Manager

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Leadership Facepalm, Part Three

Leadership Facepalm, Part Three

by David Klemt

Frustrated man sitting on couch

We almost got to next year without another viral leadership facepalm moment but then an Olive Garden manager sent a memo.

In case you’re unaware of the now-infamous Olive Garden memo, here’s a recap:

  • Zero tolerance for calling off.
  • Sick team members must come in and prove they’re ill.
  • If someone’s dog dies, they must bring the dead animal in to prove its death.
  • Family emergencies are not private and must come with an explanation.

The manager who authored the memo also takes time to boast about their perfect attendance record.

For the curious, the first entry in our leadership facepalms is here. Part two is here.

The Letter

Below you’ll find the letter, addressed to “ALL Team Members.” To read it in its entirety, click here.

“Our call offs are occurring at a staggering rate. From now on, if you call off, you might as well go out and look for another job. We are no longer tolerating ANY excuse for calling off. If you’re sick, you need to come prove it to us. If your dog died, you need to bring him in and prove it to us.”

I highly doubt that’s Olive Garden or Darden policy.

“If its a ‘family emergency’ and you can’t say, too bad. Go work somewhere else. If you only want morning shifts, too bad go work at a bank. If anyone from here on out calls out more than ONCE in the next 30 days you will not have a job.”

It doesn’t get any better when the manager brings up their own track record:

“Do you know in my 11.5 years at Darden how many days I called off? Zero. I came in sick. I got in a wreck literally on my to work one time, airbags went off and my car was totaled, but you know what, I made it to work, ON TIME! There are no more excuses.”

Interestingly, the manager implies they’re speaking for all the leaders:

“Us, collectively as a management team have had enough.”

A Breaking Point

First, I’m not pretending a staggering amount of operators, leadership teams, and team members aren’t at their breaking points. The labor shortage and staffing struggles are a real crisis in our industry (and others, of course).

Second, I’m not suggesting that operators and their teams aren’t justified in their frustration and anger.

If we’re to accept just this year’s reporting alone, it appears many people are comfortable being rude to service workers. It’s a disturbing trend, and it’s motivating people to leave public-facing roles. As they’re leaving, many are swearing off the hospitality industry entirely.

Third, I think the memo above highlights our need to address mental health in this industry. Sure, it’s easy to write this manager off as a jerk and terrible leader. But what if we look at this through the lens of stress?

The memo could easily be the manifestation of a breaking point. It’s also possible the entire management team was behind this email.

Damage Done

Let’s look at this situation solely as an example of poor judgment and leadership. Imagine the damage it could do to any restaurant or bar, chain or independent.

What do you think a memo like this does to the ability to recruit? To retain? How does such an email do anything but exacerbate labor problems?

Darden, Olive Garden’s parent, went into crisis management mode when this memo went viral. It appeared on Reddit, was picked up by news outlets and other websites, and exploded.

Ultimately, Darden terminated the manager to whom the memo is attributed: “We strive to provide a caring and respectful work environment for our team members. This message is not aligned with our company’s values. We can confirm we have parted ways with this manager.”

The Olive Garden location in Kansas where this situation took place may recover. They’re a large chain, people tend to have short memories for news, and regulars will likely stay loyal.

But what if this occurred at an independent restaurant? The damage could be irreparable.

Work Culture

Now, it should be obvious that from a simply operational standpoint, this situation highlights an unhealthy work environment and culture. That should go without saying.

So, instead I want to say something else.

Operators need to check in with their team members. Leaders, front of house, back of house—everyone. Stress levels are reaching breaking points and every one of your team members needs to know they matter, they’re safe, and they’re supported.

Check in. Survey your team. Be empathetic. And if you’re an operator, you need a support system of your own.

Being a leader doesn’t mean being infallible. It’s not poor leadership or weakness to admit you need help.

Image: Nik Shuliahin 💛💙 on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How a Chain Lost My Business Forever

How the Staff at a National Chain Lost My Business Forever

by David Klemt

Chocolate cookie and cookie crumbles

An unfortunate and entirely avoidable guest experience debacle guarantees that I’ll never spend another dollar at a particular national American chain.

