Hire Right or Hire Twice!

“Although restaurant job growth shows no signs of slowing – 2015 will mark the fourth straight year with employment gains of at least 3.5 percent – there are indications that job vacancies are becoming more difficult to fill,” says the National Restaurant Association. Not just in New York, but the US as a whole, foodservice enterprises are struggling to attract and keep their team members. From the National Restaurant Association to the Washington Post, everyone is talking about the labor shortage. Thus, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you’re using the right strategies to attract the right talent. In this month’s Enterprise Insight, we will review three strategies that need to be in your toolbox and put to good use:

Define the Job

The purpose of detailing the job description is two fold: it helps target candidates and ensures a good fit. By really defining what the job is and communicating that, you can get attention from the right applicants. Obviously, you don’t want to hire just any “baker” if you specifically need someone for an artisanal, sourdough-driven bread program. Likewise, if the General Manager position for a café is really to be the assistant to the owner, but the job description doesn’t read as such, the candidate you interview won’t take the position.

Before posting any ads or interviewing any candidates, the best use of your time is to clearly and very specifically define the responsibilities and abilities required for the position. The more descriptive you can get here, the better for both you and the candidate.

Post Strategically

Once you’ve clearly defined the responsibilities and abilities the position requires, you can move on to advertising the opening through the proper channels. Just the way your description is targeted at a particular audience, you need to advertise in the appropriate channel to reach the right audience. Here are the strategies we use with our clients:

  1. Review your options for outlets from both a price and audience perspective, and post accordingly. For example, Good Food Jobs is a great place to advertise a Manager or Director position, but maybe not for cashiers.
  2. Post wide and far. You want to ensure that your opening gets as much awareness as possible if you want the best probability of get the best hire. Here are some outlets we use: Good Food Jobs, Culinary Agents, Harri, Culintro, Chef’s Connection, EasyPairings, Shiftgig, Poached, and Craigslist. Also, be sure to post to the career services of culinary schools across the country. Students in California may very well be looking for jobs in New York!
  3. There are two more outlets that are great, often over-looked options: your social media and existing team.
    1. People that admire, like, and/or respect your brand are definitely following you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Use that to your advantage and post there.
    2. Secondly, everyone on your team knows people outside of your enterprise that work in the industry, and most people like working with their friends. Consider offering a referral bonus to your team members for bringing in candidates that get, accept, and stay in a position.

Ask the Right Questions

Getting the right people interested in your post and in your enterprise for the interview is only half the battle. Interviews can mislead both employee and employer despite all previous efforts, so it’s the most important step in the process to get right.

When it comes to interviewing, we advise our clients to take great care in executing the following items properly:

  1. Doing Multiple Interviews: it’s important that as many people on your team get to interact with the applicant as possible. At the first stage, this means having at least two people sit down and do a traditional interview with the candidate.
  2. Interview for Technical and Cultural Fit: An applicant might be technically proficient at everything the job requires—but is a total pain to work with! That will inevitably end in disaster. Likewise, someone that’s a great fit for the company but unfit for the position will cause just as much trouble. Thus, it’s important to screen candidates for what they can do and how they behave.
  3. Schedule a Trail: For both front and back of house positions, it’s important to invite the candidates into the enterprise for a trail or stage once they’ve passed the interview phase. This way, you can get a true-to-form example of how they work and how they interact—reinforcing or correcting your impressions from the interview.

The labor shortage is definitely real, and it’s definitely putting real pressure on employers. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep your hiring practices focused and polished. Remember: define the job, post strategically, and ask the right questions.

Opportunities: CohnReznick Presents 2015 Hospitality Webinar Series


CohnReznick LLP, one of the top accounting, tax, and advisory firms in the United States, will hold the second session in their Hospitality Webinar Series on May 21st titled The Technology Landscape: Understanding What You Need and What Works. This webinar will cover the past, present and future of hospitality industry technology and identify the best platforms based on a company’s technological need. The webinar will be moderated by Christopher Mahon, Partner at CohenReznick and will feature James McGhee, Partner at Results Thru Strategy. Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 12.39.44 PM

The series goal is to present webinars focused on the financial and operational issues that face hospitality companies. Other upcoming topics for the series include Public Relations and Social Media Strategies, The ABCs of Lending: The Finance Market for Restaurants, Both Big and Small and Legal Issues for the Hospitality Industry.

