Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Thursday, November 15th, 2012

I have a relative in her 80’s. We had a chance to talk for an hour the other day. She
was totally amazed by some of my (restaurant) stories and I with her’s.

  • She had never operated a business
  • She had never hired or fired anyone
  • She never had to make a bottom or top line shine
  • She never crawled under an ice machine
  • She never unplugged a public toilet
  • College was her 5th option
  • She had never stopped a bar fight
  • “86’d” was never in her vocabulary
  • “You-bet-your-boots” has never been in my vocabulary
  • I have never gone to night school while working a full-time job
  • I have never served as a nurse
  • I have never raised livestock nor brought it to market
  • I have never shot a coyote
  • I didn’t have to continue anything after my husband died
  • My children have not all graduated from college
  • My house is not completely paid for

In my job, I have met thousands, upon thousands of people and maybe 15 would come to my funeral – she has met a few hundred in her life. I’ll bet, if they could, all of them would come to her’s…

As a leader, your job is and always will be building bridges to the shared time. Never underestimate the available resource of different
life experiences.

As a manager, your job consists of a multitude of dull, mundane routines, but there is admirable beauty in the brick-by-brick building of confidence and excellence – Never underestimate the proven outsized rewards of determination and diligence.

As a human, your life is made easier if you can connect the spirit of any work at hand – to the indomitable spirit of humankind.

Leadership is Like Ice Cream

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

The words “leader” and “leadership” used to be widely accepted definitions of person(s) at the very top. Now, they have been widely broadened to reflectively include those who contribute to the process of moving things forward at any level, in any business setting.

 I like to think of it this way, leadership is like ice cream, and the specific business, industry or circumstances are the flavors. It is impossible to use chocolate chip and make it work when pistachio swirl is required, unless you only care about the fact that you used “leadership ice cream” and not about the outcome or how it tastes. Now you know why poor leadership leaves such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

The mixing of flavors (or leadership styles/skills) is a creative endeavor, because it has to be. The quest of all leaders, doing the right thing – at the right time – time after time – is not a science; it’s the repetitive capture of quicksilver. An enlightened/contemporary approach demands different leadership tactics for ever-changing circumstances and roles. You can be a lead cook, server or busser (out in-front-modeling the job in a stellar fashion) but that is different than a General Manager, battlefield leader or neighborhood political leader. Hone in on what will work best for your situation, circumstance, and timeframe.

Leadership (at any level) is simply a role. It can be definitive or derivative, but still just one of many roles that are played out within any human enterprise. Management is, in most situations, a job, with an accompanying job description. (Try to find a formal company job description for “leader.”)  Leadership and Management are properly awesome together — like ice cream and a cone but they aren’t the same thing!

In the hospitality industry leadership is sought, recognized and cultivated at all levels. If someone is the best busser/cook/server/bartender they can become a “lead” and leaders at all levels are the lifeblood of any hospitality organization. I am not a top–down leadership school-of-thought adherent, although it has had its place in history.  Enlightened organizations currently seek bottom-up/sideways/criss-cross leadership involvement and engagement. They rotate and align the best people, ideas, practices and future “potentials” to positions out in front.

Present day business environments are shockingly fluid and demanding of skills that previously were not essential requirements. At the top of this skills list is learning on-the-fly and adapting to ever-changing conditions.

How do you develop adroitness, awareness and capacity? With seasoning! How do you accelerate seasoning? Hopefully, with the complete backing of the entire organization toward leadership development, and by accepting that “mistakes” are part of the process. As many have stated before, not pushing your limits to the point of making some mistakes is a mistake, especially when you’re attempting to create engaged leaders at all levels of your organization. Please keep this seasoning logic at the forefront of your mind as you attempt to accomplish one of the major components of any leadership role – identifying and developing future leaders.

 A Quick Sidebar on Seasoning –

Some ol’ school professionals will remember a time when cast-iron cookware was the tool of choice, and all of those pans needed to be seasoned prior to use. There were formal steps that had to be undertaken prior to actually using the pan — a thorough cleaning, heavy coating of the proper oil, and measured heating. Seasoning is/was required in order to make the pans less sticky and to stave off rust.

In other words, formal steps are taken to make them work better and last longer. Might there be an equivalent body/mind/spirit process to accelerate the seasoning of your leaders? Perhaps, accelerated seasoning methodology is something to think about/act upon in your near future. It is, after all, the element most missing in the newly anointed at any level.

