The 4 Restaurant Employee Personality Types You Will Hire (and hopefully never fire)
Ask anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant, and they will tell you that "restaurant folk" are definitely their own breed, and the phrase, "personality types" may not immediately come to mind.
Even though I had washed dishes at Pizza Hut as a fifteen year-old, tended bar and managed restaurants through college, and eventually opened three restaurants of my own in my thirties, I really don't think I "got it" until after I sold my businesses just a couple of short years ago. Even with all my experience and having restaurant work "in my blood," I did not understand until recently that as a business owner, comprehending personality types within the food service industry is essential to turning a restaurant into a profit-making machine by building a team who works together to provide the best customer service possible.
As an employer, whether you are opening your restaurant and have numerous employees to hire all at once, or you are going through a normal hiring cycle, knowing how to manage these four main personality types will enable you to maximize efficiency and maintain healthy employee-employer relations, and hopefully keep you from having to terminate anyone's employment altogether.
If you're an employee, learning the personality types and being able to identify your own (yes, you most certainly gravitate intrinsically toward one more than another), will enable you to work well with others, keep yourself employed, and more than likely earn you that promotion.
Translated, you will either be The Boss who everyone wants to work for, or the Godsend Employee who no boss can live without.
1. The Engineer
This person may or may not be an actual engineer, because let's face it, the chance that an actual engineer would work at a restaurant is slim to none, but at the core of the Engineer is a person who is driven by structure. This person wants to research the kitchen sink before he or she feels comfortable making a decision. He is comforted by knowledge and information. Organization is her friend, and label makers are practically a trusted confidant. He shows up to work on-time, if not early, and he is always prepared. She garners peace when her cash drawer balances to the penny, and takes pride in any system that she can create or implement.
Pros: Loyal, dependable, intelligent, problem-solvers
Cons: Don't think on the fly, not adaptable
What to do: Encourage the Engineer whenever you see him using a system. Whenever there is a disruption in the system and adaptation from her is required, take the time to ensure that she is heard. Say, "I appreciate how you show up for work when you are scheduled; your sense of responsibility means a lot to this company. I know it was hard that we were short staffed tonight. How did it feel when you had to take twelve tables instead of four?" Even if she was upset during the shift, taking the time to acknowledge and listen to her after the fact will help the Engineer return to a balanced state of structure
2. The Athlete
Unlike the Engineer, the Athlete of the restaurant could more than likely be an actual athlete. Simply because so many restaurants have high-school or college-age employees, not only will this personality type be at your place of business, he or she could be on an actual athletic team.
Even if she is not playing on an actual team, she is definitely motivated by competition, and could honestly be obsessed with winning. He is a natural leader, and takes the role of team captain with gusto. If there is an "up sell" competition, you can bet that the Athlete will sell the socks off of anyone else on your team. She is a natural salesperson, and has no problem talking to customers. Coaching comes naturally. Along with this gusto though comes a stubborn attitude and the propensity to expect others to be just as obsessed with winning. Stealing tables and not doing any extra side work is a common problem with the Athlete, and because listening is not one of his strong suits, most people who voice any opposition to him feel left out or unheard.
Pros: Natural leaders, self-motivated, driven
Cons: High-stress, stubborn, gets bored if not challenged
What to do: Encourage the Athlete whenever you see her motivating other people on the team. Whenever the team is down, and the Athlete brings them up, make sure that she knows that you noticed her. Whenever there is a breakdown in communication between him and another team member, handle it by saying, "I appreciate how you really motivated everyone tonight at work. Getting everyone on the same page was a key ingredient to our successful shift. But Sally had to do the same amount of closing side work as you did but made less money than you did because you took her table rotation two times in a row. I know that we can be a winning team next time if we all work together and make as much money as we can." Even if the Athlete was riding high during the shift, taking the time to acknowledge him as well as keep him in check with help the team in their overall performance.
3. The Partier
This is the person, who not five minutes into his or her shift, is corralling the troops with post-work social plans. Before work even gets busy, the partier has her party planned, and is eagerly anticipating the close of her shift. He's the one who more than likely will trade shifts with a closing server just so he can get a head start on the night's events. More often than not, she will even pay some other employee to do her closing side work if it means she can get to the bar that much sooner. He will definitely forfeit a dollar over a minute more of socializing, particularly if alcohol is involved.
From a customer standpoint, the partier makes for an amazing waitress. Her outgoing personality makes customers happy. Men love her, and women really can't get that mad at her. The party boy definitely gets requests from regulars to sit in his section, and having a party girl behind a bar can mean big profits for everyone involved.
