Four Ways to Help Develop Your Bench Strength in Your Restaurant

By Noelle E. Ifshin

All companies, large and small, must develop the next generation of leaders in order to thrive, let alone survive.  Using a sports analogy, the best teams have incredible talent, but they also have depth of talent, so they can readily adapt to change and adversity; this is called "bench strength." The teams with the deepest bench strength often win championships because they can overcome injury, fatigue and unknowns where other teams fold under these types of challenges.  

Successful restaurants build depth in their teams, at all levels, to help them through unexpected challenges such as market shifts, turnover in key positions and/or employees falling ill. It is essential that restaurants have people who can take the reins in any situation to ensure continuity and effectiveness. Additionally, having bench strength keeps you ready and poised for growth and expansion.

Here are 4 ways to help develop your bench strength in your restaurant:

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Find Great Employees – Invest first in people, not ideas.  People are the most important asset to the success of any business, and hiring the right team makes everything else much easier.  Finding great employees can be challenging and takes time.  Make sure to give yourself enough time to find the right people so you don't end up hiring someone just because you need a body.  Hiring the wrong employees is very expensive because it creates disruptive turnover and impacts the morale of the remaining employees.   There are only so many seats on your bench, don't fill it with sub-par players!

Ensure A Cultural Fit – As we touched upon in, How to Hire for Attitude as Well as Skill, "great employees are those who have both the technical skills required for the job as well as personal attributes that gel with your company culture and core values".  You can always train, and even re-train, for skills depending on needs, but it is impossible to train someone to be hard-working, thoughtful, and honest.  Restaurants that are successful have a continual focus on their company culture at all levels and in all areas of the business.  They are quick to recognize when they made a wrong hire and remove poor cultural fits early on.

Share Knowledge – Cross functional training pays off when a key employee, manager or chef is out unexpectedly, and offers flexibility during periods of high volume.  It allows individuals an opportunity to develop and expand their skill sets, showing that you value their career development.  Sharing knowledge openly with your staff also pays off when a position opens up or your restaurant is ready to expand – you then have employees on your bench ready to go into these new roles.  Spending the time to cross-train can also provide employees with fresh perspectives, encourage service improvements and effective problem solving.

Empower Decision Making – Unfortunately, many managers feel that by empowering employees to make decisions, they lose the ability to lead and control their team.  This is a management myth.  When employees are part of the decision making process, they are highly motivated because they feel that they have control over their job roles.  The only way empowerment works is if there is effective two-way communication and trust between management and staff.  The more information employees have, the better they are going to be at making smart decisions for your business.

Furthermore, if employees are used to making their own decisions, they will be more prepared to make difficult ones as they move up the ladder. They will also have more ownership over a task because they made the decision instead of having it forced upon them. 

Putting the right people in the right seats on your bench is crucial to your survival.   A fully trained, empowered and invested team will allow you to be successful in your current business and future growth.

Don't know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper procedures and operational guidelines in place to help you be as profitable as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs.  Email us today for a free business consultation at

About the Author

Noelle E Ifshin :: Restaurant Consultant NYC

Noelle E. Ifshin brings over 20 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry to the restaurant consulting field. She has been instrumental in growing several companies, utilizing many different concepts, and was a successful revenue management leader with a national harbor cruise company, which operates in several markets across the Eastern US.

Prior to founding 4Q Consulting, LLC, Noelle has functioned in an array of roles for various organizations ranging from front and back of house, single unit management, and multi-unit director, as well as company-wide profit management duties. She is equally comfortable over a cross section of volume levels, concept niches, and company cultures. Her diverse experience includes Executive Chef Positions, Food and Beverage management, catering, large event management projects, renovations, and new build outs.

As a result of Noelle's considerable experience in the development, administration and coaching of profit and loss control systems, 4Q Consulting, LLC excels at cash flow management and bottom line profit enhancement. In developing and implementing company management organization and procedures, we are able to guide financially prudent growth and expansion.

Based on her hands-on operational experience, Noelle designs systems that are complementary to a company's existing procedures. They are built around our client's needs, skills and existing working procedures. Guiding our clients to achieve results, in an efficient, timely manner is the trademark of 4Q Consulting LLC.

Noelle E. Ifshin, President, 4Q Consulting, LLC
244 5th Avenue, Suite 1430, NY, NY 10001

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.

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