Posts Tagged ‘Restaurant Consultant’

Book Excerpt | Introduction To “High Impact Hospitality”

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

I once had a beast of a dog, a 125-pound, all-black German shepherd named Dakota. He was foreboding in the looks department, but in reality he was just a big marshmallow. Dakota would frequently do the oddest thing; whenever we were standing close together, he would lean on me. His weight was enough to shift my center of gravity and at times I would have to scramble to regain my footing.

At one of his annual veterinary check-ups, I asked the vet whether this posture was common for big dogs looking to take a load off or if this dog just liked being close to me. The vet told me that it is the nature of dogs to slide up against each other and test the weight of the newcomer. I guess my dog was on instinct autopilot, subtly trying to test the competition in case there was going to be a tussle.

I don’t know if the vet was dealing in facts but I like to use this analogy when speaking about management and leadership. There is always something sliding up next to you trying to test your mettle. You are being constantly tested and assessed by the staff, customers, budget, boss, or competition—even your peers.

This book is about giving you a healthy dose of heft. After almost thirty years in the industry I’m hoping to share the solid footing that comes from hard-won wisdom.

Over time, with hands-on experience, I have come to understand that I prefer to work with authentic, caring, trustworthy, and competent people. People who do not possess these traits generally seem to fail at a higher rate. As such, I devoted much of my career to developing myself and my managers into people who were successful (by my assessment and by those who signed our paychecks) even though most of the time, we heard different music in our heads.

I call us leadagers (pronounced as – leed/i/jers), and we are a tribe, a group united by our shared values.

Let’s be clear; not everyone who has worked for me has liked me and certainly not everything I touched turned to gold. However, from the beginning, I was driven to produce more leadagers and tribal leaders, not just more managers or hourly workers. It was somewhere at about the eleven-year mark that I began to realize I excelled in the development of leadagers.

As an owner/operator running a college town hot spot, I got started developing people when I was twenty-one years old. I was learning from my management mistakes before most people get a chance to make ’em. (Check out Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers, and look up the 10,000 hour rule-of-thumb. He basically states that ten years of practice is just about how long it takes to become really good at something.)

It’s not like I ignored any of the million little details that go into running a successful hospitality operation; you have to know the right thing to do to teach the right thing to do. It’s just that developing managers into strong leaders is what I poured my heart into.

I come forward now with this humble effort, targeting the following audiences: (1) assistant managers looking for more traction on their way up the mountain, (2) any level of manager in the service sector (general managers included) who is trying to improve their plate-spinning abilities, (3) hourly tribemates with ambition, and (4) anyone wishing for a peek into the mind of a “new-style” manager.

Let me be clear: There is no one right way to be successful in this industry or any other, for that matter. This book is an answer to many questions but it is not the answer to all problems.

With that in mind, may my mistakes help you to avoid some pitfalls, my knowledge be a force for good, and my travails tickle your fancy.

(Damn, I loved that dog!)


Check Yourself | Compound Experience

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Chase LeBlanc KEITH ASKS…
I have been working in restaurants, bars, and hotels for 13 years. I am also completing my MBA in general management. I know the best way to upper management is through time and experience, however, with my degree, how can I leverage my experience and schooling in the business of F&B?

Education, experience, and desire are not enough to achieve “upper management.” You have to leverage all of your experiences into a solid, results-filled record over a period of years. Also, any international experience is becoming a trump card for promotions.

First, develop a clear picture of your dream job and track backwards. Talk to anyone, anywhere in that job and get their download. Ask them questions about what it takes to get there, who might help you on your quest, and whether they’ll make an introduction. Find any association or group of like-minded people and join the conversation. Study the specifics, master the skills, and move in the circles of who you wish to be. You will always have a better shot at any job if you have previously established relationships, with or without the appropriate experience, education, or desire.

Second, get your values in order. We all know life is a series of tradeoffs. When facing an important decision, many advice-dispensers suggest taking a sheet of paper, drawing a line down the middle, and writing at the top of each side pros and cons. Do not use this approach without assigning weighted values to the details. What’s most important to you?