Individuals who use their “all,” and use it correctly, have accomplished many a success in business, athletics, and warfare. This, by the way, is the foundational reasoning smart folks use for hiring and promoting people who can draw from demonstrable military, sports, or previous business success.

All business owners/leaders attempt to develop a “strategy” for their business, which simply comes down to the decisions they make to maximize all available resources to gain success, however they define it. If working leaders have had limited life experience, their strategies are usually limited in scope. If you get the chance in life to participate in something that fully challenges you and demands physical and/or maximum mental effort, sign up. This life “seasoning” directly adds value in a business environment.

Leaders, you must try to create the most impactful flavor of leadership (ice cream) that works best for your situation/team and you’re going to have some bad batches along the way. Many of you already have faced the fact that some folks on your team will come up with a “dirt” flavor of team leadership when you asked them for cool-mint. However, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of positive outcomes if you embrace the quest for engaged leadership at all levels as if it were both a business necessity and a creative flavor endeavor.


Waitstaff Training Today for Better Teams Tomorrow

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Guest Blog:
Pencom International

If only training were like climbing Mt.Everest. Once you accomplished it, you’d never have to do it again. Unfortunately, restaurant training is more like exercise. If you don’t do it regularly, it’s difficult to stay in top shape. We all know that, but in our fast-paced restaurant environment, it’s easy to let things that aren’t “on fire” slide. But if you follow a successful waitstaff training routine, you’ll reduce those fires and create a more proactive and productive work environment. In the end, your restaurant team—and your customers—will thank you. Here are a few tips that can make your training more successful:

  • Begin at the beginning. It sounds simple, but most new hires learn how to work the cash register long before they’re ever told about the corporate concept or mission statements. If your operation is committed to ideals, it’s important that your new employees get that information first and are tested on it and its importance. It’s the only way they’ll grow to fit into the environment and team you’ve created.
  • Just do it. Effective restaurant training doesn’t just include structured training sessions or pre-shift meetings. It also includes managers getting in the trenches and improving their knowledge. If you really believe that every team member should help the other—and that every position is important—assign yourself a shift working in an area that’s suffering from turnover, lower morale or just added stress. Come dressed to work and have an assistant manager take care of your regular duties. By actually doing the job—and not just observing it—you’ll show the staff that you understand firsthand their challenges. You’ll also learn what’s not being done properly and after the shift, and you can tailor your training sessions accordingly.
  • Talk the talk. In this business, service and sales go hand-in-hand. In the long run, you can’t accomplish one without the other. It stands to reason, then, that any good restaurant training program will focus on both improving service and increasing sales. If you want to effectively communicate that “everyone is in sales,” then you should be selling yourself. Pass out samples of appetizers to waiting guests, tell them about specials, offer to carry around the dessert tray for busy servers and present the items like they were presented in training. Whatever you’d like your servers and other team members to do, do it yourself and do it well.
  • Reward success. The old adage is true: what gets rewarded gets done. Sure, servers who put their training into action will be rewarded by higher tips and a more enjoyable work experience. But it’s up to you to give all your servers the extra motivation they need to apply what you’ve taught them. If you’re focusing on sales increases of a particular item, or a general improvement in average sales, set clear and attainable goals, recognize achievements, and reward winners. 

Remember, training is a process, not an event. Train every day, and recognize and reward expected behavior every day, too. 

© Pencom International, used with permission. Pencom International is a leader in restaurant management and waitstaff training solutions and publisher of Service That Sells! The Art of Profitable Hospitality, the best-selling book in foodservice history! Developed by successful restaurant owners and managers, the Service That Sells! product line of books, DVDs and workbooks has been helping restaurants improve service and increase sales for decades.






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.


Thank You, CHART!

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Just back from the CHART (Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers) shindig in Las Vegas — what a great group! I highly encourage anyone involved in HR/training/ops to join this stellar organization and attend their conferences. You will meet serious professionals who are enthusiastic, caring, and ever-learning.

The learning activities were full of valuable content and the peer relationship-building opportunities are unmatched. The guest speakers were phenomenal, including Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, Amanda Hite, Founder, CEO and Change Agent of Talent Revolution, Inc., Kathleen Wood, Founder, Kathleen Wood Partners, LLC and many more!

I would like to thank Mike “Famous” Amos, Jennifer Michaud, Tara Davey, Lisa Marovec, Jennifer Johnston and all of the other great CHART folks for allowing me to present at CHART’s 82nd Hospitality Training Conference and next time – Don’t You Miss It!