CohnReznick, headquartered in New York, offers specialized services for middle market, Fortune 1000 companies, private equity and financial services firms, government contractors, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. Founded in 1919, they have over 300 partners, 2700 plus employees and bring in an annual revenue of more than $500 million dollars.

To register for this webinar, please click here

Guest Post: Establishment of U.S. Hospitality Businesses Is a Win-Win for Foreign National Investors and the U.S. Economy and Culture

By Steve Maggi, Esq., SMA Law Firm

In the most international city in the U.S., New York City is full of ethnic businesses, especially in the restaurant industry, where every nationality’s cuisines has representative places to eat. Fueling the growth of foreign fare restaurants is the E-2 investor visa.

Immigrants with a reasonable amount of capital and a solid business plan to start a new company, or buy a business or franchise, can apply for the E-2 visa depending on their nationality(ies) and whether the U.S. has an investor treaty with their country(ies). The decision of whether to grant the visa is based on the probability of success of that business. This determination takes into account both how detailed and innovative the business plan is as well as the demand for the business’ products and/or services, as well as the amount of funding required to get a business up and running until it begins to generate revenue sufficient to lead to its growth and success. Here are some things to keep in mind about this particular visa:

  • The E-2 visa gives the applicant 5 years to form a successful business in the U.S.: The continuation of the individual’s legal stay in the U.S. is based upon the success of the business. So if the business fails, the visa is terminated and the holder must return to his or her country of origin or apply for a change of status to another visa or for a green card based on another venture, job offer or direct family relationship with a U.S. citizen or resident. The good news is that as long as the business remains successful, the visa holder can continue to live in the U.S. indefinitely. The visa can be continually renewed every five years as long as the business remains viable.
  • Only an individual with experience and/or interest in running a small business should apply: While the visa may accomplish an important goal of family reunification, it should not be used by someone who is not serious about running a business or lacks an entrepreneurial mindset. There are other potential means available for someone just looking to invest money and come here to stay with relatives, such as the EB-5 visa. The E-2 is best used by a person who wants to work hard and do what it takes to maintain a profitable business. If they lack experience sometimes a franchise model is the best one, as they are instructed and guided by the corporate entity which controls the brand, which of course maximizes the probability of success.
  • The application process is relatively simple: Many visa applications have a mandatory two-part process, ie. the petition must first be reviewed in the U.S. by immigration officials here and then, if approved, an applicant must apply for the visa itself at his or her corresponding U.S. embassy. In contrast, the E-2 visa can be applied for directly in U.S. embassies vis-a-vis consular processing, a process which is a quicker and less expensive application process, and can reduce the chance of denials (one chance of denial versus two). The application can also be done if the applicant is already in the U.S. through a change of status.
  • E-2 applicants are only be eligible if they come from certain nations: E-2 investor visas are only available to citizens from countries that have bilateral investor treaties with the U.S. Notably, citizens of the BRIICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa) are not currently eligible for the E-2 visa. In those cases, the alternative may be EB-5 or other categories. However, it is important to point out that if someone possesses dual or multiple nationalities, that they can qualify based on just one nationality which has an existing treaty. For example, Israelis, Portuguese and Greeks (to name just a few) don’t qualify, but if they have any other treaty country nationality as well, they do.

In many situations, the E-2 visa can be a win-win situation for all involved. It leads to more businesses, which not only add to the cultural fabric of the nation in general, but also creates tangible jobs and improves the U.S. economy. Nowhere is that more abundantly clear than in the Big Apple and the its vibrant restaurant scene.

If you want more information please feel free to contact us at info@smalawyers.com.


New York City Tipped Workers to Get Big Raise End of Year

Workers receiving tipped wages–which are traditionally well below the minimum wage–are getting a big boost from Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Last month, he and labor commissioner Mario Musolino announced and approved the measure to increase the rate to $7.50 per hour.  Tipped wages, which range from $4.90 to $5.65 currently, will be reclassified into one single category given the $7.50 rate come the end of 2015.

The governor and commissioner spoke before labor leaders at a union hall in Manhattan to celebrate the change.  Cuomo used the time to call for further increase–the governor is proposing a $10.50 per hour minimum wage for non-tipped employees.  Currently, the minimum is $8.75 and is set to increase to $9 at the end of the year.

The changes are welcomed by employees as the income gap widens and is more widely recognized.  At $9/hour, the pre-tax annual income would be approximately $18,000–too little to “raise a family, pay for rent and food and insurance and health care… in the city of New York,” Cuomo said.

