When turnover increased at BoomBozz Craft Pizza & Taphouse, founder Tony Palombino incorporated a simple question into the interviewing process and that made all the difference. 

BoomBozz Pizza founder and CEO Tony Palombino found that adding a simple question to the interviewing process could transform how the brand hires and keeps its people long-term.

Out of focus 

The biggest challenge that most restaurants are experiencing today is employment. Every day there’s some restaurant closing or declaring bankruptcy. We’ve always been focused on people first in terms of our team members, but I think over the years, we got away from that. So when we faced retention and turnover issues, we started thinking outside the box, and asking ourselves, “What would I want if I was working for a company?” And since we began testing that theory, we’ve been really happy with the results.

READ MORE: Why good employees quit restaurants.

The unexpected question

Late last year, we started putting more of an emphasis on hiring and retention. It starts with the interviewing process; you have your normal questions where you see if it’s a good culture fit. We go a little beyond that. We ask, “What are your hobbies?” That question kind of went away for a while. We take that extra step to find out what they enjoy doing. What’s a second career they thought about or something they do on the side? You’ll get answers like, “I love playing guitar” or “I want to go to culinary school.” 

Striking the right balance

We write these things down and then we start focusing on retention. For example, if someone says they love playing guitar, over time as they progress in the company we buy them guitar lessons or even a guitar. Now you’re setting yourself apart from the general hiring practices. Everyone’s default is to pay people more to keep them—and that’s part of it. We’re all about paying living wages, but there has to be a balance. It’s also about the culture, and companies that prioritize it are, I think, the gold standard. 

Lessons learned

  • When facing a challenge, revisit your core values for insight.
  • Get to know your employees on a more personal level.
  • Financially invest in your staff, but also invest in your company culture.
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