More than 20 years ago, Linda Derschang changed the way Seattle thought about restaurants.
It all started in 1994 with Linda’s Tavern, an instant classic decorated with wood grain and neon. More businesses followed: The Capitol Club, Chop Suey, King’s hardware, Smith, Oddfellows, Bait Shop and Tallulah’s have each made major contributions to Seattle’s nightlife. With that many businesses, she needed to develop a management culture that could match her ambitions – Restaurant groups are only as good as the people who lead them. I recently sat down with Linda Derschang to learn how to attract, develop and retain talent.
What qualities do you look for when hiring a manager in your company?
We look for people who are adaptable, outgoing and motivated, and who already have an appreciation for the feeling and vibe of our company. We call ourselves a home for the passionate and unique and my ideal manager is someone who is interested in a wide variety of subjects, not just food and drink. They should also understand the neighborhood they will be serving in, be connected to the community.
What experience outside of restaurant industry (if any) do you find makes a good manager?
The same experience that makes someone an interesting person: someone who enjoys traveling, reading, has a willingness to try new things, and possibly having a background in retail, design, music or the arts. A lot of the technical aspects of management can be taught, but you can’t teach warmth, leadership or hospitality. Some things just have to be learned through life experience.
In what ways, financial or otherwise, do you expect your managers to improve your businesses?
It starts with managers having a very clear understanding of the brand. Once they have that, managers need to view the bar or restaurant as if it were their own business with their own money invested. We expect them to be able to interpret the financial statements as well as make sound decisions to better the business. They always need to put the guest and business first and ask for help when they come across problems they cannot solve on their own. Managers need to constantly look with a critical eye and be open to feedback from every angle.
We know the relationship between owners and mangers can be delicate. What qualities/behaviors help a manager earn your trust?
Clear and direct communication is definitely a priority, as well as respecting the history and vision of whichever restaurant or bar they’re managing. They need to be able to keep up with the dynamic nature of the business, be adaptable and flexible, and not be afraid to be transparent and see the big picture and understand that although a decision may not make sense in the moment, it will be important later on.
What are some effective ways to retain successful managers?
To celebrate and use their strengths rather than trying to fix their shortcomings. To empower them to make more decisions after they have proven that they ‘get’ the vibe of the place they’re managing. To make sure they are surrounded by a diverse staff that are easy and fun to work with and that they feel supported. It is important to be transparent in every conversation and hold people accountable to their position. And we also are a fun company to work for.
What do you believe sets your management team apart?
Management isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ job. While all of our places have different managers with different levels of experience and different styles, they all understand the vision for their specific restaurant as well as the vision for our company. They also all share the common goal of wanting to create and run successful neighborhood places – they’re committed not only to the bar or restaurant they’re managing, but also the community of people that they surround themselves with and all of the hard work they dedicate to maintaining that inclusive workplace.