Hiring And Training The Best Team in America

with Andy Chabot, SVP of F&B at Blackberry Farm

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We’re continuing our mini-series on how Blackberry Farm became #1 in the US - today, focusing on their approach to people and building their teams.


The “funnel” offers a roadmap for understanding a guest's journey from dreaming about travel to booking a stay at your hotel. It is broken down into four key stages: Discovery, Planning, Booking, and the Guest Experience. Learn how this framework can guide you in effectively attracting, engaging, and delighting guests at each stage.

How We Hire & Train The #1 Team in America

Blackberry Farm SVP of F&B, Andy Chabot

Blackberry Farm, a luxury resort in Tennessee, was recently awarded "Best Hotel for Food and Drink in the U.S." by Food & Wine Magazine. The property is renowned for outstanding hospitality and culinary excellence, as we learned about yesterday.

Today continues our mini-series on how they run their business with Blackberry Farm’s SVP of F&B, Andy Chabot. You can listen to us here on the podcast, and I’ve summarized some of my top takeaways below.

Casting a Wide Net to Find the Right People

Blackberry Farm is laser-focused on hiring genuinely nice people, regardless of their experience. They do this by “casting a wide net” to seek out potential team members through everything from career fairs at culinary and hospitality schools to local hiring events to food and wine events.

We really want to hire good people. That seems so obvious, but I don't think that's always the first thing [others] are looking for.

Takeaway: Focus on hiring individuals with the right attitude and hospitality mindset over specific skills - as technical skills can be trained.

Put this in action:

  1. Participate in a wide range of events to recruit the right people - from local community events to specialized career fairs.

  2. Develop partnerships with local schools to build a consistent talent pipeline.

  3. Prioritize applicants to your open roles who demonstrate strong interpersonal skills and a genuine passion for hospitality.

Overcoming Misconceptions

Andy addressed a misconception that Blackberry Farm is inaccessible as a career option.

I've heard from people is that, oh, I can never work there. It's too fancy, or I don't have those skills. I would address that by saying, we are looking for good people. We will train technical skills.

Takeaway: Break down perceived barriers by emphasizing the importance of personal qualities over pre-existing skills or experience.

Put this in action:

  1. Highlight success stories of current employees who started with little experience.

  2. Emphasize your supportive and inclusive culture during the recruitment process.

  3. Provide clear information on the training and development opportunities that are available.

  4. Encourage potential candidates to apply and have a conversation, regardless of their background.

What Training Looks Like at Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm has a tiered training program that allows employees to progress toward their career goals.

We created a tiered program where there are knowledge and skill sets you have to have before moving up to the next tier and also a timeline in each position.

Takeaway: A structured, tiered training program can help employees develop a broad skill set and ensure consistent service quality.

Put this in action:

  1. Develop a comprehensive training program that outlines clear skill sets and knowledge requirements for each level.

  2. Allow your team members to progress through the tiers at their own pace.

  3. Ensure that training includes both technical skills and interpersonal skills development.

  4. Regularly review and update the training program to keep it relevant and effective.

Creating Career Options for Everyone

Recognizing that not all employees want bigger job titles or more responsibility, Blackberry Farm offers lateral movements and opportunities to shift roles across different departments.

The thing I'm seeing now is that not everyone wants to move up. They want to move around more.

Takeaway: Offer horizontal career growth opportunities to cater to employees’ career aspirations and personal circumstances - whatever those may be.

Put this in action:

  1. Create pathways for lateral career moves across different departments.

  2. Regularly engage with your team members to understand their career goals and preferences.

  3. Develop flexible job roles that accommodate different schedules and life situations.

  4. Provide ongoing support and training for employees seeking to expand their skill sets in various areas.

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Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you here tomorrow.


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