Jeff Anon was 17 and working as a cook at his family’s restaurant when an order of eggs was returned because the customer felt they were undercooked. After the customer had sent them back three more times, Anon’s frustration boiled over.
“After the fourth time, I sent a whole egg out there with a book of matches and I said to cook it yourself,” Anon says. “My father scolded the crap out of me. He said, ‘Those people come every day, and they tell 10 of their friends, and that’s what builds business.’”
Anon wants his employees at Berryhill Baja Grill to avoid making the same mistake, and he emphasizes the importance of every customer. The founder, president and CEO of the Mexican restaurant chain has grown the business to 16 locations with 2007 gross sales totaling $22 million with about 250 employees.
Smart Business spoke with Anon about how to teach your employees the value of their jobs and of every penny the business makes.
Q. How do you get employees to follow your lead?
You have to have a vision. It’s my job to let that vision be known to all my employees and hopefully get them motivated and let them see it. One person can’t grow the business.
You’ve got to have a passion. If you don’t have the passion, no matter how good an actor you are, you can’t give that to your employees. Be passionate about your business. Live, eat and breathe it. I let my employees know what my dream is. If I hit mine, they are going to hit there’s also.
We have 16 locations. Every time I visit a location or have management meetings, we always start off with, ‘Tell me what’s going right.’ We set goals every year. There are weekly goals and monthly goals. They know what the goals are, and they know if we meet those goals, there is going to be a reward for everybody.
We’re not sitting there saying, ‘All right, you have to clock in at 9, and if you clock in 10 minutes late, you’re in trouble.’
It’s more of a laid-back atmosphere. We get involved with their families. We support their Little League teams. We go to their weddings.
It’s a big, extended family that we have.
Q. How do you get employees to value their jobs?
Simplify things. Most employees don’t have a concept of what a profit and loss statement is especially if they are younger. If you ring up a $2 item, they don’t have a concept of how that $2 is being spent to pay bills. It doesn’t equate to them.
One of the things I do is when I get a new employee, I’ll get two rolls of pennies, 100 pennies. I’ll lay them down on the floor. I’ll say, ‘Look, if you ring up a dollar, 100 pennies, how many do you think we end up with after we pay everything?’ You get answers from 60 to 40 pennies.
I just start taking pennies away. This amount of pennies pays for labor, this amount pays for food, insurance, here’s your rent, here’s some advertising. At the end of the day, if you end up with 10 pennies, you’re doing great. It shocks people.
It gives people an idea, when the money comes in, of how it’s being spent. Hopefully, they appreciate that this is a pennies business. They have to look out for food costs, portion controls, labor and things like that.
Q. How do you find people who can work with you?
I usually do not look for experience. I hire 100 percent for attitude.
I can always train somebody the way I want to train them if they have the right attitude and right outlook on life. Frankly, people with a lot of experience tend to be set in their ways, and it’s a little harder to break their mold than trying to teach somebody from scratch.
Some people just have a vibe. They look at you in the eye, they shake your hand, and they are easy to talk to. They have got a good outlook on life. They are upbeat.
A lot of people, they’ve eaten in our restaurants. I’ll say, ‘Tell me what you like and what you don’t like about the restaurant.’ In about five minutes, you have an idea of whether they have the attitude that you’re looking for.
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be considerate of other people. If you are going to be a leader, you are always going to have failures. If you are considerate to people around you, when you fail, they are going to be there to pick you up.
If you are a jerk, not only are they not going to be there to pick you up, but they are probably going to step on your face when you are down.
It is a lot of people that have to work together. Unless you have support from them, you are never going to succeed.
HOW TO REACH: Berryhill Baja Grill, (713) 850-7949 or www.berryhillbajagrill.com