For each individual, all the ingredients that go into the process of decision-making do not carry the same cost or weight. Values lead the leader; spend some time ruminating on your values before you step into the big leagues of management where choices and decisions affect more than yourself.

Third, have you ever heard of compound interest? I suggest that there exists such a thing as compound work experience. Compound work experience provides that as you learn, you automatically increase your chances for advancement. Compound work experience is acquired by (1) working for the best organizations, (2) working for a successful leader-mentor, (3) working where the opportunities for advancement are plentiful, and (4) working where the varieties of experience are bountiful. This is a workplace where you are allowed to challenge yourself and to grow, a place where accepting more responsibility will eventually translate into more money for you, a place that acknowledges/ nurtures your involvement/participation and consistently shows appreciation for your contributions, a place that holds you accountable when you don’t sufficiently contribute, and ultimately, a place that provides a wealth of value to you through means that are not purely financial.

In order to find an opportunity that allows for compound work experience, you must search, assess, and evaluate the trade-offs. This, by the way, is vastly different than conveniently going to the nearest F&B factory and applying for any ol’ job. Take a shot at the job that gets you in the door of the right place with the right people. Look for those savvy business carnivores who crave to maximize your potential.

Chase LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Leadagers, LLC, and is a hospitality management performance coach with more than 25 years of experience. He is also the author of High Impact Hospitality: Upgrade Your Purpose, Performance and Profits!


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 @

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Leadagers and the Noble Craft

Great leadership can quicken the transformation from losers to winners, no matter how you keep score. Great leadership shines a light that can invigorate or rejuvenate. Great leadership can wipe away today’s pain or panic by focusing efforts toward a better tomorrow. Great leaders get more sugar (money, power, respect, better jobs) because they bring forth the best chance to achieve success from plans, hopes, and dreams.

  • If you are a leader, your actions or ideas are out in front; and for the purpose of my discussion, they must also add value to the organization.
  • Leaders reveal themselves by doing what they should do, pushing beyond the artificial limitation of “what can I possibly do?”
  • Leadership can be top-down, bottom-up, or sideways, and no matter the scope or style, great leadership exists on small, medium, and large scales.
  • Leadership is not a job title. It is not universally listed on the human resource department’s “people-power” vacancies. Rarely, if ever, is one hired as an assistant leader or general leader,

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 head 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.).

The 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.

As a leadager, you will be practicing the fine art (or is it a science?) of managementship, the highly sought, seldom natural, combination of great management and leadership (best viewed with an old world sensibility toward craftsmanship or apprenticeship). By comparison, if the “real” job of acting can be considered a “noble craft” then by all rights we must include the job of “running” a real business within the same realm.

So there you have it. I advocate verbally compounding leader and manager — leadager™ — 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 business — management and leadership are logistically inseparable.

Anthony Bourdain Essay: Cooking Food Well Means Everything and Nothing

Friday, January 21st, 2011

August 5, 2010

Bourdain’s Medium Raw Essay Contest

Read my Medium Raw challenge essay: Cooking Well Means Everything and Nothing

Cooking Food Well Means Everything and Nothing

Cooking food well is but another of life’s equal but opposite gravitational pulls. As with so much in life, cooking well means everything and nothing.  

Cooking well holds no allegiance to borders or boundaries and is a language unto itself. A well cooked meal can be deftly managed or thuggishly muscled, either path resulting in an original offering of scrumptiousness. If you can cook well, folks from Nebraska to Norway might be singing your praises, and it doesn’t matter if you are a one-trick-meat-sauce-pony or the thickly accented expert relegated to huckstering pans. From the beginning there has been one unflagging goal, whether by happy accident or professional process, when one cooks well the sum of the ingredients, recipe, technique and effort should always be greater than the gathering of fire, metal, ounces and pounds.

If others consider you skeevy, creepy or mean, it all goes out the window when you can cook well, because cooking well scores high on lists made by list-makers. Through this skill-set alone, you can almost mollify the adolescent plague of self esteem bloodletting, lay a sweaty hand on the tiller and find yourself a place in the world. Doors of opportunity will open if you show-off for family and friends or even better, a wide circle of acquaintances and strangers. If talent, skill and will converge, with minimal derailments wrought by temptation, you might ascend to the designation of mastercraftperson or even be anointed as an artisan. If you are lucky or wise you might parlay your experiences into fame, fortune and a lasting legacy.

