A Tale of Two Busboys
APRIL 11, 2014 LEAVE A COMMENT
By Francis Bennett
Pablo is quick; quick to smile…quick to volunteer…quick to be of service…quick to do what needs to be done. He is only a busboy, but you can see that he believes being of service is his opportunity to succeed. Everybody loves Pablo. The wait staff is always eager to work with him and regular customers strain to catch his attention and enjoy the smile he instantly bestows. You can feel his energy in the dining room whenever he is scheduled to work. This humble busboy has become one of our restaurant’s main attractions.
Tony knows his business. He is not just working his way through college as a bus-boy; he is planning to become the restaurant’s manager when he graduates. He loves the business and wants to own his own restaurant one day. He offers suggestions to waitresses, the other bus-boys, and even cooks as to how they might be more efficient and productive. Tony is the most professional bus-boy I have ever employed.
I hired Pablo because I liked him. He was gentle and kind, eager and joyful. It was refreshing to be in his company and I knew I could teach him the restaurant business over time. His attitude has never changed. He is still grateful for the job and eager to help in any way that he can.
I hired Tony because he had experience in two previous restaurants. However, he thinks he is too good to be a bus-boy and he’s probably right. He is impatient to finish college so that he can immediately be made manager and get on with correcting the inadequate management practices presently in place. He is often too distracted to clear a table quickly or polish the silver or be attentive to a customer’s unexpected need. He is going to be a knowledgeable manager, but he isn’t a very good bus boy.
I am planning to promote Pablo to a more important position. Even though, in his current position, he is not required to interact directly with our guests, he is the most popular employee in our restaurant. The title maître d’ seems a bit high-tone for our operation, but that’s the position I envision for Pablo. He will elevate the “greeting and seating” function in our restaurant to a whole new level. He will uplift the spirit of every guest.
I think I’m going to have to let Tony go. He is beginning to offend the waitresses and they are starting to complain. I caught him making dietary suggestions to an elderly couple while they were trying to make their menu choice. They just didn’t think it was the bus-boy’s place to be telling them how to improve their fitness. I am growing weary of him stuffing the “Suggestion Box” with management tips. I own the place and I am not going to replace myself anytime soon.
My experience with these two boys has taught me a profound lesson:
Attitude always trumps knowledge.
Identify: Focus on attitude in your recruiting. Find potential employees who want to work in your restaurant, not only those who need to. Unfortunately, the restaurant business has become only a stop along the career path for most of our employees. Begin to look beyond the temporary attitude of the professional part-timer to the eagerness and gratitude of employees who see themselves as fortunate to work in your restaurant. In other words, find Pablo not Tony.
Train: You will perhaps find that employees with the best attitude often need more training at the outset. They frequently have less experience and professional self-confidence. Become a mentor. Give them the experience and self-confidence they need and they will never forget you for it.
Reward: Be careful to respect the future contributions made by these protégé employees. Too often, familiarity breeds contempt. As they gradually become more technically competent, we begin to overlook the special contribution they are making to our business. Recognition and reward make employees with a great attitude to begin with even more significant to your restaurant’s success over time.