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SPIRIT Awards honor people on front lines of industry

SPIRIT Awards honor people on front lines of industry

DALLAS —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

“You have to make the connection that your employees and their contentment will be connected to your financial successes,” said Richard Hirsch, vice president of human resources at Guest Services, a 93-year-old, not-for-profit, on-site company based in Washington, D.C. “Our employees don’t only contribute to our success, they are the reason for our success.” —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Along with Guest Services, other 2009 SPIRIT winners were The Cheesecake Factory, Hot Dog on a Stick and The Signature Room at the 95th. The honorees “represent excellence in employee recruitment, hiring, retention and training,” said Tom Larranaga, publisher of Nation’s Restaurant News, which produced and sponsored the awards along with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation and The Coca-Cola Company. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

“These companies are doing an outstanding job of cultivation of our most important resource: the people,” said Bill Hyde of the NRAEF. “They are doing their job way beyond their call of duty. Everything they do continues to keep our industry strong.” —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

In addition to valuing employees, the winners agreed that it is essential to fund training. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

“Our company has been taking one step at a time, and the people in the restaurants make it happen,” said David Gordon of The Cheesecake Factory, based in Calabasas Hills, Calif. “You can’t do anything without investing in the people.” —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Once Cheesecake employees are trained, management “continually checks in,” said Gordon’s colleague Dina Barmasse-Gray, vice president of human resources for the chain, during a panel discussion held during MUFSO and moderated by Jim Sullivan, a Nation’s Restaurant News columnist. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

The Cheesecake Factory keeps tabs on the feelings of its staff members by regularly conducting employee evaluations, Barmasse-Gray added. In the last evaluation, 16,000 of Cheesecake’s 32,000 employees responded. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Hiring the right employees is crucial to creating an upbeat corporate culture. Cheesecake seeks out happy people, Barmasse-Gray said. Creating a fun and positive atmosphere is a company goal, as is accommodating staff members’ scheduling requests. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

“Who doesn’t want to have fun at work?” she asked, adding that the company has a “cult-like following” of like-minded, high-spirited people on its payroll. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Training staff on what management expects of them “is vital,” said Susan Roman, corporate director of human resources at The Signature Room at the 95th, a fine-dining restaurant in Chicago with 250 employees, 750,000 guests a year and $20 million in annual sales. Proper education is one of few variables operators can manage, she added. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

“So much is out of our control, such as government regulations,” she said. Setting best practices is one thing, “but following through on those is a whole different ballgame.” —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Being “100-percent employee-owned gets everybody with the same goal in mind,” said Dan Smith, president and chief executive of Hot Dog on a Stick, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based quick-service chain with 1,000 employees in 110 mall locations. Most managers are college-age students, he said. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

“The tool we use to motivate the young workforce is trust,” Smith said. “We don’t treat them like children, even though many are, and they are an extremely motivated workforce.” —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Some of Hot Dog on a Stick’s 17-year-old staffers think it’s a big deal to get a key to open a store, he said, and many of those same individuals still don’t have keys to their own home. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Gordon agreed that having faith in Cheesecake’s staff is essential. As a result the associates “are engaged in the process and they believe in who we are, and we believe in who they are,” Gordon said. —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

Past SPIRIT Award winners helped select the 2009 honorees.— [email protected]n.com —Winners of the 2009 SPIRIT Award agree that people, especially those that work directly with diners, are a primary reason for their restaurants’ success. And when those people are happy, they are even more effective, several honorees noted during their acceptance speeches at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference.

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