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On the House PREMIERE: The Hiring Game

In our constant quest to unveil the inner workings of the food and bev industry, today we roll out On the House, a regular weekly column written by the owners and operators of the city's best establishments. We're extremely pleased to welcome Bin 8945 owner David Haskell to the table. He'll be your resident proprietor until further notice. This is the first of a two parter.

When you open a restaurant, there are certain inevitable steps to take. You find a location. You spend more money than you thought to build the restaurant. You go through a bureaucratic jungle of permits, county health inspections, city regulations, Alcohol Control Board rules. You get a PR firm. Then it's time for one of the most fun and challenging things we do: hire a staff. Hiring a staff is a new beginning. It’s when we see the best in someone. It’s the one time a restaurateur is not a cynic. (And believe me, after about five years, you become a huge cynic.) But it's not easy. I have one person from our original crew when we opened 11 months ago, for both the front and back of the house.

I don’t even look at resumes anymore, especially in LA. Most are lies. I’ve seen resumes where people said they worked at the same restaurant as me while I was there, and we never met. I learned really quickly that a restaurant resume is like the Zagat Guide: use it for Name and phone number, but don’t trust the information. So I make every person sign a release that says they will “stage” for two days.

In the restaurant world, staging is working and watching for free. It's when we can watch them and they can watch us. I want new hires to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of my restaurant. I’m not always nice, I yell, and I'm demanding. I say this in the interview, but to see it in service is reality. During the trial run, I also watch them. I want to see if they jump in and help. I have them dine on the food, the best way to teach the menu. Every person should eat in my restaurant before they work in it. I never got to do that myself.

When someone stages in the back of the house, I don’t even say hi. I want to see if they'll introduce themselves and have the confidence to approach me, the owner. If they don’t, I'll approach them at the end of the night and say hi. I also know that they probably won't make it through the night.

Stay tuned for Part II on Monday: Hiring is fun. Firing, not so much.