By Nick Fosberg   |   March 23, 2017

In this episode Nick interviews Jesiah Mauck from Grey Bar Solutions on the best kept secrets to people management and your bar or restaurants culture. There’s no way any bar or restaurant can be a success if the employee’s don’t care about their customers. Jesiah reveals exactly how to turn your staff into a powerful team that is happy, wants to see your business succeed, and wants to take care of your customers!

What You’ll Learn:

  • What your biggest competitive advantage really is (It’s not what you think!)
  • How to take a staff that doesn’t listen, that doesn’t seem to care, and turn them around to WANT to provide the best hospitality they can.
  • The 7 secrets to creating the best company culture that will ultimately out weigh your competition and win customers for life.
  • The lesson Nick learned when his own manager gave him a piece of his own mind that has now transformed the way he talks to his employee’s – this is a big game changer / eye opener for those who feel their employee’s can never do their job right.




Nick:                  Welcome everybody, to Bar and Restaurant Breakthroughs podcast. This is episode number nine. Today, we have Jesiah Mauck on with us, who is an expert on people management. One thing we’re going to dive into here shortly is exactly what is people management and how does it help bar or restaurant owners succeed and make their business run more smoothly.

We’ll dive into that, but before we do that, why don’t you give us a little bit of your background and explain to us exactly what people management really means to you. Why is that so important to bar and restaurant owners to be successful in this business?

Jesiah:                  Sure, absolutely. It’s very, very important, and we’ll get into that in just a little bit. I have been in the restaurant industry for coming up on 20 years now. I started out as a busboy, bartended my way through college, and then decided to build a career in the hospitality industry. A big chunk of my career was actually spent with Darden Restaurants, helping build the Seasons 52 brand. Those years were very formative for me, for my leadership and management style.

Over the course of my career working for a couple of different companies, I worked my way up to multi-unit manager. And now, I leverage my experience to help independent restaurant owners achieve sustainable success. I started a restaurant consulting group called Greybar Solutions, and the goal is really to provide strategic management and operations solutions to small restaurants.

One of the big things that I focus on, like you said, is people management. That’s a big part of the strategic management part, so that’s one of the areas that I focus on. From my background, Bill Darden – he’s kind of famous for saying that people are his biggest competitive advantage.

I would add to that that they’re not just your biggest competitive advantage. They’re your biggest asset in general. They’re more important than your real estate. They’re more important than your buildings, your equipment, more important than anything, really.

Simon Sinek, who was a huge influence on me, talks a lot about how CEOs of Fortune 500 companies talk a lot about how important their employees are, but they don’t actually act on it. So what I do is help operators really act like they care about their people and that their people are important.

Nick:                  Yes, people want to feel appreciated, and they’ll work better for you.

Jesiah:                   In this day and age, and in this generation, for sure. And ironically, those types of organizations are the ones that are the most successful. Focusing on shareholder value is fantastic in the short term, but what’s really good for the long term is taking care of your people and focusing on them. That’s one of the things I do is teach operators how to create a people-focused culture within their organization. I want people to understand how challenging people management is, but how important it is. I want people to get excited about it, because it’s incredibly powerful. It’s an incredibly powerful tool when you deploy it effectively.

Nick:                  OK. Well, let me ask you this. Let’s just say I’m calling you for help right now. I run a restaurant or I run a bar. I don’t have things under control. My staff isn’t listening, and there’s a lot of chaos going on in the business. How would you start working with a bar or restaurant owner to really help them succeed to where their employees are really giving the best experience to their customers and they’re motivated and driven to work for the owner, because obviously the more excited they are about everything, the better the work, the better the work environment.

Jesiah:                  This is something that I’m really passionate about. To answer your question, I think really what it comes down to, at the very beginning at least, is building a culture. These types of organizations don’t just happen by chance. It takes a lot of work to build them. A lot of people have different names for these types of organizations where their employees are successful. Simon Sinek calls them people-focused organizations. Some people call them developmentally-dedicated organizations, DDOs.

I was listening to an interview with Grant Cardone and Adam Michaels where he was referring to them as ‘lighthouse employers.’ I thought that was a really cool metaphor for what we’re trying to do when we’re building this type of culture. I actually ended up writing an article about it and reaching out to him and talking to him about it.

