learn and do every job."

Springer says his company washes out unsuitable candidates early on by telling them up front that they can't have visible tattoos or a beard, and must wear a hat and be willing to work on holidays.

Sheetz hires for attitude and trains for skills. The company uses a computerbased "day in the life" realistic job preview and assessments to find out who those folks are. When applicants arrive, they look at the job preview, which shows the good and bad points and what to expect from any job in the store.

Applicants who like what they see take an assessment designed to determine their fit for the job. Store managers interview applicants who pass the assessment to see if they will be a good fit with the store team. Applicants who make it through the interview phase receive a job offer contingent upon satisfactory criminal background, drug and previous employment checks.

"The harder you make the job to get, the longer the employee stays," Springer says. "When people go through this process, they realize we're serious about wanting the right match for them as well as for us."

Springer credits the company's good retention record to careful hiring and an excellent benefits package that includes medical insurance, a 401k for which the company matches the first 4% invested, profit sharing, vacation, personal leave days and a strong employee assistance program.

Successful foodservice comes from following good hiring rules

Rutter's Farm and Sheetz illustrate the No. 1 rule for hiring success: Hire great people and make it easy for them to do a great job.

Additional points to remember:

  • Companies have personalities, managers have personalities, jobs have personalities and applicants have personalities. The better these personalities blend with each other, the greater the satisfaction of everyone concerned.
  • The predictability of customer demand for some food services may give you a hiring edge and more flexibility in staffing. Hiring a brewista (coffee hostess) to manage your coffee program from 6 to 10 a.m. frees up your other employees and helps raise the level of your program and perception in the market place.
  • Replicate your great food service hires by identifying the people in your organization who enjoy the job and look for people who share those same qualities the next time you need to hire.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting and retaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of four books, including the best selling "Hire Tough Manage Easy." You can reach Mel at (800) 218-0930,, or


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