Stellar Customer Service Starts with the Hiring Process

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the collaborators are his.

Behind the review host and small business expert from Yelp, Emily Washcovick, she shares a look at this week’s podcast episode.


A stretch of the Mediterranean rooted in the Arizona desert, CALA is a culinary oasis that offers modern cocktails and cuisine in a bright space with a thoughtful style. The restaurant takes its name and culinary inspiration from Cala Road in Mallorca, Spain. The island is known for its white beaches, Spanish architecture and fresh produce wineries and farms: the restaurant mimics these highlights in its interior design and culinary values. CALA is located inside the Senna House, a luxury, modern Hilton Desert hotel in the old town of Scottsdale, and its hidden gem location only heightens the restaurant’s intrigue and energy.

Internationally renowned chef Beau MacMillian directs the CALA menu according to the seasonality of the ingredients. Guests are greeted with new versions of a variety of popular fresh dishes, such as flaming saganaki, pasta alla vodka and Milanese pork.

Rob Meir, CEO and partner of CALA, helped open the restaurant in January 2022 amid a challenging business climate with obstacles such as nationwide supply chain problems, inflation and staff shortages. Even with these challenges, CALA was joined by more than 6,000 new restaurants open nationwide in the same month and about 400 new businesses in the food and restaurant category in Arizona specifically during the first three months of 2022. .

Although hiring has been more difficult recently, Rob values ​​the choice of the right people to add to his team and has maintained formal hiring practices. To identify who these people are, it aims to be transparent about the reality of the industry in their conversations with candidates.

“It simply came to our notice then. I am very sincere and very honest [with future employees]Said Rob. “You have to be resilient. You have to worry about people. You have to worry about service. I don’t mess it up. Sometimes it hits you, and it’s amazing, too. It’s uplifting, too.”

Reviewer David H. visited the restaurant just two months after opening day and gave CALA five stars for the service, the atmosphere and of course the high quality food and drinks. He even mentioned his maid, Jacqueline, by name in his review after being impressed by his attitude and overall professionalism. “Our waitress Jacqueline was great. She was super friendly, she was happy to be there, she was very attentive and she was busy going around all her tables,” David wrote in his review.

And those were the same qualities that Rob emphasized when he applied for the job. “When I interviewed [Jacqueline], she was warm, she was kind. It had served me a little, but I didn’t have the maximum experience, ”Rob said.“ While many restaurants can hire a server who has been serving for 10 years, I’m looking for more attitude. I’m looking for more energy. Someone who is excited and happy to be here. “

Ask the right questions

You can train employees to do any kind of job, but this training alone does not guarantee positive contributions to the workplace culture that a manager is trying to create: Rob is looking for an alignment of values ​​as he goes through the hiring process.

“I think the culture really starts with a strong management team because it’s who oversees. We all need to share the courage to care about people and your service and be really good at what you do, “said Rob.” I like to ask questions like, ‘Have you been on a team?’ or ‘Were you part of a community or something that really required you to connect with people or be trained?’ ”

Being able to receive feedback and grow from them is a key skill for success, especially in the service industry. Because every day is a little different from the previous one, Rob is looking for adaptable staff members who see his training as a vehicle for growth, not criticism.

Communicate to set expectations

Communication is one of CALA’s core values, and this applies to both customer and employee conversations. The CALA management team encourages its staff to be transparent at work and to facilitate an open dialogue with customers to ensure that they have set reasonable expectations from the beginning of their restaurant experience.

“I think the customer appreciates it, no one likes to be hooked,” Rob said. “No one likes to be told, ‘Hey, we’ll be seated in a couple of minutes,’ when he really isn’t.” [going to] be a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, in this industry, [accidents] it happens all the time “.

An example of such transparency opportunities happened recently when one of the waiters in the restaurant had a car accident and was unable to get to work. As a result, the bar was neglected from noon to 3 p.m., a nuisance for which, according to Rob, they received negative reviews.

“I’m trying not to look for excuses. We’re just trying to be honest with people,” Rob said. “There are times when the reserves are ready and everything is fine, it’s the perfect change, and sometimes there’s a bit of a curve that we have to adjust to. That’s just the catering industry. “

Let the comments be the guide

Just as Rob values ​​coaching ability in his employees, he sees reviews as guidelines for what exactly needs training. But not everything is negative: the leadership team recognizes when its staff is trying to do the right thing and praises the employees who stand out. Doing so helps to create a positive momentum and has dominating effects, contributing to a great work environment long after the positive action.

“The positive [reviews] I focus a lot on it. I think a lot of restaurant owners take it and say, “Okay, great,” and keep going, “I try not to,” Rob said. “I’ll take it to Jacqueline. I take it to the staff and say, ‘Hey, look! Someone is saying something fantastic about you! ‘ because it makes them feel good. Then they strive to do better. It’s just a positive reinforcement. “

Whether the review is positive or not, reading them with the mindset that they are a growth opportunity changes the experience for the better. Taking the intersection of communication and reviews one step further, reviewer David stressed how important it is for companies to respond to all reviews.

“I am a great advocate [of businesses] involve in any way, positive or negative, but you have to respond in a timely manner and be consistent, “said David.” If there are reviews online, I’m looking at them, and [if] there is no answer, only lack of interest. At any time I have received [a response] back, thank you for actually reading it. They will take that into account and we hope they make the adjustment. “

David also mentioned that he has gone back and improved on his previous review, either by giving more stars to the business or some positive feedback, after getting a response from the business owners.

Listen to the next episode to hear David and Rob live, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more information on new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Soundcloud

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