So what is a lighthouse employer? What does it take build that culture where people are flocking to you instead of you going out there and chasing top talent, trying to recruit top talent and retain top talent? What does it take to make that happen?

I think I’ve narrowed it down to seven different aspects of what it takes to build the type of culture that you’re looking for that’s going to prevent those types of problems that you were talking about. So I think that is the most important aspect is make sure you have the correct culture, because that’s really the foundation of the problem that you just talked about.

Nick:                  How do you create that culture?

Jesiah:                  That’s what I want to talk about. I thought about it for an extended period of time. How do you become one of those organizations? How do you create that culture? Like I said, I think I’ve narrowed it down to seven things.

The first and most important thing is genuinely caring about people, especially your employees. It’s really got to be genuine. People can see right through a fake show of concern for their wellbeing or whatever. So what does that look like in real life? You want to exude positive body language. You want to be approachable, engage and interact with your employees on a regular basis, and not just about what they’re doing wrong. So genuinely care about your employees.

Number two is demonstrate a personal obsession with making them happy and fulfilled. That was something that I struggled with for an extended period of time, trying to figure out, is it really the employer’s responsibility to make sure that their employees are happy? Happiness is kind of an intangible thing, and very subjective. But at the end of the day, especially in this generation, people really want to work for an organization where they can leave work every day happy and with a sense of fulfillment. In fact, Simon Sinek thinks that it’s a basic human right. I don’t know if I’d necessarily go that far, but it’s definitely important if you want to create that type of culture where your employees really want to work there.

Number three is publicly commit to making them successful, because really, the best employers are those that make their employees successful simply because they work there. Think about Chef Thomas Keller at French Laundry. How many successful chefs has he churned out? Think about the power of that. And people want to work there just because of what they can do after they work there and the experience they get, the resources they have after the fact.

Another big one for me, number four, is mentor without expectation. That’s really huge. That’s the meat and potatoes of what we’re talking about. When we’re talking about building a culture, building a developmentally dedicated organization, one of the fundamentals is teaching something new every day to your employees. That’s really what it comes down to. It comes down to teaching. It comes down to mentoring. When you take the time to mentor your employees, you demonstrate a clear commitment to making them successful. So if there was one most important thing, that’s really what it comes down to is mentoring, coaching your employees.

Number five is celebrate small victories. I think that’s really, really important. I think it’s often overlooked in today’s culture, but it’s super important. Harvard Business Review did a study. They talked about the progress principle, and it’s basically the concept that when you celebrate the small wins, it has a very transformational effect on an employee. First of all, it affects the way that they feel. Secondly, it affects their long-term productivity. Because they feel better about themselves, they feel more engaged, and they feel happier about the impact they’re having on themselves and on the organization that they work for. So that cannot be overlooked.

And tied into that is recognizing and rewarding personal and professional growth, again, something that’s hugely overlooked in today’s business world. A lot of people talk about recognition programs. ZipRecruiter did a study not long ago where they talked to a bunch of different CEOs of organizations. I think it was 78 percent of them had a recognition and rewards program, but when they talked to the employees, only 58 percent of them knew anything about it. So there’s a big disconnect there between what we’re actually doing with these recognition programs. And at the end of the day, the point of the recognition program is to motivate the employee to maintain and improve their performance, and then secondarily to reinforce the types of behaviors that the company is looking for, that you’re looking for as a leader.

Nick:                  I think that’s important. I remember maybe five or six weeks ago that I gave one of our cooks a $100 dollar bill just because he’d been working his ass off. He does great work for us. I threw him $100 bucks, saying, “Hey, thanks. Good work. I really appreciate it.” I do that quite a bit with certain employees, certain people, throwing them $20, $30, $40 or $50 bucks here and there. But putting a program in place is something that I’ve been wanting to do. With as busy as I’ve been, I haven’t been able to put exactly that into place.

Sometimes we’ll run contests when we’re pre-selling tickets for certain events. We always do a bonus to somebody, whoever sells the most tickets. And I think this is a good starting point for somebody who wants to create a better culture or we’re talking people management. I think the incentive program, reward program, is something that any bar or restaurant owner can start implementing into their business.