From an employer standpoint however, he is a slippery slope. You will have to work to keep her loyalty, and practically beg her to work when no customers are dining in your establishment. He gets bored easily and will leave your place of business at the drop of a hat if he thinks he can "make more and work less" somewhere else in town. And if your work isn't fun, forget about it, she'll find some place "better."
Pros: Outgoing, fun-loving, approachable, super friendly; she can fill a bar
Cons: Gets bored easily, not naturally loyal, values play over work
What to do: Encourage the Partier whenever her regulars come in. Make any non-tipped work as much fun as possible by asking him to come up with some ideas around entertaining customers. This works well at a bar, and can increase her stake in the business by giving her some autonomy at the workplace by overseeing the social calendar. When there is a lull in the day and he's not working (when he should be), say, "I noticed last night that a lot of your regulars came in last night. That's awesome, and we value the sales that your customers bring in. But we also have a standard for our employees to do all their opening side work before beginning of shift. How about after you complete your opening duties, you tell me your ideas on what you think our next holiday party or special event should be?" Even if the Partier is miffed at the thought of opening/setting up the bar/working for nothing (no tips), he'll be excited enough at the thought of the next party, and will more than likely feel appreciated by you.
4. The Giver
At first glance, you may think that there is nothing negative about the Giver, but rest assured, he has his pros and cons as well. The Giver is constantly striving to make the world a better place, to love his neighbor, and to just get along. If she could meditate and sing Kumbaya before, during, and after her shift, she would. He is always looking for deeper meaning in his work, and ways to connect his life to the greater good. She is the one to rally behind community events and fundraisers; the Givers are the non-profit gurus in training.
She has a heart of gold...and feet of mud. Yes, he is the slow one. "Everyone just needs to chill out man" is a common saying for the Giver. "Why are you so stressed?" is a common question in her mind. There is no innate sense of urgency. Which can no doubt make for a big challenge in the restaurant business. However slow he may be, he is the nicest of personality types and definitely the most loyal. She will lend you the shirt off her back if she knows it'll make you happy, and her positive attitude can't be beat.
Pros: Loyal, trustworthy, honest, thoughtful, considerate
Cons: Self-paced, hard to motivate without a cause, doesn’t think on the fly
What to do: Encourage the Giver; he loves acknowledgment. Taking any kind of time out to say "Thank you" in any way speaks volumes to the Giver. When she is not performing up to speed, you must acknowledge her first and connect your call to action with a cause she believes in. Say, "Thank you so much for your time here. I know I can always count on you and that means a lot. Your positive attitude is indispensable here, and I value you. One thing to remember though is that we are a restaurant business, and that when we get busy, it's important that you think on your toes. Tonight some of the staff had to take extra tables because your section got too busy for you. Maybe something we can talk about is profit-sharing a fund raising event for the Humane Society or whatever charity that's important to you. You could plan and coordinate with the society beforehand, and instead of waiting on tables that night, you'd be the host during the event. A percentage of the event sales that the restaurant would generate would go back to the society, and you would take a portion as well for taking on the job of organizer." The Giver will no doubt be so excited at the idea of fostering the greater good that she'll probably forget your gentle reprimand that preceded it.
I know that I said there were only four personality types, and for the most part that's true. But, I could not forget about the Godsend, because this person (although still dominant in one of the four areas) is able to adapt his or her behavior to each of the other three personality types, and to accomplish massive amounts of productivity wherever he or she goes. In some circles this personality type is called the chameleon, but nonetheless, I call them my Godsend because that is exactly who they were.
Whether you believe in God or not, I do, and I have to give credit where credit is due. I have no idea where this employee comes from, hence my use of the term: Godsend. She can recognize her own weaknesses and delegate where necessary in order to get a job done. He is able to adapt his message to each person or customer in a way that enables each person to feel heard, which is a huge bonus for any business owner. I had a Godsend or two in my day, and count myself blessed that I still know them.
If you are an employer, the bad news concerning the Godsend is merely that he or she is a rare find when it comes to employees. The better news is that you can develop the skills necessary to foster the growth of anyone on your team to become a Godsend. And if you're an employee, you can develop yourself to become that essential staff member who no one can do without; the person who can survive any round of layoff because he or she is an integral player in maintaining business operations.
Pros: Too many to list.
Cons: For an employer, hard to find one. For an employee, hard to be one
What to do: Employer, do whatever it takes to keep one. Employee, do whatever it takes to be one.