Archive for the ‘Hospitality Leadership’ Category

You Might Be a Restaurant Epic Failure If…

Friday, October 5th, 2012

With all due respect to the comedy of Jeff Foxworthy and his classic riffs on “You might be a redneck if…”, I’m helping myself to a new theme that is a little closer to home –

You might be a restaurant epic failure if… (I’ve personally experienced all of these epic failures in the past 6 months.)

  • Lights or letters in your outside signage are broken for weeks on end
  • Without speaking a word of greeting, your host turns heel, grabs menus, proceeds across the room and exasperatingly gesticulates for the guests to “get-a-move-on-it”
  • You serve any “food” item that rests on a coagulating pool of iridescent orange grease
  • The servers use oven mitts instead of chargers to deliver hot plates, and the mitts look like they have just come from a farm and were used during delivery of breeched calves
  • You commence  uninterrupted power vacuuming of the entire dining area at 6PM oblivious to the dining guests outright rejection of the undertaking
  • Your “seasonal” Christmas decorations are up in July and/or your Fourth of July decorations are up in December
  • You undermine parental responsibilities by pushing soda pop sales on children who are clearly satisfied with water or milk
  • Your uniforms indicate in any way, shape or form that the servers are prepared to clean a carwash or change engine oil
  • When hope is fading for distraught parents who are trying to survive a toddler semi-meltdown and who inquire if you have some crackers to stem the tide – you say “Sure, but I’ll have ta charge ya…”
  • Your training is so thorough that when an item is ordered off your printed menu the server’s response is to throw a sideways glance at the guest, snap their gum and challenge back with a “We have that…?”
  • Your manager’s “back up” of the service staff includes tossing a stack of napkins toward the six year old at a table with four adults to meet the simple request of a few more
  • You have more unbussed tables than you have tables
  • It seems oddly alien, foreign and weird in your culture to do a table/guest check-back
  • You would rather have an impacted molar pulled out with rusty pliers by a tweeker than say “thank you” to your customers
  • Your bathroom looks or smells like the apocalypse
  • The knowledge you possess with regard to guest expectations/satisfaction could be contained within a thimble
  • Your parking lot is empty when your competitor’s is full

Inside Scoop – Being Wrong the Right Way

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

And now…I will shed some light on a not so little secret of organizational life. There are some over-eager beavers who deftly scramble up the political and positional ladder seemingly salivating at the prospect of power. Their mastery of corporate gamesman/woman-ship does not guarantee that they are the “sharpest knives in the drawer.” All too often, my experience has shown that if you were to strip away their job title, many lack the influence or substance for making critical decisions.

Ironically, at times it is the awkward foot-draggers who are more capable of making good decisions, but are unwilling to be pressured into making them and don’t want to be held accountable. This leads me to an important point: Lots of smart and entirely good people have discovered they don’t have what it takes to manage things or lead others.

Leadagers who possess good business judgment, a strong sense of direction, and a willingness to accept the conditions of urgency and accountability without a seedy, overcoat-flashing of their fundamental character flaws are the ideal package. Companies spend a lot of money trying to nurture or “home grow” these traits. Unfortunately, this can be an elusive combination of qualities. Conversely, a lack of motivation, butt-headedness, and proven idiocy lead to professional euthanasia every time. (Trust me on this; the latter traits are pretty darn common.)

So let’s face it. You will have to make many decisions without the experience or the information you may desperately think you need, and inevitably, you will decide incorrectly. You will be wrong, and hopefully, someone will allow you to learn from your mistakes. It might be timing, support from the powers that be, or just luck that saves your job.

Early in your career, one of the most important things to learn is how to be wrong in the right way.

Being wrong the right way looks like this:

  • You made what you thought were sound decisions, striving not to be irresponsible, ignorant, or prejudicial.
  • You can explain your thought process with respect to how you came to the decision in a logical manner.
  • Your values were aligned with the organization’s values.
  • You have shown good judgment on previous occasions.
  • You display a willingness to learn from your mistakes.

If you did all the above, you should come out okay (assuming you didn’t burn the place to the ground).

All new leadagers should be allowed some time to practice alternating the gas, clutch, and brake pedals of managementship (i.e., multitasking and managing/weighing multiple—and sometimes conflicting—priorities [chewing gum and running with scissors for all of you non-driving types]). The fact is most managers are playing the standard game of “catch up” in a starkly maniacal fashion.