So how would you start that? What would you suggest to a bar or restaurant owner to get started with a rewards program? What would they be looking at? How would they manage that? What should they give to inspire them to do a better job for the owner?

Jesiah:                  Sure. That’s a great question, and I’ll answer that in two parts. Number one, sometime it can be just as simple as saying thank you. It’s just acknowledging what someone has done, just to reinforce that positive behavior that you’re looking for. I forget who it was, but someone said, “Don’t always catch your employees doing things wrong. Catch them doing things right.” And I think that’s really powerful. If you catch them doing things right, it has the same effect as giving them a $50 dollar gift card or whatever the case may be.

Nick:                   I don’t want to cut you off, but I just want to tell one quick little story. I was that type of person before, a few years back, until my manager said something to me about the fact that I was pointing out the wrong things, and I wasn’t saying thank you enough. He even just came to me and said, “You know, Nick, you’re always pointing fingers and this and that. It would be nice to hear a thank you once in a while.”

It took a lot for him to say that to me, but when he said it to me, I sat back and I wasn’t upset. I thought about it and I said to myself, “You know what? I don’t say thank you enough, and I am always picking out the wrong things.” And every since that time, it’s made me think, how can I thank more people? How can I recognize it more and show that I do appreciate them? That makes a big difference.

Jesiah:                  Absolutely, and I think it’s a trap that we all fall into in leadership positions, because we are focused and we’re driven, and we’re constantly striving toward something. Sometimes we forget that some of our employees aren’t quite as driven as us, and so we’re nitpicking every little thing and trying to look for ways to improve. And we’ve got to remember that some people aren’t as driven as us, and that’s OK. We have to remember that we’ve got to acknowledge their successes and just give them a thank you.

The second piece to that is when you’re trying to put a rewards or recognition system in place, find out what’s motivate people, because what motivates Susie will not motivate Johnny. So find out some common themes or maybe circle back and do different reward programs for different people based on what motivates them, but don’t think that there’s just one comprehensive fix-all for all of your problems.

The other thing is that when it comes down to money or financial rewards, it doesn’t always have to be money. It can be simple little things, like I remember a time in my career when we used incentives like being able to pick your own schedule for the week for team members. You’d be surprised how effective that is. People really, really want that.

Nick:                  Some people want the busier shifts, right?

Jesiah:                  Exactly, or they want off on a weekend or something. Those are the kinds of things. It’s about finding out what motivates your team members and acting on that.

Nick:                  The best way to find that out is just to ask them, right?

Jesiah:                  Absolutely. Sit down and talk with your people. When you get to know them, it goes back to that whole engagement thing. When you sit down with your employees, you know what motivates them. And if you don’t already know what motivates them, then sit down and have a conversation with them. I guarantee you that they’ll appreciate it.

Nick:                  Definitely. And one thing that kind of ties into this, and something that I just did for the very first time three weeks ago – and this has to do with people management and also just something that all owners could do – is I sent out an email. I let everybody know a week before our monthly meeting that we have that I wanted – I created a quick little Google form, a short little survey I wanted them all to fill out and just tell me how they felt about each employee that we had. And I just wanted to find out the good things, bad things.

I told them, “Nobody is going to know who filled this out. Nobody is going to know what you said.” I also had them talk about me, my wife, and our managers, like how do you feel about them. And it was great just getting that feedback on how our employees view all the other employees, the managers, and the owners, because then you can look at that and know which employees you may need to work with. Because there was one key person where people were like, well, she could talk to her tables more and be a little more interactive.

But I think also getting that information from all your employees on everybody else and getting opinions could also help with just understanding your staff a little bit better. And also you, as an owner or manager, what do people really think about you? That will wake you up a little bit.

Jesiah:                  That’s huge. I commend you for doing that. That’s something that a lot of people don’t have the courage to do, and it’s really good to have. Most people don’t get to have that perspective on what other people think of them as a leader, and I think that’s some valuable insight there, for sure.

Nick:                  Because if people think I’m a bad owner or I’m not a good boss or I’m a bad leader, I want to know and I’m not going to get upset. Be honest.

Jesiah:                  For sure. And I big part of that, I think, is not just necessarily them thinking that you’re a bad person or a bad leader or whatever, but what could you do improve? I think that’s the type of question you need to ask, is what can we as an organization do to improve? What, as a leader, can I do to improve, to make you happier and more fulfilled? Or whatever the case may be – however you want to phrase.