Before You Go

Monday, June 27th, 2011

A friend just mentioned to me that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple (as if you don’t know who he is) had hired top business school professors to work up a project they call Apple University. It seems as if they are producing business case studies that review and dissect major decisions made by the Apple team over the years in an effort to capture, and make available internally the business magic that polishes the Apple.

Major business schools utilize the business case study as a foundational teaching tool all over the world. They are charging beaucoup bucks to earn an MBA and could choose any style or format to present their insights. The big guns choose business case studies. This methodology has been proven to provide a decision making snapshot that can be the starting point for in-depth discussions, examination and knowledge transfer.

During the course of my consulting work within the hospitality industry, I come into contact with all levels of management and I continually overhear the same universal laments … the high cost of turnover, difficulties in ramping up individual responsibility, lack of business sense, and various forms of “didn’t make the catch” or “dropped the ball on that one.”

I have yet to come into contact with a hospitality company that is making use of business case studies as a form of knowledge transfer for their line-level management team. I’m not proposing that any program involving business case studies will solve all your ills, but if you download executive insight or front-line operational tactics from your “best of the best” you will certainly help to smooth over any gaps if they leave.

Additionally, if stored “in the cloud” you could provide a base of exercises for those eager beavers who wish to hone their business skills away from work. What if you could provide an MBA equivalent for your team solely based on your company’s experience in the marketplace and any additional sources you find notable. We’re not talking about trade secrets here, but if the Syracuse outpost solved an F&B, HR, or Marketing problem, why not let those at the Santa Fe property have formal access/make a study of it for years to come. A business case study holds clear advantages over relying on the beat of your organizational jungle drum.

Mr. Jobs may have been jolted into pursuing Apple University by his continuing health challenges, but there is no need to wait for a mortality confrontation to properly spur the examination of knowledge transfer within your group or — even to address legacy considerations. “He/she left us with a lot we can use” — is not a bad way to go… out.

If You Can’t Stand Friction – Get Outta’ the Kitchen

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

In any workplace change is inevitable, constantly evolving business conditions are dim or bright realities for everyone in business. And some form of “friction” can usually be found riding shotgun whenever there are changes. Rarely are new locations, uniforms, menus, policies, standards, or designs met with little or no friction.

Frankly, no company has the resources to fix every crack, leverage all opportunities, fully satisfy all complaints and overflow everyone’s happiness cup. In business it has been, and will always be about making choices — some from experience or market pressure and some best guesses. Hopefully, all choices are made with the intent to improve upon results, but still, few without friction.

In order for a system to evolve and become stronger, periodic shake-ups are nature’s way of doing business. Floods, forest fires, tornados… well, you get the idea. Not that we would ever wish the ensuing aftermath of damages, loss and sadness on anybody, but is pretty tough to talk nature out of its determined course of action.

Ilya Prigogine, a Russian born, Belgian naturalized Physicist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his theory called “dissipate structures.” As it was explained to me, part of his theory contends that friction is a fundamental property of nature and NOTHING grows without it, not mountains, pearls, or people. If my limited understanding is correct, Prigogine suggested that it is the quality of fragility, with the capacity to withstand being shaken — that is the key to growth. Any structure, whether at the molecular, chemical, physical, organizational, social and even psychological level that is isolated from disturbance is also protected from friction and thus from growth.

This missive serves merely as a reminder. Change, while often viewed as the enemy, is not the enemy – inactivity, incapability, and inflexibility are. Any workplace has the potential to generate frequent friction. Friction will serve you best if you use the stimulation to grow wiser and better, more competent and responsible. Despite the above headline, if you can’t stand friction, but need a job, I honestly don’t know where to tell you to go. Friction… and then growth, it’s the natural order of things.


Monday, February 7th, 2011

Recently, I observed my five year old during his various machinations to prepare for a morning trip to the store. There’s a lot for him to do. Change out of PJ’s, find shoes and socks that match (or not), grab rhino and silver (not red) water bottle. Stuff crayons, string, and bendy wire into pockets (just in case), then check for battery life in action toy or video game. Hat, wrong coat, one glove, and game on!

I was chuckling to myself as I watched my giant, self-invented armadillo waddle to the car literally trying to hold his act together. As he was clambering inside the vehicle I spied something unusual. Peeking out of the back of his pants was not the customary one tag confirming inside-out underwear, but the heretofore unseen two tags, representing the unique choice of wearing two pair of underwear at the same time.