Cooking well is a means to quench a hunger and thirst that extends far beyond food and drink, feeding the human desire for exploration, socialization, and celebration. Cooking well can be an honest day/night of work, a neighborly gesture, a familial obligation, a prelude to romance, or merely servicing a jonzin’ hoard of foodies.

However, cooking well means nothing to someone on the brink of starvation – cat food, fast food, and leather shoelaces might all look pretty tasty. Cooking well means nothing to the praying parents of an ill child or to the partner of a service person who has just fallen for freedom in some far away land.

Cooking well is unnecessary when one is anticipating a bite fresh from nature’s bounty – - a tomato from the vine, a peach from the tree and honey from the comb. And then there are the moments that transcend the preparation, moments that render all thoughts of cooking results irrelevant – The last time Grandma made stale bread French toast for you, Dad’s burnt BBQ chicken when Dads not around anymore, and Mom’s greasy meatloaf that you’d trade almost anything for, just to have one more chance to sit down and eat it with her.

Cooking well has skilled players, fans, vested interests and paying customers. It is a conduit to many things real and fanciful. Like all contact sports, it means everything and nothing.

Fire Drills and Problem-Solving for Hospitality Leadagers

Friday, January 21st, 2011

From Chase’s Hotel F and B Staffing Doctor Column

“I’m a banquet captain at a large convention property in the Southwest. On a recent slow day, we had a fire drill for the entire staff of several hundred people. I watched as everyone went through the motions, laughed, and took their time in evacuating the building. The person leading the drill, who is a senior manager, was laughing and joking as well, and it bothered me. What if we had a full house of guests—perhaps a banquet in progress—and a real disaster happened? I’m certain our staff wouldn’t know what to do, and there would be panic. I brought this up to the emergency team leader, and he said I’m “worrying too much.” Since this senior manager doesn’t seem to care, should I go to human resources, with the goal of having this person removed as the emergency team leader? Obviously, he could make my job more difficult or perhaps even have me fired if he finds out.

Did the hijinks start right off the bat, or did the merriment begin after the alarm was confirmed to be a drill? You might argue that anytime you’re at work it is serious business, but the hospitality industry is made better by sparkling personalities, and quelling them on a perceived bonus break will always be an uphill climb. You might have to travel far and wide to find a hospitality crew lined up at attention in a parking lot.

The right thing to do, of course, is to have any fire drill training treated with proper awareness and respect. Any fire can go from bad to worse in the space of a few heartbeats. An uncontrolled fire is a wickedly bad problem, and all precautions and measures (including fire drills) should be undertaken with professionalism to prepare for an emergency of this nature.

But let’s be honest—people become complacent with rote routines. The mundane becomes boring, and these days, chasing attention spans is taxing, like sprinting after a dine-and-dasher. If this is the status quo at your hotel, then this is certainly a case where crowd-sourced wisdom will lead everyone astray. Personally, I am a follower of the “how you practice is how you play” school of hard knocks. In most business settings, the leaders with the most followers (boss or not) are those who model the desired behaviors prior to attempting to teach the desired behaviors, thereby avoiding potential mixed messages.

If, as you say, bringing to light legitimate concerns could result in retaliation, then there is a raft of other potential problems at this property. All enlightened operators have an open door policy where there is some mechanism in place for feedback to reach the folks that do care and can change things.

B.C., you must weigh out your personal values and survey the culture that surrounds you. It is for you to decide if direct action is worth the risk. You could also choose to turn this problem into an opportunity by navigating the situation rather than meeting it head-on. Most of the folks you work for are looking for problem solvers, not just problem identifiers. Rather than dump this problem on somebody else, why not think through how you can contribute your talents, commitment, and passion toward the results you seek? Could you execute ways to enliven or engage your compadres and get everyone’s competitive juices flowing? A safety contest perhaps (fire drills included), where rewards, worked out in trade with the hotel, are doled out to the top performing teams?

