How to employ a manager in HoReCa without losing your mind? – conclusions to be drawn from Store and Shift Manager recruitment for MAX Premium Burgers

How to employ a manager in HoReCa without losing your mind? – conclusions to be drawn from Store and Shift Manager recruitment for MAX Premium Burgers

When commencing cooperation with a new client, I usually experience a lot of excitement connected with new challenges that an interesting new recruitment processes performed for a company, the organizational culture of which I am only becoming familiar with, present to us. It gets even more interesting when the client hails from a market that I have never previously had anything to do with. This was the case with MAX Premium Burgers, an incredibly dynamic organization from the food sector. Thanks to collaboration with MAX, the expression “speed of work” has taken on an entirely new meaning for me.

Eco Burger

MAX is the oldest fast food chain in Sweden. This year it celebrated its 50th birthday and it boasts one hundred restaurants on the local market, with further outlets in Norway, Denmark, and Egypt. In Sweden, burgers served by MAX have been winning taste tests from the beginning of the company’s existence. Starting from 2015, when an independent customer satisfaction survey was carried out for the first time, Swedes have consistently found MAX’s burgers the most tasty – this way the brand defeats all larger international brands in tests. In 2017 MAX won in the blind taste test conducted in Wroclaw by Kantar Millward Brown, an independent polling agency. The test shows that the flavor of Frisco, Max’s flagship burger, is chosen by as many as 59% respondents. This way the company took the lead before two burgers served by international chains: McDonald’s Big Mac and Burger King’s Whopper.

Comparing MAX to McDonald’s or Burger King would be very simple. A similar business model, a similar leading product – a burger. Yet, MAX is different from its competitors. It is an ecological company; more on that topic can be read in an interview which Richard Bergfors, MAX’s CEO, gave to Forbes ( In the interview, Richard Bergfors speaks ‘about a campaign which may give the whole world a reason to celebrate’ – the world’s first climate-positive burgers. The ‘Climate-Positive Burgers’ campaign emphasizes that each bite of MAX burgers will help in combating climate changes. The company removes carbon dioxide already emitted into the atmosphere by planting trees which absorb more carbon than the total of emissions caused by burger production, this way compensating for at least 110% of the CO2 emissions from the entire production process. Moreover, as the first fast food chain in the world, MAX introduced marking informing on the environmental impact of its products. Another important aspect setting the company apart from the competitors comes as the Green Menu, i.e. vegetarian and vegan products (7 meat-free products) which have proved to be a success on the Polish market. MAX’s target, to be achieved by 2022, is for every second burger sold by the chain to be a version different than one with red meat.

Expansion in Poland

In 2016, the company decided to expand to European markets, choosing Poland as the first market  to be targeted. The chain currently gives work to 6,000 employees in 130 restaurants. This was also when I first heard about MAX, receiving an opportunity to support the company in entering the Polish market by recruiting candidates for managerial positions in successively opening outlets.

MAX Premium Burgers plans for development in Poland have been impressive from the very start. The company plans to open up to two hundred of its own and franchised restaurants within ten years, already now causing quite a stir in the HoReCa sector. The first restaurant was launched last year in Wroclaw, another was opened two months ago in Gdansk, and an outlet in Warsaw is scheduled to open this year. Further locations are currently being negotiated.

Observing the HoReCa Market

We commenced working for MAX by employing three Store Managers (Kierowników Restauracji) who left for an eight-month training session to Sweden. MAX focused on experienced and ambitious people, capable of taking initiative in action, possessing skills in restaurant management and motivating the team, in the HoReCa sector, unfortunately, subject to substantial rotation.

Carrying out the research, we reached candidates hailing both from chain restaurants and single owner-held enterprises. Already after just the first several weeks, we became aware of the differences between candidates from single owner restaurants and those from chains. Fast food chains handle a substantially higher number of customers, the employee’s wages are also different. Restaurant owners pay better, tips from customers also factor in. In turn, chains offer stability which for candidates is connected to an employment contract, a lower, but timely salary, a well-structured bonus system and benefit procedures which prove helpful in crisis situations. Quid pro quo. A substantial number of candidates treats employment in the HoReCa sector as a transitional period, however a decisive majority of workers in this industry becomes dependent on its characteristic fast pace, quickly changing nature and number of challenges, in principle to be faced on a daily basis.

It Is Not a Piece of Cake

Work in the food industry is characterized by high dynamics. Simply speaking – the work is very hard. Compared against other sectors – not necessarily extremely well-paid. Some leave the industry after a few years, trying their hand in other market sectors. A majority of them, however, do return quite quickly, failing to find the sufficiently high level of adrenaline in their new environments.

We successfully assisted MAX Premium Burgers in completing the managerial team for restaurants in Wroclaw and Gdansk. We are currently working on Silesia and Warsaw, searching for Shift Managers for the company in these locations. However, these are some of the most difficult recruitment challenges we have yet had to face. This is because we are touching upon the candidate market which we have no previous experience with, due to the fact that we mostly engage in projects on the upper management level. Everything our professional colleagues recruiting for specialist positions were telling us about has now become our share, too. Hats off to those who deal with this type of recruitment on a daily basis. It is no piece of cake.

I would like to conclude this feature with a success formula containing tips such as – how to employ a candidate for the HoReCa industry without losing your mind? Yet, I think that the most important tip I can give is: draw upon the high level of adrenalin supplied by recruitment of this type and work at the speed characteristic for the sector. To find out what this looks like in practice, let me invite you to one of MAX Premium Burgers restaurants. Just watch the employees at work and everything becomes clear.

Monika Ciesielska
President at IMSA Search Global Partners. An experienced consultant in the recruitment of the management staff, including board members, and a leader of the recruiting team in the IT/Tech area. Enthusiast of digital transformation of HR processes. Podcaster at "Skrzydlaty HR" and "Top Leaders Club".
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