1.) Who are you and what’s your business?
Steve’s a seasoned manager — he’s been hiring, organizing, and managing people for over a decade. His business, Texas Roadhouse, is a franchise restaurant specializing in buttery rolls, cold beverages, and country-style dinners.
The atmosphere is upbeat, friendly, and country as hell. His particular location has 153 employees and has been open since April of 2004.
2.) What’s your overall philosophy when it comes to managing your people?
After waiting a solid 10 seconds, Steve conveyed his answer quite eloquently:
“Hire the right person, train them the right way, then treat them right. Make those three things happen and you’re going to be fine.”
His response almost caught me off guard… it actually sounded like something out of the textbook we had to buy. He made it sound rather simple and whimsical. Just get the right people, train them properly, then compensate and treat them well.
I get it.
3.) I’m supposed to ask you if you think your employees are valuable or not. You’re obviously going to say yes, but why specifically?
“Of course they are, especially in the restaurant industry. (Looks around) I can’t do all this.”
Steve went on to explain all the various roles and positions required to run the Roadhouse: busers, bartenders, servers, kitchen people. He then made an interesting point:
“There are 500 locations set up exactly like this. But, a lot of them are better or worse and that all depends on the people running the business.”
He spoke about his location for a bit, expressing love for his employees and boasting the store’s low-turnover numbers. I followed up to mention the importance of hospitality and warm personalities at sit-down restaurants.
He replied “Yeah! People want familiar faces and you’d be surprised how many people favor one particular server over others.”
4.) Please explain the general process you use when hiring new employees.
“Everything is online now. We don’t do paper anything. People apply online, we get it, we call them, we bring them in.” (This did not catch me off guard.)
He continues: “We have what’s called disposition now, which means we have to let the computer know what we did with the applicants. Did you hire them? Great. If you didn’t, why didn’t you? Just things like that. Hiring is a lengthy process now. Back in the day, we use to look at paper applicants and if we didn’t see a fit, we’d crumble it up and throw it away. Now, we have to make sure we follow every single step.”
Despite all the great, new uses of technology, Steve’s demeanor made it clear the hiring process has gotten more comprehensive and time-consuming.
I followed up and asked about about his vetting process.
Say you get 15 applications. Is there a certain filter you use?
“In this business, it’s not real strict. We can pretty much train anyone to do the job. It’s more about availability and how reliable we think they are. That said, we mainly look at timelines of past job experiences. That’s a big tell-tale sign if they are good for us or not.”
5.) What’s your philosophy when it comes to compensation within your business?
“Uhm, mine is pay them what they’re worth and forget about it.”
Does that idea tend to lag, lead, or match similar restaurants?
(Chuckles) “I think it leads.”
“Well, we have the advantage that we are somewhat small. We aren’t some huge conglomerate company, we’re just Texas Roadhouse and I think they tend to take care of us more because we are small. We love top-down and all around here.”
6.) Describe your general process for training and development.
He said it goes back to his original, three-step philosophy of hire right, train right, and treat right. Steve then spoke about what happens when you deviate away from that.
“You’ll lose people if you start to lack in areas of training. People will go somewhere else if they don’t feel they are learning enough.”
When he said that, it reiterated why it’s truly important to strategize and develop your training / recruiting process. This entire HR class has shown me how hiring for positions is a two-way street. Both employee and business are looking for the right fit.
7.) Do you have a defined HR policy in this organization? Please explain.
When Steve heard the word ‘policy,’ he may have slightly rolled his eyes.
“There are all kinds of policies, if you wanna go the EEOC route and make sure all the government people are happy, you can do that. For me, it goes back to hiring the right people—doing due diligence for background checks, training, and I mean really making sure people get full-blown training, not abbreviated training… with my servers, I have a policy where they must serve me before they can move on. That’s usually a fun time for everyone.”
8.) What’s the hardest part of your job, in terms of managing people?
(Long pause) “Probably attendance.”
Like, people calling off and no-call, no shows?
“Yeah, and then just keeping the place properly staffed. You can have too many or too little, there’s a sweet spot.”
I’m sure that’s a continuing thing you learn as a manager.
“Definitely. In this industry, there’s a ton of turnover, missed shifts, and moving parts. As manager, you begin to pick up on little things here and there that help you plan for those mishaps.”
9.) What’s most rewarding to you?
I could feel his response before he said it. Texas Roadhouse doesn’t open until 4PM; I went in a few hours before opening, and let me tell you, the place felt totally alive.
Cooks in the back waved and smiled as I walked through the side door to meet with Steve. A group of girls cheerfully rehearsed line-dances near the bar area. An employee interrupted our interview due to a scheduling issue—I watched Steve crack a joke and resolve the confusion.
“It’s the people, man. I love my people.”
10.) What advice do you have for a new manager or aspiring business owner?”
“Just take care of your people. Be nice to them. Don’t be a d*ck.”
Absolutely, if people don’t admire who they’re working for, employees are more likely to put the boss in a tough spot.
“Exactly. If you only take one thing away from this conversation, it’s be nice to your people.”
I feel Steve and his ideas about managing have pretty much been right on par with the concepts and lessons we learned throughout the course. The interview was so smooth and natural and I believe that’s because I had a solid understanding of HR beforehand (thanks to the class). I sort of knew what to expect from him.
However, I did inadvertently learn something else too…
Just being around Steve for 20 minutes, I gained great insight as to what kind of person it takes to manage a massive group of people.
Steve is happy, down-to-earth, and very easy to communicate with. His politeness did not go unnoticed. I remember the smile he greeted me with at the door. I appreciated him making me a drink right off-the-bat. I also saw how invested he is in the business… that’s most likely why he’s doing so well.
Above all, Steve made his point: bring in good people and treat them well—that’s really what this class is all about. His managing philosophy will stand as the main take away from our conversation.
“Just take care of your people. Be nice to them.”