The only limit is your imagination when it comes to problem solving. This will give you something constructive to work on and might take care of your issue. Who knows—you may even get a little career boost by showing that problem solving resides in your wheelhouse.

Chase LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Leadagers, LLC, and is a hospitality management performance coach with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. He is also the author of High Impact Hospitality: Upgrade Your Purpose, Performance and Profits!

Hospitality Industry Manager Differentiators

Friday, January 21st, 2011

December 28th 2010

From Chase’s Hotel F and B Blog

Personal Points of Differentiation

Differentiation is the answer to the common business strategy question – How can we as a company, stand out in a crowded marketplace? There is a classic list that companies draw from – bigger, better, faster, decor’, innovation, location, value, etc. Interestingly enough, this question can also be applied to individuals, not just businesses. Heading into a New Year always offers an opportunity for pause and reflection. Perhaps, the following will allow you to further your personal points of difference.

Start deeper than the mirror –
When you reflect upon the entirety of your budding (or mature) career (as we all are supposed to do on birthdays and at the start of a New Year) temporarily remove monetary expectations from your review process.  By making compensation part of the background, it may be possible to bring to the front those things that bring you the most fulfillment, joy, and promise.  

In a faced-paced world, we often forget the importance of contemplation.  Contemplation and reflection are symbiotic.  The act of mulling alone can add logic to a particular decision or thought process, and provide great clarity.  As an act of self assessment, begin thinking about what you value beyond work, and where you would most likely be able to make this type of contribution.  Is there a job title for this? Where does the best chance exist to make this job a reality, or which company offers the best opportunity to start in that direction?

Recruiting professionals are charged with matching skills and experience.  However, we find it to be of equal importance to determine the match between the individual’s values and those of the company.  When that happens, individual performance becomes aligned and connected, and both parties benefit more deeply from the cohesion.  

Make ready –
If has not yet become apparent, those who prepare for action in advance tend to fare better than those who do not. Life is full of fire drills, some real, some metaphorical. The possibility that you will be caught in a fire is small, but if you’ve ever witnessed how an out-of-control fire behaves, or how humans behave in such a fire, you’ll be grateful that you knew what to do. Exercise, proper diet, positive mental health, engagement and enjoyment are just as important to individuals as scenario planning and strategy execution are to businesses. If you seek a raise, a promotion or a new job, make yourself ready by practicing what you will need at the next level, including preparing someone to take your place.

Storytelling -
From our earliest days, humans have shared stories around the fire. It is an accepted and powerful means for creating a connection. As you narrow down what matters to you, it becomes easier to separate those things from the daily slush. Most everyone can prattle on about what they don’t like, but can you speak clearly about how you have made a difference or how you are better today than yesterday? Every person has unique talents.  What are your unique selling points (USP)? Discovering your skill set or talents and weaving your experiences into your story and being able to hold someone’s attention though the telling – is a differentiator.

Make a list of attributes, or characteristics that you believe are your strengths.  Think about your career, and recall situations where you leveraged those strengths to make an impact. Clarify the impact by aligning it with competencies like the ability to solve problems, build teams, effectively communicate, and drive results. Now, craft your story. In fact, craft five or six stories.  

By preparing personalized stories with professional significance, you will be able to take pride in past accomplishments while emphasizing your ability to take on new challenges.  You will become more confident and you will make a greater impression.  Not everyone can do this.  If you can, you will set yourself apart.  

Pluck isn’t just for feathers -
People can have pluck. (Go on, look up the noun not the verb.) Sure, it’s an old fashion word for irresistible qualities. Difficult times require leaders with nerve, courage and resolve. In other words, pluck. Imagine listening to a couple of folks talking and one says “I hope we find our way…” and the other states “We’re going to make our own way – come hackers or high-water!” Which one is expressing leadership qualities? I’m not saying that every one filled with confidence knows all the right things to do, but it is pretty clear that when times are tough people gravitate towards anyone who can help them out of the mess. You can be that person, if you show some pluck.