What was supposed to be a small treat and excuse to get outside for a bit went downhill quickly.

Now, before I begin, I tend to shrug at poor service. Truly, a front-of-house team member has to go pretty far for me to do more than raise an eyebrow.

Given how the past two years-plus have gone, my tolerance has only grown. Everyone has bad days, including restaurant, bar, and hotel staff. In fact, I tend to assume that someone is simply having an off day due to an array of reasons: working several days in a row, opening and closing multiple times a week; having more responsibilities heaped on them due to being short staffed; a seeming increase in abuse from guests; stress spilling over onto the job; etc.

However, that doesn’t mean I’ll always return to be subjected to poor service in the future. What I experienced yesterday falls into this category: I won’t spend my money with this chain ever again.

Third-party Issues

As stated above, my visit to this national chain (600-plus locations) was intended to be a small treat. It was Halloween, they specialize in a particular type of confection, so why not?

Also, the temperatures have been in the 70s and lower in Las Vegas—perfect for a trip on my motorcycle. So, two treats in one, really.

Okay, so I’m going to do something I don’t like doing here: making an assumption or two. I think, however, I’m basing them on sound reasoning.

Additionally, I don’t like to use third-party delivery. In this case, the order was placed via Uber Eats for pickup using a monthly credit. Zero offense to third-party delivery drivers—it’s the corporations behind the services and the fees they charge operators I don’t support.

So, my assumption is that because the order came in via Uber Eats the staff figured I was “just” a delivery driver.

Downhill Fast

I’ll concede that this visit didn’t start off on the wrong foot: I received a decent welcome. Since I was picking up the order, I stood at the pickup counter, and confirmation came in before I arrived that the order was ready.

There were three guests waiting when I walked in, and one by one they got their orders and left. I didn’t think anything was going wrong until people walked in after me and received their orders. In terms of this chain, my order was on the smaller side.

After several minutes of being ignored, I was asked if I was picking up for Uber Eats. I clarified that no, I’m not an Uber Eats driver, I was picking up my order placed via Uber Eats.

Another several minutes went by as I watched larger orders get fulfilled ahead of mine. And then I was asked again—by the same staff member—who I was picking up for. Again, not an Uber Eats driver—my order.

At this point, I had been waiting more than 10 minutes. When I was finally given my order, I noticed another difference. Staff members showed guests their orders to confirm the contents before handing them over. My order, however, was taped closed behind the counter and handed to me.

It didn’t strike me that this is how this staff treats Uber Eats driver until I was on my bike. And that’s the problem.

Standards of Service

If this is how staff treats third-party delivery drivers, it’s appalling. There’s no excuse for treating drivers differently just because they aren’t the guest themselves or fellow employees.

Let’s be clear: anyone walking through a restaurant, bar or hotel’s doors deserves at least decent service. There are several reasons for this, and I shouldn’t have to address them. But, hey, we’re already here, so why not address a couple?

First, standards. If your staff is purposely treating a group of people poorly because they think they can do so without ramifications, your standards have slipped or there simply aren’t any. That’s a problem.

Are team members going to get to know regulars? Absolutely. Are they going to have favorites. Of course! And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s what should happen—every front-of-house team member should cultivate their own regulars.

So, yes, some guests will treated differently. There’s a huge difference, however, between subjecting some guests to poor service intentionally and delivering outstanding service to favorites.

Quite simply, the minimum standard of service should be great service. “Decent” sucks; great should be the baseline.

Regulars and guests who staff have rapport with should receive service that’s above and beyond the standard level. Rock star servers and bartenders deliver outstanding service to everyone, regular or first-timer, gracious guest or grump.

Different Treatment?

Second, your staff shouldn’t be treating third-party delivery workers like they don’t matter. There’s zero room in hospitality for treating people poorly—doing so is in direct opposition to the spirit of this profession.

In fact, they shouldn’t treat difficult guests with anything but your expected standards. Leadership team members should be confronting rude or difficult guests, protecting the rest of the team.

I’ve read and heard about restaurant staff treating third-party delivery drivers poorly. Always, of course, with justifications thrown in: retaliation toward rude drivers, drivers not tipping…pick a reason. Again, if there’s a rude driver, staff should alert leadership and they should handle it.

