I recently had another amazing experience at a small, local restaurant. From the location, to the food, to the service; everything about the entire evening was top-notch! Cure is in the Public Market and is not a place you’re likely to stumble upon. It’s open on days and times when the market is closed; five days a week for dinner and on Sunday for brunch. It has about 12 tables and a relatively small menu with unique dishes and drinks.
Once you discover it, you’ll likely keep going back. If not for the Bahn Mi sandwich or the Korean chicken, then for the experience. Especially if you sit at the bar. I’m a novice at the bar and usually ask the bartender for something that doesn’t taste too strong but isn’t too sweet. I’ll always get a good recommendation and sometimes if a bartender isn’t too busy, they’ve made me something special that isn’t on the menu. Donny at Cure takes the whole experience to another level. He doesn’t just want his customer to enjoy their drink but will educate you on the components of your drink and help you identify what it is that you’re tasting and how the parts of the drink complement one another. He is knowledgeable and passionate about his work, and his enthusiasm and care are contagious.
As an HR professional with a strong interest in talent development and culture, I got to wondering; what was the employee experience, behind the customer experience and what role did it play in setting Cure apart from its competition? I was extremely fortunate to connect with Chuck Cerankosky; co-owner of Cure and Good Luck and Director of Food and Beverage operations at Radio Social and Bar Bantam, to learn about how he leads.
Chuck’s philosophy on leadership started during his time as a landlord. He had been warned “tenants are the worst” but as someone who believes in the importance of a mutually beneficial relationship, he wasn’t concerned. “Provide a nice apartment people want to live in and you can be more selective about who your tenants are,” Chuck said.
Chuck translates this same philosophy to business and people leadership;
Treat work like a craft
All employees, regardless of whether they are working part time while in college or have made the restaurant business their career, are expected to treat their work like a craft. “If a candidate doesn’t understand the importance of how the silverware is positioned, parallel with the lines on the napkin, this may not be the environment for them,” Chuck explained.
Chuck is also particular about the pronoun’s his team uses, focusing on “we,” “our,” and “us” as opposed to “mine,” “I,” and “me.” Employees shouldn’t claim ownership for the creation of a particular drink. Often, it’s a team effort of people working together and tweaking a recipe before it becomes a final product on the menu. On the flip side, if a customer finds a bone in their fish, it’s not immediately the kitchen’s fault. Instead “we” will work together as a team to address the issue and make it right.
Maintain a positive work environment
During a time when sexual harassment is on everyone’s radar and is especially rampant in the food and beverage industry, Chuck strives to maintain a safe and positive work environment. He makes it a priority to ensure employees have the tools they need to do their jobs, are receiving the shifts and wages they expected when they took the position and feel comfortable speaking up and are listened to when they do. “Sometimes little things like fixing a handle on a refrigerator or ordering more spoons can make a big difference in how an employee feels about their job,” Chuck explained.
Lead by example
While meeting with Chuck, I had the opportunity to observe him talking with a couple of employees about some concerns he had. He explained the situation; that drinks weren’t being put on tabs consistently, asked the employees for their help fixing the issue and explained the impact if the problem isn’t fixed; losing revenue on liquor sales. Employees won’t see Chuck giving away drinks at the bar, so he doesn’t expect to see this from them.
My final question for Chuck was around turnover. While turnover is part of the business, by and large people don’t leave for a lateral position in another restaurant. Most people leave because they graduate and are moving on to something else or they are taking a position that is a step up in another restaurant.
Chuck also made the point that a great bartender at Cure may not be a great fit at Good Luck and vice versa. It’s about finding the right employee and putting them in the right environment where they can thrive, and customers are ensured an amazing experience.
I was so grateful to Chuck for taking the time to talk with me. It was encouraging to see that so many aspects of his leadership and the culture he cultivates for his employees, are synonymous across other industries. Be clear about your values, hire the right people, put them in the right role and treat them well; as a result, you’ll have satisfied customers and your business will succeed.
There are many choices when it comes to how to spend a night out in Rochester. I like knowing that the secret behind the great customer experience at Cure, is an equally great employee experience.
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” – Richard Branson