One or two degrees –
We’ve heard the phrase that everyone is praying to someone when they’re in a foxhole and the bombing starts. People are getting “shelled” by life everywhere around you, and you have the power to provide some cover. Next time you’re down in the dumps, swing by a children’s hospital, foster-care housing, homeless shelter, even a funeral. You don’t have to get out of the car, just watch who goes in and out. I think you will realize that there are only one or two degrees of separation between you and them. Many lives are changed by moments, some horribly bad and some unbelievably good. What would it take for you to trade your TV/lounge/ veg’n/ kickin’-back/chillin’-time in order to make a great moment for someone else? (Remember, not a day, week or month, but a moment…) The people who create this goodwill are involved in a personal brand extension – one that reaches into the unseen – perhaps far enough to reach back when it’s your turn in the foxhole.

The present –
Most people spend gobs of time dwelling in the past or dreaming of ideals.  The foundation of your future starts with the work you’re doing now, as well as your ability to take corrective action when appropriate.  Make the most of your “now” time and refresh your thinking.  Clear your mental and physical work space. Purge unnecessary clutter/rust. Celebrate and rejuvenate.  Then, establish your game plan for next year, including introducing yourself to 3 new people each week, jumping  in the digital river and joining networking groups, or commenting on blogs can all help to refine your focus.  Don’t try to have all the answers.  Ask questions and listen to the responses.  You may find a new perspective.  

Some people view the holiday season as a time of year to receive gifts.  Others take great joy in the act of giving. One of the best gifts for anyone is the chance to maximize/reprioritize your time, recalibrate, appreciate and cherish every moment… and you can give that to yourself. 

This article was co-written with DAVID ROSE
David Rose is the Vice President of Recruiting with YELLOW DOG Recruiting, a national recruitment company specializing in the placement of leaders in the restaurant, on-site foodservice and hospitality industries.

Determining Hospitality/Food Service Incentive Pay

Friday, January 21st, 2011

From Chase’s Hotel F and B “Staffing Doctor” Column:

I’m the catering sales manager at my hotel. Earlier this year, I just missed making a bonus, but my colleague who specializes in wedding events received one. Our bonuses are paid on revenue goals, but I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t offer many “freebies” and try to keep our execution costs low. How can I suggest to our manager that she look at factors other than just revenue when determining incentive pay?

CSM, for a business, cash is air, and, like a person, a business needs air to live. You can really get the attention of a business or a person when you cut off their oxygen supply. On the other hand, if all else is even, air is not what most people or businesses “live” for. A business can live for its customers, stakeholders, and employees, or ideally all three. People can live for their families, faith, or even to recklessly tempt fate by managing a hospitality business, if they so choose.

Now, follow me as we put our toes into the water. Running a business is a lot like learning to swim. At first, it can be a daunting proposition with a broad mixture of feelings and quite a bit of thrashing about—all fused to the sentient tracking of oxygen in and out. Hospitality businesses that focus primarily on the top and bottom lines (cash in and out) at the expense of other success factors, drivers, and line items, are essentially dogpaddling, which is elementarily effective but also stupendously inefficient.

Any business that rewards performance based upon simply “closing the books” or “coming up for air” from any accounting period is merely guessing at what’s really happening now and can be referred to as having an unbalanced scorecard. When it comes to the net profits or bottom line, most people share the opinion that the bottom line is the bottom line—either you got it done or you didn’t. However, at some point in any swimming lesson/running a business progression, a person grows in confidence or gets bored by just not drowning; though it will remain certainly imperative, it is not very self actualizing. An experienced business operator starts adding strokes to his or her repertoire, wisely looking for patterns and systems to leverage, in order to replicate successes.

Most hospitality businesses would (and do) benefit from tracking more push/pull triggers. For example, they need to further drill down on financial data such as revenue management, productivity improvement, risk assessment, and cost-benefit measurements or mission metrics—staff turnover ratios, a promotability index, innovation benchmarks, guest satisfaction ratings, referral percentages, etc. This, of course, requires detailed monitoring of many contributing factors and the gathering of information from far and wide and between the top and bottom lines.

