London, Friday, July 9th
Josh was glad that Marcia wouldn’t be back for a while. It wasn’t because he was talking to a very attractive young lady from restaurant management, but because he would be able to ask Alison more questions without ignoring Marcia. On the other hand Josh felt that the company Marcia worked for could learn a lot from this restaurant. So, he would simply share his insights with her at a later stage.
Alison explained that everything started with the de definition of purpose and the desired experience. “Our purpose is to create memorable connections. This is why we have a few larger tables in every restaurant. We wanted to create a place where you can relax, unwind, have fun and meet other people if you want to. In any event, every connection matters to us, and we want to make a difference to our guests. We’ve also clearly de ned the experience we want our guests to have,” Alison continued “How would you describe the experience you had so far?”
Josh said, “As very engaging and welcoming. I felt connected from the start.”
“That’s exactly how we want our guests to feel in all of our restaurants. We love it when they feel helped’ and recognized. And when they feel we serve good food which makes them happy – real, authentic, no frills,” Alison went on. “Wow,” Josh said. “Spot on. That’s precisely what I have been experiencing from moment one. You must be the best restaurant in the group.”
Alison denied that. “All Bread&Care stores provide a more or less similar experience, with different people, of course,” she insisted. “And mind you, we are not perfect, nor do we intend to be. After all, we want the experience to also be genuine.”
“Ah, I get it,” Josh said. “How do you do that? How do you bring such a cool experience to life in a consistent manner?”
“I am happy to share how we to strive to do that,” Alison said. “The desired experience also needs to make total sense. It needs to be tied to your purpose, your reason for being. In other words, to why you exist as a company; and to your desired identity, to who you are, or want to be.”
“So next to purpose or ‘why’, the identity or ‘who’ of a brand or company is also important?” “More importantly, ” Alison said. “It should the starting point for everything you do.”
Josh made a mental note of what he had just learned.
“You simply need to be relevant,” Alison continued her explanation. “Ideally speaking, you have a compelling reason for being, and an appealing identity that sets you apart from the competition. In our case, we want to be different from other restaurant chains. Our purpose makes that possible. This drives our behavior, our offering, and our procedures. Basically, everything,” Alison said.
“You need to give guests a reason why they would want to come back to your restaurant. They wouldn’t come back for just a salad or a croissant. Again, identity is also crucial. We have chosen to be hosts, which simply makes sense given why we are here and what we do. In our stores, everybody is a CAREmaker, including our store managers. This also proves that we have very little hierarchy. It helps to bring a new spark to our profession, to make it appealing again. Some people tend to look down on hosting, but we prove it can actually be pretty cool to be a host.”
You mentioned earlier you own a bookstore, Alison said. What kind of books do you sell most? While Josh was answering her question, he realized the store needed to become more relevant. Especially considering all those online retailers who offered books and much more than books. He also realized that perhaps the store name Just Books wasn’t good enough anymore.
It was as if Alison had read his mind when she asked her next question. “So what makes Just Books special for me as a potential customer? Why should I go and visit you? Why should I visit your store, rather than just order online?” For a moment Josh thought about his answer and then said, “I now realize we can do much better. We’re pretty good in books on management and leadership. We always have the latest trends and we are more than active readers ourselves.”
“Anything for kids?” Alison asked.
“Yes, we do have a nice selection of kids books, yet not as many as online, of course,” Josh replied. “Who does these days?” Alison responded. “I guess it’s important to focus and specialize in something you can’t find online.”
She then continued. “I promised to share something about our secret sauce.” “Oh yeah, the staff,” Josh said, looking very excited. “It starts with the fact that we don’t recruit,” said Alison. “Why not? Do you never have any vacancies?” Josh asked.
“Of course, we do, but not as many as other restaurants. Most CAREmakers like working here a lot. When they leave, we don’t do regular job interviews to select new colleagues.”
Josh instinctively knew that the next bit of information would be very relevant and listened carefully to every word. “We have developed a casting process, which helps us to identify who applicants really are.”
“How does this work?” Josh asked.
“Before the opening of every new restaurant, we post our vacancies online and on social media and, also because of our reputation, we get a good response. For every vacancy, we easily get twenty to thirty aspiring new colleagues. Sometimes many more. A team at our regional support office then looks at the social profiles of each candidate, to find out more about who they are.”
“What do you mean?” Josh asked.
“It’s simple,” said Alison. “There is so much information on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We can easily find out who would potentially match our desired identity most.”
“Wow,” Josh responded. “That makes sense. Guess not everybody realizes that when they post their nightly activities online.”
“We have nothing against an active nightlife, but looking at social profiles helps a lot when we are looking for people who are naturally caring, connecting, and engaging.”
Josh was intrigued.
“Suppose we have 500 candidates, we will then invite about 150 to do a little quiz and upload a fifteen-second video of themselves.”
“Fifteen seconds?” Josh asked in disbelief. “What can you see in fifteen seconds?”
“About as much as in fifteen minutes,” Alison continued. “And sometimes, even more, because we can also tell if a candidate is able to be articulate and creative within the limited time.”
“Okay,” Josh said. “Cool. And what’s the next step?”
“Casting or auditioning if you want,” Alison responded. “For a pre-opening of a new restaurant, we would invite about 100 candidates. They would come for a half-day program, during which they expect to get a corporate presentation and one or more job interviews. However, nothing could be further from the truth.”
“So what do you do?” Josh asked.
Alison explained the whole casting process, step-by-step, and emphasized that there is no one approach to casting. “During a casting event, we intend to get to know the real person behind every candidate. Their identity and attitude are more important for us than their CV. In fact, it is very simple. If we hire people who are naturally engaging and caring, and we allow them to work in an environment where they can truly be themselves, they will be engaging and caring. Again, not rocket science,” Alison concluded. “That would mean that another company would need a different casting concept?” Josh asked.
“I would say so,” replied Alison. “Another company would start with another purpose, identity, and a different desired experience.”
“So now you know a bit more about our secret sauce,” Alison concluded. “I need to go… have a great evening!”
“Thank you very much for sharing,” Josh said. “Enjoy your evening and perhaps see you again tomorrow?”
“I will be right here,” Alison responded before turning away. After one last wave, Josh could think of only one thing. What would casting or auditioning look for Just Books? Obviously, he would first need to determine the desired experience, and then design from there.
Josh was so busy thinking about how to apply the casting concept to selecting new team members that he didn’t see Marcia coming in. With a big kiss on his forehead, Josh was brought back to reality.