Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
Charlotte, North Carolina
Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) certification; Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” —Theodore Roosevelt
Kevin Rufty has been in the food service industry for 12 years. About eight years ago, he became a bartender—and an accidental trainer shortly thereafter. Since then, he has progressed to an L&D manager role. Currently, he is responsible for identifying and addressing training needs in Firebirds Wood Fired Grill while also increasing guest satisfaction. He acts as the project manager for the company’s New Restaurant Opening program, leading a corporate training team of 13 trainers, along with supporting managers in training.
Can you talk briefly about the New Restaurant Opening program?
Opening new restaurants and growing the brand are two of the most important things a restaurant does. Firebirds is a growing organization; we have 51 restaurants, with more planned for 2020 and beyond. I act as the project manager and liaise between multiple departments and stakeholders to ensure our projects are delivered on time and within budget and create the best learning experience for new team members. Since I’ve been with the organization, we’ve completely redesigned team member training to make it more learner-focused and interactive.
What’s your approach to training managers?
One key to any successful restaurant is a stable, quality management team, which means that managers are not only proficient at their functions and work well together to achieve results but are also—more importantly—great people leaders. Our management training program consists of 10 weeks of training. We train all managers in the front and back of house to be well-rounded and able to work different roles if needed. We utilize a blended approach that includes e-learning courses, on-the-job training, weekly calls and mentorship from me, and a testing and validation process to ensure the knowledge is retained.
What recommendations do you have for trainers?
A lot of L&D roles require influence without authority. If there is one auxiliary skill that trainers need to have, it’s that one. It starts with building relationships and winning people to your way of thinking. I recommend that every L&D professional read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
I’ve found that knowledge accumulation means nothing if people can’t see and feel your passion around what you’re training. An easy way to lose the buy-in and interest of your audience is trying to shower them with your knowledge and prove to them you know what you’re talking about. Show them how much it means to you that they are successful.