I just caught the WSJ story about how Delta Airlines, after getting crushed in customer service ratings is sending all of its agents to charm school. It seems that Delta had a problem – an awful big problem– showing customers that it cared about them.

Personally I’ve had a brutal past couple of weeks at the hands of “customer service” providers. From this week’s hit-parade, I’m choosing to share the interaction between myself and the apron-wearing-neo-troglodyte who was working as a cashier at a big box retailer and never stopped inhaling his super-sized soda as I set my items down and stepped up to pay. I waited until he had his fill (which would be me in a display of extreme patience) and then as the paying customer inside of me said “Wow, you just got dunked on by a full-blown uncaring attitude,” I slightly nicked him back with an upbeat, “That’s not much of a greeting” …to which he responded, “You’re lucky I didn’t spit it in your face.” Later, you can ask me how everything “after” unfolded, but for now I think most everyone is on the same page; there is an increase in super-sized sodas and a decrease in super-good service.


All of the above brings me to Zen. Much of my formative years were spent in Boulder CO, home of the University of Colorado, Naropa Institute and Jim Collins . For those of you who do not happen to be regular users of the word “Namaste,” Boulder is also the home to many climbers and runners in pursuit of Zen, whom some unenlightened locals have been known to call “Zenners.”

I left Boulder awash in “-isms.” If you have any contact with the Left Coast’s farthest outpost, it is likely that you will saddle up next to Ram Dass’s book and famous quote, “Be here now!” (I have always taken that to be both an instruction and admonishment). By living in the present moment, you offer yourself the best chance to make the most of that moment and subsequently the most of your life.  The powerful and distracting habit of thinking about “what’s coming” or “what happened“ only undermines your best present efforts.


It pains me to say this, but my kid’s brain starts doing doughnuts in the parking lot just hearing the words, “Let’s get ready to go.” All his efforts are just a smash and grab at the goal of “being ready” to the best of his 5-year-old-ability. We are working on getting him to slow down through the understanding that he is not going to be left out/behind by the rest of us. Now with less distraction he can fully devote himself to each task (underwear: check, double-check), get it right, and move on to the next step.

It may seem a bit “out there” to the folks responsible for the hiring, training, and developing of customer service employees to take a step back and begin by first teaching the concept of “full presence in the present moment” as a base line for success, but I’m going to do it anyway. Like many problems, “better customer service” might be best tackled by breaking it down into the lowest common denominator.

There is also a way to say this that might speak more directly to those holding more of a “Western mindfulness,” as handed down by parents, coaches, teachers, and parole officers everywhere, PAY ATTENTION!  Focus your intake receptors, stop cramming your craniums with up-to-the-millisecond minutia, maybe unplug an orifice or two, and you will have a better chance to make a little magic with what is before you – NOW!

This Zen approach could be considered a new customer service win–win because it offers both sides the best chance for our best possible future — me as a happy customer and “all y’all” as enlightened customer service leaders.

If you need some help with leadership training for your managers, corporate storytelling for your culture, or would like to learn how lessons from the hospitality industry apply to your customer relationships, give me a call — it’s what I do.

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011



I started working at my first restaurant when I was fifteen years old and was glad to have found a part time job. The daily challenge of providing food and drink to an unknown number of patrons and making a business out of transforming strangers into regulars had an allure for me that continues to this day. It suited me and I stayed.

Now when I say ‘suited,’ do not mistake that for a belief that I had some sort of a special gift. I am not a famous chef, but instead I grew into the role of manager because I had a knack — a knack for thinking, talking and doing. Subsequently, I led and managed places of my own, as well as places for other folks of all sizes and styles: restaurants, taverns, nightclubs, casual service, quick-service, fast-service, entertainment complexes, single units, multiple units, local, national and U.S. government-owned.

Cha Cha Changes

People ask me about the changes to the industry that I have witnessed and I always reply that it is more complicated now, but for the most part the complications have been added to better serve, or better protect the guests and employees. Of course, the quest for profits and the whimsy of governance have also provided some interesting sparks. Change is always felt foremost by the beholder and any change (in my mind) is best defined by degrees, alter – modify – transform – revolutionize.

The fact is, if you are a manager or leader, there is an overwhelming demand for resiliency and that includes facing all matter of changes. In order to be successful with people in the hospitality industry, you must be prepared to wear many hats (assume the correct persona) when leading a team/tribe. You might have to “go against the grain” or be abrasive in the opposite direction of “who you are” to get things done. (Is this not embracing change?)