Nick:                  Every meeting that we have, I always ask, “What can we do better to make your life easier, to make it more fun here?” And I think that’s a big takeaway that every bar or restaurant owner should be doing. I’ve got clients that don’t even have meetings every six months, and I’m like, you guys have got to have a meeting at least once a month, or at least every two months. Get everybody together and just talk. What are some things we could do to make things better, to make things work more functionally? How can we create better systems or training systems? It’s really important to do that.

Why don’t we get into the people management side, because I think that is probably one of the hardest things that I’ve seen working with clients, different bar and restaurant owners, is how to become a better leader, especially teaching your managers to kind of take on the role for you so that you can go take vacations and live life but have someone there like them overseeing everybody and making sure everybody’s happy and doing their job? How do you clone yourself?

Jesiah:                  That’s the trick, and that’s not something that’s easy to do. I’d say you get some really harsh realities when you leave your company or organization or office, whatever it is. The real measure of a leader is what happens when you’re not there. The question is how do we clone ourselves?

How do we teach someone to do what we are trying to do, or achieve the desired outcomes that we want, because at the end of the day, we don’t want to clone ourselves, right? If there were 100 Nicks running around in your organization, it would be a really crappy organization. If there were 100 Jesiahs running around, it would be crappy. The diversity and the difference between us are what make us great. Number one, it’s important to understand that.

Number two, it goes back to culture and making sure that your employees are motivated. Whether it’s your team members, your hourly team members, or your managers, it’s about motivating them in the proper way so that they understand what the desired behaviors are, and especially for your managers, what the desired outcomes are. I think constant communication is a huge part of that, and making sure that they’re actively involved in the culture that we talked about just a few minutes ago. I think those are hugely important to making them successful, and really, it comes down to communication.

This is another thing that I wanted to talk about. Know the performance problem areas. Know why there’s an issue. What is the reason why you’re having a performance issue, whether it’s a manager or an hourly team member? There are really only two options. Either they didn’t know or they didn’t care.

So it’s important to understand the reasons before you jump into a counseling session with those employees. Understand what the reason is. If it’s that they didn’t know, that’s one type of conversation, and that falls back on you for not communicating the desired outcomes or desired behaviors. If you’re talking about the fact that they didn’t care, then that’s a whole different conversation.

You might have an issue with your recruiting practices. I’m not sure why that person was there in the first place, but regardless, they’re here, so you need to invest the time, effort, and energy into properly motivating that employee, again, whether it’s an hourly team member or a manager. Once you’ve motivated them to care, you’ve got to make sure that they know how to do whatever you’re trying to get them to do. If they continue to not care, then maybe that’s a situation where it’s better for both parties if you just separate and go separate ways.

But really, I think to answer your question, it really comes down to communication and making sure that they understand – again, your employees or your managers – what are we working towards, understanding the vision or you as a leader. That’s crucial.

Nick:                  Before I kicked off the first three episodes of the podcast, I sent out a few emails to my email list just asking people, “Hey, what do you guys really want to hear about on the podcast?” I wanted to find out what the market wants to hear and how I could deliver value. One of the things that ties into what we’re talking about now and what you said earlier about how you create a way to get people to want to come work for you rather than you chasing people, and one of the things that a lot of people were talking about was they’re having troubles finding good staff.

So what are you seeing now? What can bar and restaurant owners do, or what strategies can they put in place, to find the best people, to attract them to want to come work for them? How do you go find these people? I’ve done a lot of stuff with Facebook ads because you can target people by age and everything, but what’s your strategy for finding good help, because that seems like a big problem right now in our industry?

Jesiah:                   Good question, for sure, and it really depends on the market that you’re in as well. That has a huge influence on it. But going back to what I was saying before, it really is all about culture. And remember, we’re playing a long game here. We’re not playing a short game. So put it out of your head. If you’re struggling for staff, it’s not going to happen for you in the next month. It’s probably not going to happen for you in the next six months. We’re playing a long game.

