Perhaps more than any other industry besides healthcare, restaurants have experienced the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic firsthand. They have lost business, closed indefinitely or even closed permanently. My heart aches for these restaurateurs and employees who may not have recovered yet.
I’m lucky to say that my business, Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh, went in the opposite direction. After some tough times, we were able to open two new locations in the past year, bringing us to seven in total as we celebrate 10 years in business.
It hasn’t always been easy, but I think our success in growing and pivoting in difficult situations ultimately comes down to three factors: the team’s communication philosophy, the ability to make quick decisions, and our trust in the restaurant’s team, brand and history.
Constant and active communication is essential. Therefore, listening to staff and their needs and responding proactively to them is an essential step in strengthening any team, especially in times of crisis or uncertainty. My leadership and communication style has evolved over the years as I have learned to adapt to changes and obstacles that are often beyond my control.
As a leader, you can’t be everywhere at once. Instead, you need to develop a rhythm of communication that allows you to respond to everyone’s needs and concerns while delegating management responsibilities to other leaders on your team. This means considering how often to message and check in with your team, as well as the best channels to facilitate that communication. It also involves operating from a place of integrity; leaders must say what they are going to do and follow through on what they say. Team members will have greater respect for leaders who listen to them and work to correct the problems their employees are having. Your employees don’t just want to be a cog in a wheel – they want to be heard and they want to work under leadership that actively listens.
Training managers and employees over the years has also reinforced my philosophy of communication, growth and development for the company. Every time you train someone, you learn from them as much as they learn from you. Every day is a learning opportunity, and as we continue to grow, I plan to continue to impress upon team members the importance of being open to new perspectives and ways of doing things, even if that means having to listen much more than talk. .
COVID-19 isn’t the only challenge restaurant owners have faced in recent years – supply chain issues and hiring shortages have taken the industry by storm, forcing owners and teams direction to improvise like never before. By the end of 2021, 95% of restaurants had experienced significant supply delays or food shortages, and our restaurant was no exception. At Caliente, we use every resource at our disposal, working with multiple distributors to ensure we get the products we need, staying on top of how much product we use, and bringing in the right volume of product. each month.
Over the past several months, we have focused on building a centralized headquarters to improve product consistency, facilitate restaurant operations, and enable smoother expansion efforts. Rather than having several people in each store to make the dough and sauce for the week, in the police station kitchen we will have two or three people making the product and the dough and sauce will be made exactly the same for the whole company.
Like many other restaurants and small businesses, we have had to step up our hiring efforts following the recent labor shortage. The main objective for us has not only been to attract new talent, but also to retain the talent we have and to remind each member of the team of how integral they are to the brand and to the growth of Caliente. Rather than simply finding new employees when we need them most during a crisis, we make it a priority to actively seek new team members throughout the year, even when we don’t have the time. felt like they needed to expand the team. This shows both current team members and potential employees that we are always open to creating new positions within the company to showcase members’ unique strengths and interests in the industry. pizza.
Coming out of 2020, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty among restaurateurs who were looking to grow their presence in and around their community, but were afraid to take a chance during such an unprecedented time. Opening two new Caliente stores during the pandemic has certainly not been easy, but my faith in our brand and the teams we have built has given me the confidence to get started with our new stores.
Ultimately, the time was right because it allowed us to increase Caliente’s impact for families and community members across Pittsburgh and beyond and create more positions within the company. – especially longer, career-focused jobs – so our team members don’t have to seek positions in other workplaces or industries. Amid the chaos of the past few years, I assured our team that we would emerge from the pandemic stronger, grow faster, and create exponentially more jobs than ever before. I share the same sentiment now, especially after seeing what our team is capable of in the sixth and seventh store openings.
We cannot predict all the new challenges that await us in the second half of 2022 and the years to come, but I am convinced that our team’s strong communication, effective work and problem-solving strategies and clear vision of the company will help us achieve even more growth, expansion and long-term success. For restaurateurs who continue to struggle or lose confidence today, start by believing in yourself, your product and your team – this is the foundation of your success.