The right action at the right time (not always the way you would feel most comfortable) will most effectively address your problems. Any problem you face has two parts: (1) everything you can see or process, and (2) the course of action you take toward resolution. It is your action or inaction, not just your intention that will either resolve the problems or cause them to blow back in your face. This is why organizations and owners place a premium on problem solvers rather than problem identifiers. (“You handled that nicely” as opposed to “Thanks for handing me that bag of snakes.”)

Leadership vs. Management

Leadership enters the conversation when one is speaking about the influence/interactions/impact upon others. Management is an accepted term for a “job”…that one can get… to control/ build/ buy/et all, things. You can be a leader without management responsibilities, which is called a figurehead. If you have no other person within your span of influence (a sidewalk cart) then you can manage things without being a leader.

For a long time there has been a great deal of play given to the discourse on the “differences” between management and leadership. And yet, business management gurus of the world have long stated that most business managers have leadership built into their job description. Natural-born leaders will need to be skilled at actually managing business operations if they hope to be successful in a managerial role. Business realities dictate that if you are named to manage a department or group, you are expected to lead its direction, manage the resources, and be accountable for results, good or bad (people, performance, profits, culture, legacy, etc.).

If you have a job as a manager which includes supervision of others then you are expected to show some iota of leadership skills, as it will be on you to get the group to pull together (without breaking apart) and accomplish the tasks set forth. There are many good managers who are bad leaders and many (short lived) acceptable leaders who are bad managers.

Leaders+Managers = Leadagers

The above job likely includes driving sales, controlling costs, meeting or exceeding standards, doling out rewards and punishments, communicating up, down and across, and serving and protecting the organization, among other things. As such, you need to be part shaman-ambassador-fill-in- worker-camp counselor-traffic cop, or better yet, all leader-manager. I prefer the term leadager.

I advocate verbally compounding leader and manager to illustrate the point that if you are managing people, it is the proper terminology to use. Even though most old school folks will never make a job title out of any part of the word leadership, the fact remains that in “our world” — management and leadership are logistically inseparable.


Chase LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Leadagers LLC, a business consultancy serving the hospitality industry.  He is the author of the soon to be published book, HIGH IMPACT HOSPITALITY: Upgrade Your Purpose, Performance and Profits! You can find it on Smashwords now @

The Breakup

Friday, January 21st, 2011

July 14th 2010

From Chase’s Blog

We’ve been going steady for a long time, but now I’m writing to tell you that we are through. I’m older now than when we first met, and frankly, I’m tired of the way you treat me. Do you even remember when we first met? I was 10 and on a family vacation to California. I’d beg my parents for lunch money so that I could dash around the corner and enjoy your novel offerings. You were different for me:  fast, fresh and fun. In High School you were the hot spot in my neighborhood. We all met there after school and Friday/Saturday late nights as well. In college, you were the ready answer to munchies and more. As I traveled across the USA, it always seemed as if you traveled with me. Everywhere I went you were already there, we had a thing going on – fast, fresh and fun.

You might say that it has all been about value between us, what with you being “everywhere”, open all hours, and  giving me a whole bag of food for my money. However, the basis for all great relationships is communication and trust. It seems that we no longer share the same values. How can I trust you when you don’t listen? What happen to fast, fresh and fun? Most of the time you are grumpy, tired and slow, giving me either too much of something I didn’t want (napkins) or not enough of the things I do (what I ordered) – doesn’t that cost you real dough? Is without onion, extra sauce or hold the tomato, really so hard to accomplish?

By the by, if you are not going to invest in a new tech screen display at the drive thru, then at least bring the speaker box reception closer to walkie–talkie land and solve the “listening to a lunar mission” issues. If that sounds too daunting, try the (old school) repeat the orders back methodology.

Oh, I’ve talked to your people about this and have yet to come face to face with the embodiment of “happy to be here, store proud, let’s do the right thing” representative.

I have found somebody new. They smile and warmly greet me. They pay attention to my interests and make suggestions about items to sample in a non-robotic fashion. If they make a mistake, they own up to it and make up for it. And, get this, they thank me and ask me to return.

These might seem like little things to you, but it is the big and the little things together that define an experience or a relationship. So, we are over, done, kaput. I know you won’t miss me, don’t worry, I already got that message loud and clear. Have a nice life -