So the smart trend is away from simplistically bonusing on month-to-month or top or bottom line results, even though that is obviously straightforward. Most companies are trying to achieve consistent positive financial results by rewarding the people, systems, and behaviors that drive better results, or, in our analogy, synchronized swimming.

CSM, here is the short answer to your question: Come up with a bonus plan that emphasizes equitably rewarding the drivers of sustained success. If your manager doesn’t go for your plan, at least you will have a greater depth of applicable knowledge on which to base your own actions. Or you could also go the long way around and leave this quote from Albert Einstein on her desk as a conversation starter: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Chase LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Leadagers, LLC, and is a hospitality management performance coach with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. He is also the author of High Impact Hospitality: Upgrade Your Purpose, Performance and Profits!


Friday, January 21st, 2011

January 18th 2010

From Chase’s Blog

While I don’t know what the future holds for the hospitality industry, I do know that an introspective glance back never hurts as you make plans and promises for the coming year. I grew up at a time when in grade school we practiced crawling under our desks as a preventative measure against a nuclear war. My parents cried for joy when I was vaccinated against Polio. I came of age with 8-track tapes and still enjoy Zagnut candy bars. If it doesn’t test your mettle to hear from someone who has crested fifty years in life, read on!

I started working for 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.

As is likely the case for many of you, I am visited by ghosts of the past during this time of the year. They weave and wisp through my mind reminding me of where I have come from and how rocky that road has been. Just imagine…when I started out in this industry there weren’t any POS systems or computers in the office and people blew their cigarette smoke right in your face every chance they had; I watched as red meat was frightened out of fashion, then back in, out again, in; Disco (the music and the lifestyle) self-emolliated before my eyes (and rightly so); I made some money when Country music galloped into the city and lost some when sports became a 24/7 fixation; and I flirted around the abyss of addictions that vanished many of my friends with the slow efficiency of a hand crank meat grinder.

During those earliest years I must’ve asked a half-dozen people how to correctly pronounce ‘sushi.’ And ‘going green’ used to mean that someone was about to hurl. I never went anywhere without my pager. (Where did they all go?) AIDS, M.S., Lyme disease, C.F.S. , the big C. have all wreaked their loveless havoc upon my loved ones  I have worked around or through blizzards, blackouts, floods, wars, tornados, sewer main line breaks, and super scary natural gas leaks. (FYI, the hospitality industry brethren were always the second responders to any community crisis.)

How about you?

Have you heard lately from a ghost of the present day? That silent but boisterous partner in all of your hospitality business quests…The Specter of Pressure? That’s right; the unseen breath thief who seems to shout, “I’m riding shotgun!” as you jump in and start driving up and down your punch list.  “S.O.P.” reliably rears its ugly head as you try to make payroll when you’re “a-lit’l-bit-short”; when you must renegotiate down a lease with a cranky landlord when you’re behind on rent; as you discover that nobody has made the quarterly tax payments; when a junkie is tapping on your temple with his piece and you’re praying that you can remember the safe combo on the first try; when top talent jumps to a competitor leaving you high and dry; when your pipes burst in January or the HVAC quits in July; when gift card sales fall short of bringing in the year; when the crazy person in front of you threatens to kill you as you stand between him and his ex-wife/girlfriend, your new server (suddenly the protection offered by a restraining order seems tantamount to waving a red flag at a bull). Yes, if you have chosen to pursue a career in hospitality management/ownership, you may as well acknowledge living with the Specter of Pressure, as it will surely “pop on by” almost everyday.  

So what’s my point? Well, our industry has double trouble and triple challenges. Your trouble could be a roiling boil on the front burner or just simmering on the back burner, but it’s always something; it’s never going to be nothing. (That’s just the way of the world — and our industry — as decided by the dark tricksters of gloomy places.) Look at it realistically; there are simply too many pieces and parts moving way too fast for things not to jam up every now and again. And all this is nicely amplified by our “frienemy,” the Specter of Pressure.