I strongly urge you to grow away from being the hapless prey-of-the-day—as events pounce on you—and strive to get ahead of events by becoming a predator of pro-activity, turning activities into accomplishments and churning problems into opportunities.


Check Yourself | The Top 5 Bad Things You Can Avoid by Chase LeBlanc

Friday, January 6th, 2012
November/December 2011

Chase LeBlanc “Expect the best but prepare for the worst” is a well worn but useful adage for our industry. The following are my top five bad things that can be avoided with proper preparation, priorities, and training/development.

  • Food-borne illness. A prep cook changed his baby’s diaper at home just prior to his shift. He was running late, forgot to wash his hands, and as soon as he got to work, jumped right into prepping lettuce for salads. That one unsanitary act (1) made about 20 people sick, (2) led the local TV newscast after the Super Bowl, (3) cut property sales in half by the next day, and (4) left the survival of the business touch-and-go for about 18 months. Boom, just like that! In our business, you must become a food safety fanatic.
  • Liquor license suspension or revocation. A bartender hoping to impress an attractive member of the opposite sex slides the “customer” a few drinks without checking his or her ID. Just so happens that the customer is an underage/undercover operative, and it is a sting operation. Boom, just like that! It’s a citation for the bartender with possible fines and a violation of the liquor licensing laws, unleashing a torrent of hassles. You must set a serious tone among all employees; the service of licensed beverages is a privilege and a heavy responsibility. Do not treat it lightly or allow others to do so. One misstep can put the property permanently out of the spirits business.
  • Robbery with injury. A friend of mine took a new job as a closing manager. The first week on the job, he walked out to the dimly lit parking lot after buttoning things up and was met by a man with a gun who marched him back inside. Boom, just like that! They spent many scary minutes together as my friend fumbled the safe dial before giving over the money and getting a crack on the head in return. No amount of money is worth someone getting hurt. Do all the things you can do to deter a criminal act, such as brilliant parking lot lights, strict back door entry procedures, frequent lock changes, daily bank deposits, only opening the safe when the office door is closed, secure smoke break areas (if any exist), video surveillance, and consistent diligence.
  • Accidents. An elderly guest slipped, fell, and broke her hip on a wet bathroom floor. A cook slices off a fingertip on an unguarded kitchen fan. Boom, just like that! If a guest or team member is ever at risk of injury, you must fix or repair the problem immediately. A negligence lawsuit (translation: your group can lose big money) originates from a problem that you knew about, or even should have known about but chose to ignore or deny. Push for nonslip footwear, heavy-lifting back supports, etc. From a business culture perspective, constantly build, reinforce, and reward a safe, accident-free mindset.
  • Harassment. I have had friends who were too old, new, wide, light, dark, etc.—and have suffered through the impossible difficulties of workplace harassment. The ideal workplace culture should be all for one and one for all with diversity viewed as an immense plus and an opportunity for new knowledge, rather than a wall between “us” and “them.” Your team or tribe cannot tolerate anyone being harassed because of his or her gender, sexual orientation, religion, mental/physical challenges, age, and so forth. If you ever find yourself challenged by doing the right things when it comes to others at work, you could start by changing your point of view. View all people by our sameness from the inside out, not the apparent differences from the outside in. We all bleed red; we all breathe the same air; we all roll on the same earth. Or, you could just pause for a moment and reflect on this: Would I want my girlfriend, wife, mother, daughter, son, brother, father, or boyfriend to have to take this smack I’m dishing out?

The unexpected can happen anywhere, at any time. Proper preparation, priorities and training won’t stop all the bad things from happening, but proactive actions almost always lead to better results than reactive actions do.

Leadership: @ or 4 | Are You and Your Team Working Hard at Being Both?

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

“Low-down, dirty, good for nuthin…”

I still remember the first time I heard my Grandfather deliver his ultimate displeasure with another human being.  It was his considered opinion that you could be “good at” something and still be “good for nothing.”  As he saw it there were people who were darn fine farmers, welders, mechanics, truck drivers, hunters, and so on, but if your positive-character flag wasn’t flying high, he’d keep his distance.

When it comes right down to it, leadership is influence. Yes, most organizations hold high the tangible metric “results” of the system/process/push and pull, but when it comes to people, the influencers at every level are the true leaders.

For generations there have been debates about the concise definition of leadership. The truth is, it depends. Leadership definitions are dependent on the team, situation, fate, timing, and most certainly upon the width or height of your travails. Additionally, it depends if you are speaking of leadership in the arena of business, military, science, religion or politics. And, it depends on whether you’re seeking a descriptor of leaders who are edgy or plain-Jane, powerful or powerless, figureheads or headless figures.

