Take This Test to Separate Overachievers from Underperformers

Find your next rockstar staff member

Evaluating staff for promotions and the raises that come with them can happen anytime, but as 2017 comes to a close, the matter is often more top of mind.

Promoting employees can be a win-win, driving up morale and boosting retention. But determining who’s deserving of advancement is trickier. Take this quiz to help gauge who’s ready to take that next step and who should stay where they are.

1. During downtime on a shift, you’ll find this employee…
A. Constantly monitoring Snapchat, texting and incessantly gabbing about plans for their day off.
B. Doing the work you have to remind others to do, like food prep or checking restrooms.
C. Proactively helping generate lasting improvements, like giving the coffee station a much-needed reorganization.

2. How do fellow staffers respond to this employee?
A. Others, especially new hires, gravitate to the individual for advice on how to perform certain tasks.
B. Benignly.
C. They’re clearly well-liked and respected by their peers.

3. When a co-worker is lost or in the weeds, this employee will…
A. Keep their head down and focus on their own job.
B. Hop onto another station to lend a hand.
C. Assist during service, then arrive early the next day to help their co-worker find their way.

4. Chaos erupts. The worker responds by…
A. Calmly seeking you out and cluing you into what’s going on.
B. Totally freaking out and running to you in a panic, thus drawing unneeded attention from customers.
C. Discreetly pulling you aside, filling you in and suggesting solutions.

5. After you invite a guest speaker for an optional pre-shift talk, this employee will…
A. Listen intently and jot down notes.
B. Ask thoughtful questions, and afterward, thank you for bringing them in.
C. Skip it, claiming you didn’t make the event “mandatory.”

6. What happens during your quarterly one-on-one sessions with this employee?
A. No time is wasted talking about advancement; the desire to move up has already been shown.
B. They say they’re content in their current position.
C. They ask what it will take to move to the next level.

7. What happens when this employee makes a mistake?
A. Excuses abound; it’s everyone else’s fault.
B. They own up to it and apologize.
C. They seek you out to talk and ask how to better handle the situation next time.


1. A-0 points, B-2 points, C-3 points
2. A-3 points, B-1 point, C-2 points
3. A-1 point, B-2 points, C-3 points
4. A-2 points, B-0 points, C-3 points
5. A-2 points, B-3 points, C-0 points
6. A-3 points B-1 point, C-2 points
7. A-0 points, B-1 point, C-3 points

4-8 points
Based on their behavior and reactions to stress, these employees aren’t ready to move up. “If (their) inclination when presented with a challenge is to say, ‘Oh there’s a problem,’ and not offer a thoughtful and achievable solution, they may not be ready for any kind of management position,” says Erin Phillips, senior director of operations for Boka Restaurant Group, which operates 17 restaurant concepts in Chicago, including Momotaro and GT Prime. The same goes for taking criticism or owning mistakes. And remember: Some employees are happy to stay in their current position.

9-15 points
Due to your mentorship, this employee is showing signs that they could be ready for a promotion down the line. “I think a lot more about those soft skills and personality than technical skills that can be taught,” Phillips says. “I can teach financial acumen, I can teach them about wine, I can teach them knife skills, but in the heat of the moment, if they’re not composed, they’re probably not going to be a good leader.” 

Just because someone isn’t a textbook overachiever or vocal about moving up, doesn’t mean the intent isn’t there. “Maybe they might not come out and say it, but they’ll really try hard to impress you,” says Johnny Livanos, general manager of Ousia in New York City. “Once I see that sort of curiosity and engagement, that shows me they’re willing to learn and want to grow.”

16-21 points
Those who show dedication, a willingness to learn and an ability to accept criticism deserve a promotion. A worker who spends personal time and resources to make the restaurant better “shows how much they really care because they understand the bigger picture,” Livanos says. Whether or not they’re currently in a leadership position, they’re thinking like a leader. “People think their job is to put out fires. Advanced thinkers proactively do things that prevent fires from happening altogether,” say Robert LeBlanc, founder of LeBlanc + Smith, the New Orleans-based group operating SylvainMeauxbarBarrel Proof and Cavan.

Lisa Arnett is a Chicago-based freelance writer who’s been covering food and the hospitality industry for more than 15 years.