Take a second now, however, to look at the shiny side of our industry’s metaphorical coin. For example, if you have moved here from another country, but desire a job opportunity that allows you to immerse yourself in our culture with friends that speak your language, you will likely find this in the hospitality industry. If you’re trying to bend your life back into shape after some bad choices, baking bread, making pies, grilling a steak or washing some dishes may be just what you need. While you won’t be starting at the top, you can make a fresh start. If college was out of reach, that won’t be held against you. And if you are currently attending college, jump right in for however long — we take all comers on their way to somewhere else.

Most of all, if you’re making a few bucks an hour plus tips and you’re ready to step up, we can provide full time jobs that start at $28,000 – $38,000 – $48,000 dollars a year plus benefits and, in most cases, a bonus. This can be a life-changing shift in fortunes for someone willing to commit to professionalism and show some fortitude and ambition. The beauty of this industry is that things might even work out beyond your wildest dreams; you may even be able to have a place of your own someday if that’s what you desire.

Yes, we have a rich history of taking in those who have had a hard time getting traction on other hills of life and transforming them into success stories. Jump on your favorite web-fact checker and take a peek at how many millionaires there are in the hospitality industry.

As you struggle and fight for every ounce of your business breath, ask the folks at the top of their game — Anthony Bourdain, Sally Smith, Monty Moran, Steele Platt, Jim Skinner, Diana Wynne, Frank Day, Phil Roberts, Richard J. Schnieders, and so on, if they ever faced adversity in their climb to success. Spend some time reading about Ray Kroc, Dave Thomas or Rocky Akoi who as I have heard it told slept in the bathroom of his first restaurant because he didn’t have a place to live.

No matter how hard “S.O.P.” is punishing you, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that our collective industry (tribe) has a collective purpose that goes beyond driving the top line or squeezing the middle to make the bottom better. Yes, it is a given that you have to meet or exceed gross sales expectations and there has to be something left over on the bottom line, but mark my words…your guests/customers aren’t coming to you because they want to help you make more money. There is a bigger picture here that some in our industry lose sight of – everyday within your walls you have an opportunity to put forth your finest effort, to be proud and to shine as artisans and purveyors of fine food and beverages, mixology, service excellence, décor and management plate-spinning. Everyday, if you use your talents and skills on behalf of the guest or your employees, you are creating a positive-energy connection and in times of trouble that can count for far more than any leading economic indicators.

For those who did not grow up in this industry, there are a few things from my point of view that are historical givens: We don’t just put heads-in-beds, quench thirst or satiate hunger. Rather, the hospitality industry has the opportunity to fuel the greatest of moments – to help those who want to work to achieve the American dream; to provide first jobs and second or third chances for people who need a fresh start; to enable face to face socialization and teamwork which I believe is so necessary for healthy human beings; to celebrate momentous occasions; to provide taste adventures; to connect and support our communities and inter-generational traditions and to change a life for the better – be it an employee or a guest.

Sometimes when you’re in the hole the best way out is to double-down on a sure thing. The fastest way out of this mess, for all of us, is to leverage the best of what we do and focus on creating and generating, good old fashioned ‘Wow- juice’ – for your guests and stakeholders…“Wow, they really know what they’re doing!”– “Wow, they remembered!” – “Wow, that was different!”– “Wow, did you see that place?”–“Wow, they really took care of us!” – “Wow, that hits the spot!” – “Wow, that was fun!” — “Wow, they dropped the ball, but they sure made up for it!” – “Wow, the restrooms were really clean!” – “Wow, I can’t wait to tell my friends!” — “Wow, you’re a great neighbor!” – “Wow, I don’t know how you did that, but you really helped us out!”

The word ‘hospitality’ should conjure up within you cordial feelings of welcome, warmth, kindness and generosity. Hospitable people and places are those that take other people in, help them out or make them feel better; that, my friends, is a worthwhile definition of an “above and beyond” goal.

This year on your New Year’s Resolution list, somewhere between more exercise and making more money, slip in more hospitality. When times are tough, as they have been, this will be a better strategic option than most to see you through. Take it from a guy who’s been around, it’s what we need; it’s what our country needs, maybe it’s what the world needs more of –