Look, I’ve made no secret of my view on third-party delivery apps. Their fees and taking advantage of operators, particularly during the pandemic, infuriate me. And it’s easy to point at me and say I’m part of the problem, using a credit to place a third-party delivery. I’ll accept that criticism.

What I won’t do is return to a business with staff who think it’s acceptable to allow standards to slip and treat delivery drivers poorly. Most people seem to take delivery jobs to make ends meet. Hell, some of them are likely service industry professionals themselves working another job or jobs.

The labor shortage isn’t a valid justification for slipping standards or poor service. Dislike of third-party delivery services is no justification, either.

In fact, this chain obviously sees these delivery services as a viable income stream. The fact their staff doesn’t is a problem. If there’s a standard of service for this chain, it certainly wasn’t met when I was there. And if there’s a standard that I didn’t receive, there are several other problems.

Either way, the damage is done.

Image: Andre Moura via Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Viral Post Highlights Real Leadership

What a Viral Reddit Post Reveals About Leadership in Hospitality

by David Klemt

Reddit app icon on smartphone

A text exchange between a restaurant manager and delivery driver posted to Reddit went viral last month.

Refreshingly, it didn’t make the rounds on news sites for the wrong reasons. Rather, the text conversation is a succinct example of emotional intelligence, empathy, and leadership.

Those interested in reading the text exchange in its entirety can follow this link. However, I’ll sum it up here.

Posted to the subreddit Kitchen Confidential, the conversation begins with the manager checking in on the driver, asking, “You doing OK?”

The driver says they’re “doing better but” is still dealing with a lot. After the manager asks if they should cover their shift that night, the driver reveals they may need to quit the job.

Instead of blowing up at the driver, trying to talk them out of their decision, or cutting the exchange short, they say, “It’s alright [sic].”

Going further, the manager says, “You’re [sic] happiness is more important.” They add that the business hopes the driver will return to the job when they’re ready.

Shall I Cover You Tonight?

Now, I tend to believe that most members of restaurant, bar, and hotel leadership teams are empathetic. I also lean toward believing that most are competent problem solvers.

However, we’ve all come across people who don’t belong in a leadership role. In some cases, a person’s lack of leadership qualifications doesn’t manifest until they’ve been in the role for some time.

My business partner Doug Radkey and I have had conversations about leaders who don’t seem to lead. At best, they’re examples of what not to do. At worst, they’re chasing away a business owner’s staff and guests.

Most recently, these conversations have centered around managers insisting that staff solve scheduling problems themselves.

Before I proceed, I acknowledge fully that we’re facing an unprecedented labor shortage. That’s no excuse for poor leadership.

What, exactly, is the leadership team doing that they can’t manage the schedule? Further, with today’s modern scheduling platforms, why is filling available roles difficult for leaders? Several scheduling apps make it a painless, automated process.

The manager in this Reddit text exchange doesn’t demand the driver find someone to cover their shift. Instead, they behave like a manager and handle it themselves.

Don’t Ever Discount Yourself

If you’re active on LinkedIn and have a sizeable hospitality-centric network, you’ve likely seen posts about how the industry needs to be more people-focused. Not in terms of guests—that’s obvious.

Rather, the consensus is that we’re not going to solve the labor problem if we don’t treat staff as well as we treat guests. Some of these posts may be a bit saccharine, but they’re not incorrect.

Let’s review the texts from this manager:

  • “You doing OK?”
  • Your “happiness is more important.”
  • “We love having you here.”
  • “You’re an awesome person.”
  • “Don’t ever discount yourself.”

When’s the last time you and other members of the leadership team asked a staff member if they’re okay? And if you’ve asked recently, did you get an honest answer? Did you want an honest answer?

A restaurant or bar team that doesn’t trust leadership isn’t going to bother providing an honest answer to that question—they feel like the leaders don’t care about them.

Looking at the rest of the texts above, do you and your leaders take the time to recognize and thank staff? Even the shyest team member wants recognition for a job well done.

Those in leadership roles need to develop their skills constantly. Contrary to some in those positions, leaders aren’t there simply to lord their authority over others and dish out punishments.