You can spend a lifetime learning a skill(s) that will earn you more money, and that is notable. You can spend a minute or two on a dark path and ruin a lifetime of goodwill, and that too is notable. In the midst of those who view the world as clear-cut, black or white, good or evil – there exists some grey areas.

In this blurry arena of grey is where true leaders dwell. There are realities that challenge best-hatched plans, self control, vision and values; situations where you face hard choices, tough luck and tough decisions. In these circumstances it is better to be good at something and good for something, as it has been shown time and again that working for the greater good is the most sustaining, gratifying, and dare we say, fulfilling. Perhaps simply it is best described as the “greater of the goods.” During your next leadership performance assessment (on yourself or others), stop for a moment and ponder – @ and 4 – are you and your team working hard at being both?

 It is — and has always been — the right leadership flag to fly.

Better By Design

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

When I started out in our industry nearly 30 years ago, an “event” was understood by everyone to be the opening of a new store or property. As time went along, a new definition for an “event” came to the fore in which the entirety of a guest visit to your operation became something to design with a sharp eye toward the “enhancing the experience.”

In the mind’s eye of your guests, an “event” may still be a wedding, anniversary, birthday or celebration of a child’s rite of passage, but for operators the daily pressure of creating a lasting memory of differentiation at each visit through a strong value proposition, seamless hospitality, ease of interface, or authentic-ness is monumental.

This brings me to Las Vegas, where last week had a chance to use my “guest-eyes” over a four day period. In that city of iridescence, as I watched all players compete to over-stimulate their guests, it becomes obvious that they have brought the definition of an “event” down to the level of menu offerings. At every ordering opportunity the biggest, freshest, zaniest, or most unusual is available and will smack you right between your eyes/lips upon arrival. Yes, in most cases you have to pay a premium for this experience extraordinaire and it would not “go over” everywhere, but it is difficult to deny the “bang” that well crafted design can bring to a menu item. This, of course, is merely a reflection of a significant trend in business where outstanding design is soundly trumping all other business levers.

The above brings me to your in-house Training/Development/Learning Team. Is there a chance that they would be better served by thinking about a new educational design paradigm, i.e., they are actually in the “brain-food” business?

You already know that they/you make internal products for mental consumption, right? Do you take any cues from your industry surroundings? Do you set the table, provide appetizers or salad, main-course, beer or wine pairing and dessert? Do you create memorable mental meals or knowledge crave-ables? Are they snack-size, shareable or handheld? Are they full-service, fast-casual or fast-fine? Do you have a T/D equivalent gesture for chocolate on the pillow at turndown?

These are time-tested formulas for delivering products for human consumption. Are you leveraging your expertise in one area of your business – to another?

Is there a methodology that is intended to drive traffic to your business… that you can transfer to internal learning?

Do you have developmental LTO’s, curbside pick-up, seasonal specials, discount coupons or frequency programs?

I’m asking because nowadays, design matters for everyone in our industry. Your internal customers are seeking the same things that your external customers are seeking – convenience, choice, value, and satisfaction. You’re also trying to overcome learning conditioning. If you can breakthrough to the brain receptors in charge of (insert your own air quotes here) “Tasty” I can guarantee that you’ll stand out and enjoy more success than if you are serving from a standard training and development smorgasbord.

“Better by design” is the sign of the times and not all of it should face outward.


If Leadership Requires Vision – Why Is It So Often Short Sighted?

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Not all companies want their managers to be great leaders—it depends on the leadership of the company.

Truthfully, many companies would be more agreeable to producing better followers than better leaders for a myriad of reasons. It could be the small-mindedness of the people in the top-jobs who feel threatened when a subordinate outshines them — and, realistically, there is a startling lack of rewards for mentors involved with mentoring relationships.

There is the traditional (still vaunted) top-down/command and control model of leadership that all but insures rewards for being good “soldiers” vs. great thinkers/do’ers.  When an organization treats leadership as something that is exclusive and reserved for the elevated few, then it is forfeiting the engagement of the entirety (body – mind – spirit) of its members.

It seems that no matter how many times this is proven to be a competitive disadvantage, it is still vainly pursued as if it were a birthright. I shant be the one who would state that everyone has an interest in being a leader, nor will all volunteers become successful leaders, but to discourage interested parties within your walls, due to an out of date leadership model, lack of internal awareness/support or even beliefs in false methodology is stunningly shortsighted.