How to Spot a Service Superstar

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You know the type: poised, effortlessly charming, megawatt smile, warm and welcoming, easy to talk to, and genuinely kind. The type of person you want on your team. The type of person you meet and immediately want to clone.

I’m not describing a service unicorn - far from it. I’m describing a service superstar.

In fact, you have people with these wonderful qualities in your operation right now. The key is to figure out who they are and how to entice more of them to join your operation. 

When I was consulting to Le Cirque, a young man with a very charming and warm manner worked as a doorman. He could light up the place with his smile and he had a bounce in his step. He was the perfect person to have at the front door of Le Cirque as he embodied warmth, professionalism, and charisma; this set the tone for the experience to come and he was a small but essential part of the customer experience.

But he wasn’t always the doorman; in fact, he had been hired as a dishwasher. Once Sirio, the storied owner of Le Cirque, met him and saw his smile and willingness to work, he realized that this guy would be better utilized at the front door. He took him to Zara for a suit and gave him one of his Hermes ties. The maître d’ trained him on how to welcome the various important guests, open their car doors, and help them into the restaurant. Sirio was right: this is the guy you want at the front door, not hidden in the back of the operation. 

There are 7 traits that are essential to service superstars. It is unlikely that one person will have all 7, but see if you can find 2 or 3 or these traits in your new hires or in your existing team members, you can identify and groom the stars in your operation and ensure that the most hospitable folks are out in front, wowing your guests. 

Here’s a way to spot these 7 traits: As part of the hiring process (and also as a way to connect with your existing staff members) ask your candidate to tell you a story. It could be a story about how they helped someone make something better; how they helped a team member; how they stood up for the business; or how they stood up for a guest or an absolute stranger. There are many ways to get someone talking authentically. And how they tell the story will demonstrate how they feel about others.

Look for:

  • Eye contact
  • Kindness and decency
  • Empathy and an interest in connection
  • A willingness to help others
  • Curiosity
  • Humor
  • A smile

If someone can share a story with you while looking you in the eye, taking pride in the outcome of their efforts, and demonstrating empathy for others, you might have a superstar on your hands. Make this storytelling a part of your hiring process so you can see if there might be a superstar in the making.

Remember: you can always teach the hard skills of restaurant work. Everyone can move up and develop their skills if they are curious and willing to learn.