Interview Questions for Training Vendors
July 01, 2018 | 2064 Views
When searching for vendors to provide training programs and materials, most hospitality executives will ask standard questions about cost, content customization, and implementation timelines, all of which are needed to make an informed decision. I will follow this same path, but because the vetting process for external content can be a lot like a job interview, I’ll also include the same types of questions I would ask of a cook, cashier, or manager candidate.
- “What work experience do you have in this industry?” One of the first things I like to know is if any members of the vendor’s team have worked in a restaurant, and if so, doing what and for how long. Answering negatively isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but I find that those with a restaurant background have a stronger understanding of the day-to-day challenges of our workplaces and can draw upon this background to create more engaging/relatable offerings that deliver better results.
- “What are your goals?” I have two reasons for asking this one: 1) I want to make sure that the vendor’s mission and vision are in sync with those of my company, as I find this alignment to be essential for a successful partnership, and 2) I want to know what they are working on for the future. They may have a great product today, but things are going to change for restaurants (it’s never-ending!), and I’m interested in where they are headed in the future.
- “Can you provide a list of references?” This question is to ascertain which other restaurants the vendor has partnered so that I can check 1) if the buyers felt their goals were met after purchasing the product, 2) whether the company oversold its abilities to deliver on its promises, and 3) if the business relationship changed after the provider was selected.
- “What would you like to know about our company?” Vendors who truly want my business should respond by asking questions to ensure they understand what Ivar’s specific needs are. I’d be extremely wary of any provider who assumes our performance gaps are like every other restaurant and doesn’t do their due diligence on our current situation.
- “Are they wowing me?” My final question is one I ask of myself. Like candidates in an interview, this vetting process is where providers are most likely putting forth their best efforts to impress me, and I know it’s probably not going to get better once I hire them. If I don’t feel like they’re bringing their A-game and are ready, willing, and able to take our restaurants to the next level, then there’s no reason to schedule follow-up meetings.
The training vendors you select shouldn’t be thought of simply as external organizations with loose ties to your company. They’re integral partners who can elevate overall performance, and just like when searching for the best employees to take care of your guests, you need to take the time to ask all the necessary questions and make sure they’ll be the right fit.
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Great topic and an excellent approach, Patrick! As the founder of a company that develops custom training programs for restaurants, I'd love to see more of these kinds of questions from our prospects. It would help us both decide if this partnership is a true fit and move beyond, "Can you send me samples?" I tend to touch on all these topics during our discussions because we generally partner on complex, long-term initiatives, and these questions start building the foundation of a working relationship that is much more likely to result in success for both of us. Thank you for sharing!
Matt Nelson, CEO Modern Training and Author, The Renegade Cook
Thank you, John and Matt, for your comments! I appreciate you reading this article and adding your own thoughts!
John Kidwell, FMP:
Jul 03, 2018 at 08:58 AM
Good information and a good approach to the vendor selection process. I always had one "higher level" question that I would pose, since there was always a cost, of varying degree, associated with the product or service. My question, "From your experience with other companies you've partnered with, what do you typically see as the return on investment (ROI) and how did you measure it?" True partner-vendors don't blink an eye and can talk of these results. If you get a wide-eyed stare, it usually indicates a vendor simply interested in selling their product/service, not one truly interested in helping you to invest in your company's training success.