Not everyone is welcoming the change, however.  The New York State Restaurant Association points out that this effectively increased payroll by 50 percent.  Chris Hickey, regional director for the NYSRA, pointed out that the increase “is going to hit small businesses the hardest.”  Amanda Cohen, chef of Dirt Candy, added that restaurants “are going to have to raise their prices or go to a new tipping model.  My guess is that restaurants are going to have to raise their prices and be honest about it and say this is what it costs to operate this business.”

To read more on the increase, click here.

Enterprise Insight: Being Present

The restaurant business is fundamentally a service business, one that requires attention to the guest and constant execution on their wants and needs. Thus, this month, we are going to discuss being present for your guests; what it means and why it is important.


Being present seems like an obvious concept; management and servers interacting with guests must be present in order to do their jobs, correct? To a point, yes, but that is the difference between good service and great service. Every point of contact with a guest needs to be treated as both an opportunity and a threat. For example, glancing at the next guest in line or trying to communicate with another server while helping a guest destroys the sense of connection and gives the guest the impression that you’re not paying attention. Repeated violations of this sort, and the guest will lose interest in the experience and distrust in the team.

Conversely, if the server is giving his/her full attention to the diner, you can create an opportunity—to upsell, to educate, to build rapport with the guest. In the above example, let’s say the guest was curious about the difference between two signature coffee roasts. As an opportunity, the team has the chance to wow the guest with their knowledge and maybe sell them on the more expensive cup. At the very least, the team has showed the patron that they’re listening, and they’re there to help. This is, in essence, the ethos of Danny Meyer’s enlightened hospitality; put your team first, so that the team can concentrate on going above and beyond for the guest. Small gestures from small conversations with your guests can lead to big raves—which they will share with their friends.


The reasons for being present should be more obvious: it’s good service, and good service is good for business. The actual “ROI” on attentive service and guest connection is hard to calculate, but the implications are not. When your team is truly present and keyed in to the operation of the restaurant, guests are happier, the team is more efficient, and, ultimately, the business will reflect that in positive ways—word of mouth, good reviews, and busier nights. Ultimately, every single guest interaction has a tiny impact on the bottom line that will, eventually, build or erode your business.


The foodservice business is inherently busy and sometimes chaotic. The guest, though, should never feel as though the team is not paying attention. Being present for the guest is fairly simple—paying close attention and executing efficiently. However, the difference in being and not being present is the different between great service and poor service, success and failure.



Product Mix Maximization

There are many forces that when working together create successful enterprises. The key ones for us are a streamlined concept, a great operator, a long-term vision, a unique selling proposition and ultimately a product mix that resonates with your guests.

For the first half of this year many enterprises have engaged our firm to advise them on store flow and product mix. The question arises often, what makes a great product mix? First and foremost, a great product mix is one where when the guest walks into your enterprise, and without thinking knows what to order. Your role as an enterprise is to guide the guest through the experience, while the guest feels as though there are many choices to make; the actual decision process is easy.

When thinking about product mix, we highlight a few quick tips to maximize the guest experience and financial success.

  • Day parts. Which ones will you be offering; breakfast, lunch, midday, dinner, late night?
  • Core products. Establish the core products that the enterprise will produce.
  • Maximize kitchen production. Are the core products you are producing actually the ones that are anticipated to be the top sellers? If not, think how to best maximize kitchen production for the top sellers.
  • Complimentary products. Once you have established the core products, think about what additional product groups compliment your menu.
  • Streamlined Concept. With all of the above, does your product mix speak to your vision of the concept.

Try not to steer far from your concept. We have worked with many enterprises that want to be everything to everyone and this formula is a recipe for disaster. No one enterprise can be everything but one enterprise can be something great with a clear message.

Happy product mix…TaraPaige Group.

NYC Hospitality Alliance Seminar: Protect Credit Card Information

NYC Hospitality Alliance is hosting a seminar on protecting payment and credit card information against data thieves and responding to suspected data compromise incidents.

Topics include:

  • What every hospitality merchant must do to minimize the risk of a data breach and to comply with payment card industry security standards;
  • Actions merchants must take if a compromise is suspected, both to protect customers’ information and minimize the merchant’s financial and reputational risk;
  • Coming changes in payment card acceptance practices and technology about which hospitality industry members need to be aware.

When: Monday, May 19th, 2014 | 10-11:30am

Where: NYIT | 16 West 61st Street | 11th Floor

Cost: $20 Member | $40 Non-member

Find more information and register here.


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