What you want to do is build a culture where people know in your community that you are the best place to work because you take care of your team members, you recognize and reward them, you engage with them, and you make it an enjoyable place to work. That is really how. There’s really no other good way to do it. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work, a lot of patience, a lot of effort, and you’re going to have turnover during the course of this. But after a year or two years, you’re going to be in a much better position.

People talk in the restaurant industry. When servers go out for their after-shift drink or whatever, they talk to the server across the street. If your employee is the one that’s out there saying, “Hey, that sucks that you had a crappy night at work. I had a great night at work. It wasn’t the best, but it was fantastic because I knew my leadership team was looking out for me. I knew that things would be taken care of, and so I was able to do the best work that I was capable of, because I knew I was going to be taken care of.” That gets talked about. It takes time, but eventually, you’ll get to a position where everyone knows you are the best place to work.

Nick:                   I like that. Before we wrap up, is there anything else that we left out that you think is really, really important for bar and restaurant owners to know or to start thinking about when it comes to people management and making sure you’ve got a kickass staff and leadership team that cares and wants to do all they can for you and for your customers?

Jesiah:                   Yes. There are three important takeaways here. People management is all about caring, coaching, and consistency. When you do all three of those things effectively, you’re going to be in a much better position. We could talk about it for hours and hours, what caring and consistency means, but those are the three fundamentals.

One thing we didn’t talk about was teaching the ‘why’ before the ‘how.’ Again, Simon Sinek talks a lot about knowing your ‘why.’ I think that’s super important and it’s overlooked a lot in the restaurant industry. If you tell Susie to go do this and you don’t talk to her about the ‘why,’ it’s a big disconnect there.

Nick:                  What is the ‘why’? I get what you’re saying, but just in case someone’s listening and they’re like, what do you mean? What the hell is the ‘why’?” What’s the ‘why’?

Jesiah:                  Thanks for bringing that up. What I’m talking about is different from your internal ‘why’. What I’m talking about is if you want Susie to focus more on guest satisfaction and you want her to change her behavior – do this instead of this – talk to her about why that’s important. Why are we doing that? Why are we sitting here having this conversation about how you could be more effective on guest satisfaction, how you can take care of your guests better? Talk to her about the ‘why.’ That’s the way our brains work. Once we understand the ‘why’ behind it, it’s much easier to retain the information that’s being communicated to us.

Nick:                  Right, and it will probably stand out more, and it makes sense. You want them to understand exactly why, because they don’t understand what might be important in the business.

Jesiah:                  And they’re not just robots. They have brains themselves and they need to think. And another aspect to that is we talk about practice. Anytime you’re talking about developing people, practice, practice, practice. I don’t care if you’re a teacher or a basketball coach; it all comes down to practice. And the thing that I’ve learned is it’s not just about practice, it’s about spaced learning, spaced repetition.

Let’s say you’re a piano teacher and you want to teach a student, and you want to get it all done as fast as possible. You’ve got five hours with them. Would you rather spend all five hours with them in one afternoon, or would you rather space out those hours over the course of five weeks? I think intuitively, we all know we’d want to space it out. The reason why is because that’s how our brains learn. We’re able to retain information much more effectively over the course of an extended period of time.

We’re also able to use the time in between those sessions to practice. So you end up with someone who is much more in the position that you want them to be in at the end of those five weeks. So spaced learning, spaced repetition, it takes time. So many people are looking for quick fixes in this world. None of this kind of stuff – especially when it comes to people, there’s not quick fixes.

Nick:                  Right. Awesome. Jesiah, if anybody wants to reach out to you, do you have a website? Do you have somewhere that people can go to get more information about you and if they want to maybe get some help, coaching, and consulting on the people management side of things and building a better company culture?

Jesiah:                  You can visit my website at or check out my Facebook page at Greybar Solutions.

Nick:                  Awesome. I appreciate it. We’ll put those in the show note links for anybody who is watching or listening to this on the podcast. Jesiah, great episode with a lot of value, thanks. We will see you guys on the next episode.


Nick Fosberg

Nick Fosberg is known as one of the highest paid, marketing and promotional consultants in the bar & restaurant industry and he owns 2 bar / restaurants in the Chicagoland area. He's famous for creating some of the highest grossing digital marketing promotions in the history of the bar & restaurant business..... without spending a penny on marketing. All done through e-mail & Facebook posts. 

Click here to get a free copy of my latest book.

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