When board game café Chance & Counters opened in 2016, it received an influx of messages from people who were keen to work there. But finding staff who have both a passion for the industry and the necessary customer-facing skills can be a challenge.
It’s not hard to see why staff are so integral to the success of Chance & Counters. The original Bristol site is booked up weeks in advance, with Friday and Saturday night spots particularly coveted.
There’s a handful of people to take reservations, welcome and seat customers, allocate board games, pour drinks, serve food and tackle unexpected issues – from broken bathrooms to missing game pieces.
The 60-seat café could easily feel hectic, but a hiring strategy that balances passion and practicality has proved to be a winning formula.
Prioritise customer engagement
When customers arrive at Chance & Counters, “games gurus” are on hand to help people choose the right game for them. There’s as little pressure on the customer as possible – gurus will ask what sort of game customers are in the mood for, then factor in considerations like the size of the group and their levels of engagement.
Within minutes, a small selection of games are brought over and the guru will explain how each game is played until one is picked.
For staff to explain an unfamiliar or complicated topic, it requires good communication skills and the ability to engage people from the start. At Chance & Counters, the team hone in on this ability to pick up on signals and recognise the requirements of different types of customers.
“Personality is key. We look for people that can talk passionately and engagingly, without getting into the nitty-gritty straight away,” co-founder Steve Cownie explained. “You don’t want someone to dive straight into this extensive history about how the game is set in the land of Ancient Greece.”
Role-play scenarios in job interviews
During job interviews, Steve and co-founder Luke Neal simulate difficult situations to see how each candidate would react.
“In one scenario, we’re four pissed lads who’ve just come from Walkabout [a pub chain]. We don’t really like board games, but this place has been recommended to us. What do you pull off the shelf? This gives us an insight into what their board game knowledge and instincts are like,” Steve said.
“When they choose a board game for us, we’ll tell them we don’t like it. We’ll see how people react to someone cutting you off mid-flow.”
An alternative scenario is the first date couple, where candidates are challenged to choose a board game that will encourage interaction and won’t require too much thought. Another is the “lovey-dovey” couple where the game acts as a sideshow since they’re mostly there for quality time.
To provide specific examples of situations staff could come up against, it’s useful for founders to have some experience in each area of the business. At Chance & Counters, each founder has worked as a games guru and has first-hand knowledge of what’s required from the role.
Be clear about your requirements
It’s always important to make sure candidates understand the less glamorous side of a job too. There’s a tendency to romanticise working in an industry you’re already a fan of, so being thorough early on can ensure businesses hire candidates who are fully prepared for the role.
“It’s good if they’ve got some experience with the realities and techniques of hospitality. You might like board games, but you’ll also be cleaning dirty toilets and mopping floors. It can test your willingness to work in a hospitality environment. We look for people who understand it’s not all fun and games – literally,” Steve said.