The processes that need to be carried out during a restaurant executive search are not easy. Many high performers are already in a good spot and not looking for a change. Others may have the credentials on paper, but their job-hopping is a red flag that suggests something may be amiss.
Despite the challenges, restaurant executive “unicorns” are out there. Here are the top five traits you should look for when sifting through potential candidates:
Restaurant Industry Experience
It may be true that high-level executives can change industries. The fundamentals of leadership and business acumen are universal. However, it’s often a mistake to hire a restaurant executive from outside of the hospitality sphere.
First, there’s no substitute for restaurant experience when the going gets tough. An executive who understands the nuances of daily restaurant activities will always have an advantage over general business executives. Second, restaurant executives who have personally “gotten their hands dirty” are more likely to earn the respect of their teams and peers.
Job-hopping is a red flag when considering candidates at all levels. Some restaurant executives build an impressive resume, which affords many opportunities. A slew of short-term positions may indicate a pattern of underperforming.
Recommendations and references are critical in hiring regardless of position. While it can be a bit more difficult to get honest feedback on restaurant executive candidates due to their seniority, the information is invaluable. One can’t assume somebody with seniority and status is necessarily a team player.
Depending on company size, a hiring manager may secure a reference check from the CEO or other C-suite members. Otherwise, peers who work at the same organizational level are good options. Sometimes these latter folks are actually the most honest and can best vouch for a prospect’s essential virtues like courtesy, work ethic, and flexibility.
Openness to Innovation
Restaurant executives should have many qualities, but one of the most critical is the ability to think creatively and to innovate. Sometimes industry leaders are very adept at fundamental business practices but slow to change. These folks may think they’ve got it all figured out and aren’t looking to “fix what isn’t broken.”
The problem with this stagnant approach is that our society and consumer habits are changing rapidly. Technical innovations such as online ordering and mobile phone app payments are becoming more commonplace. Restaurant executives who don’t implement systems to accommodate run the risk of alienating customers.
Friendliness is an important trait for all professionals regardless of position or status, but interpersonal skills are particularly critical for restaurant executives. Team members take their direction from management. Leaders who don’t treat employees with respect create hostile environments that ultimately hurt the customer experience.
No job candidate is ever perfect, and even experienced restaurant executives have flaws. While some imperfections can be overlooked, others must be carefully considered. Companies that focus on vetting for the most important traits will benefit from their due diligence.
If you’re looking for help during your next restaurant executive search, you should also consult with America’s premier hospitality recruiting agency!