How Can Danny Meyer Help You Build A Better Bakery Team?

How Can Danny Meyer Help You Build A Better Bakery Team?

danny_meyer_hiring_rightAt Great Harvest, we talk a lot about building teams. In fact, it is easily one of the most important things that new bakery owners are tasked with before and after they open their doors. Building and managing a great team never stops, whether it is three days before the store opens or thirty years later. In the hospitality business, it is essential that we build, grow and cultivate the best teams possible.

Whenever we ask our franchise owners what the hardest part of running their business is, the answer is almost always the people. Finding, training, keeping, motivating, and rewarding your staff is incredibly challenging. I've been thinking a lot about this lately as I have been reading famed restauranteur Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table while out on the road visiting some of our most iconic bakeries. 

Teambuilding is a Fine Art at Great Harvest

Whether or not you own one Great Harvest bakery or a string of incredibly successful restaurants, staffing them with people you want to spend the majority of your waking hours with is crucial. On my last trip, I was impressed by how many times I walked into a bakery and was introduced to an employee that had been there ten years, 16 years, and even 24 years. How do you manage a working relationship for so long so well? Being an effective manager is mostly about who you hire and how to get them to work together to be better than any one single person could be.

When it comes to hiring, Danny Meyer hires with a view towards future roles, not just the current position. One of the points he makes is, why would you ever hire someone who you do not believe has the potential to manage others? I was particularly struck by Meyer’s description of hiring for what his longtime chef at Union Square Café Michael Romano calls "the Excellence Reflex."

“People duck as a natural reflex when something is hurled at them. Similarly, the excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring, and practice. The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something we can’t train for. Either it’s there, or it isn’t. So we need to train how to hire for it.”      — Danny Meyer

Capitalizing on each person’s zone of genius to compliment your own is incredibly important. Each day is filled with countless tasks that need to be completed, and our best owners know their own strengths and weaknesses. You don’t have to be great at everything, but you need to be absolutely brilliant in something.

Recognize a team for what it is: an assemblage of power, like a great sports team. What makes a great punter doesn’t make a clutch running back but is still just as essential. Finding someone who can consistently show up at 3:30 AM — hours before anyone else — to begin baking is important, but it doesn’t mean that person is the right fit to help customers or work the cash register. Capitalizing on an employee’s strengths is just as important as not doubling up on weaknesses.

I also love Danny’s interpretation of what makes a great employee. He calls them “51 percenters.” 49% of their success is determined by their technical job performance and 51% is their emotional job performance – how well they interact with each other and customers. Basically, he feels that it is far easier to train someone to do any specific job task but nearly impossible to ever train personality.

The Five Core Emotional Skills Danny Meyer Looks for in Employees:

  1. Optimistic Warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full).
  2. Intelligence (not just smarts but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning).
  3. Work Ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done).
  4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel).
  5. Self-awareness and Integrity (an understanding of what makes you tick and a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment).

Sounds like great parameters for hiring to me. To paraphrase Danny, you could sum up all of the above as a twinkle in the eye or a dazzling sparkle from within – and when you find it, you just know it…

Build a Better Bakery Team With Great Harvest — We'll Show You How

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Read More About Building a Great Bakery Team:
What’s the Secret to Finding (& Keeping) Great Bakery Employees?
Bakery Magic No Accident in Owensboro: Owner Horsepower is Key
5 Best Ways to Manage an Existing Crew When You Buy a Store
8 Keys to Managing Employees As a Small Business Owner

Source of quotes on images:
Danny Meyer. Retrieved October 20, 2015, from Web site:
Danny Meyer. Retrieved October 20, 2015, from Web site:

Image credit: Coffee cup via Canva; Worker via ©Can Stock Photo, both modified by resizing and text overlay

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