Every year Atlanta-based Ted’s Montana Grill recognizes the restaurant among its 56 units that has the best employee retention. For the past couple of years, the “Best Team Retention” award has gone to the same restaurant: the Ted’s Montana Grill in Aurora, Colo., led by “proprietor” Scott Procop. Proprietor is the company’s title for the managing partners that have a financial stake in the restaurants they run. Procop, a 19-year industry veteran who has worked for Marriott Corp. and Brinker International, joined Ted’s almost six years ago. He manages 55 employees at a 120-seat restaurant in a business park near Denver International Airport.
What is your employee turnover rate?
I don’t have an exact count—29 percent or 30 percent. It was 40 percent in 2007, and then it dropped to about 30 percent.
Hourly or management?
Hourly. I haven’t hired a server in seven months. Our kitchen staff has been around so long they know everything. I’ve had the same management staff, the same four managers, for almost four years.
How do you create that?
I try to sit down with every employee once a month, even if it is just 15 minutes over lunch, and see what’s going on with them. The more involved we are in their lives, the more they’ll go out of their way for us. They’ll come in for a shift when they are not scheduled. There’s more teamwork. It’s like having 55 managers, basically.
Do you find you don’t have to do as much training?
I don’t mind training, but I love developing people rather than starting training over and over again. It’s a vicious cycle that never lets you get to the next step. We haven’t had to do that. A new employee, a lot of times, is going to make mistakes. Our whole team works together, and they’ve been around so long, they do not make those rookie mistakes.
Do you think the recession has influenced retention?
For three years running, we’ve had pretty much the same turnover we have today. We’re still up in sales, and [the economy] really hasn’t affected us.