So, before your next team meeting, gather the leaders. Find out if every member of the team is checking on staff, valuing their health and wellness, and tackling the mundane tasks that are inherent to their roles.

The maxim is true: People don’t quit jobs, they quit people. If your leadership team isn’t leading with empathy, you can expect your labor issues to compound. No amount of excuses will turn that around.

This article by KRG Hospitality director of business development David Klemt was first published by Bar Business and can be read in its entirety by following this link.

Image: Brett Jordan on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Incentive Economy: What are You Offering?

The Incentive Economy: What are You Offering?

by David Klemt

Chef's knife and honing rod crossed on cutting board

You know about the gig economy but are you familiar with the incentive economy?

It’s quite simple, and there are myriad ways for operators to engage with it. In fact, you likely already participate in the incentive economy in some way.

To put it succinctly, the incentive economy is all about the perks of a job beyond a paycheck.

The Old Ways are Out

On episode 53 of our Bar Hacks podcast, Chef Brian Duffy addresses the need for changes in our industry directly.

First, he tackles the lack of transparency in leadership by some operators. As Chef Duffy says, “That’s an old school way of doing it. That was an old school way, that was the Eighties.”

According to the chef, and we wholeheartedly agree, we now find ourselves in a “different phase” in the industry.

Then, Chef Duffy takes on how leadership in the industry treats staff.

One effective recruiting and hiring incentive Chef Duffy offers on the podcast deals with scheduling. None of his cooks close both nights of a weekend. He also posts schedules two weeks in advance so there are, A) no surprises, and B) if staff need to swap or drop, they have time to do so without impacting the business.

This simple scheduling incentive is attractive to new hires and existing staff. Why? Because working unpredictable, erratic hours is stressful.

“That ruins your life,” explains Chef Duffy.

If operators want to attract new hires, keep their team together, and reduce turnover, listening to staff about scheduling is crucial.

Things Need to Change

Chef Duffy shares a story on the podcast about his daughter and her experience working at a restaurant operated by a hospitality group.

No, he doesn’t name the group or the concept. The who isn’t the point here, it’s the what.

That what is how leadership bungled not only a scheduling issue but also how they botched Chef Duffy’s daughter’s two-week notice, her final shifts, and her final pay.

For more context, his daughter wasn’t a new hire who bailed after perceiving she had been treated poorly. She had worked at that restaurant for a year, there were ongoing issues, and she finally left.

As we all know, we’re down about a million jobs in this industry. That loss isn’t simply because of the pandemic. Our industry is undergoing a seismic cultural shift and we’re losing people who won’t return to hospitality.

Things need to change if we’re going to reverse this trend and strengthen the industry. KRG Hospitality president Doug Radkey addresses the change we need in his latest book, Hacking the New Normal. Chef Duffy addresses some of the necessary changes on our podcast as well.

“We can complain as much as we want, but we created it,” Chef Duffy says. “We as owners and operators and managers, we created what’s happening right now.”

Get Creative

The only limits to incentivizing your staff are your imagination, staying consistent with policies and procedures, being respectful of your staff and guests, and the law. Remain in those confines and get creative.

An incentive doesn’t need to be a grand gesture or prize. In many instances, something that makes a shift more fun and breaks up the monotony is enough to energize the staff.

“I want my staff, I want my front-of-house staff, to know what my sales goal is for the day,” says Chef Duffy. “And then I want to run a contest with that.”

One of the chef’s favorite contests is simple and highly motivating: Follow the Twenty.

Chef Duffy puts a twenty-dollar bill into play against a particular item or menu category. For example, either a specific dessert or any dessert.

Whenever a team member sells a dessert, they get the $20 that’s in play. If a different person sells another dessert, they get the twenty. Follow the Twenty incentivizes the first person to sell more of an item to hang onto the money, and the game motivates the rest of the staff to outperform their coworker to get the prize.

The last member of staff to sell a dessert that shift or day keeps the money.

Offering another creative incentive he’s seen, Chef Duffy shares that there’s a restaurant out there offering a free tattoo to kitchen staff that stays for at least 30 days. Will some staff leave after they get their tattoo? Possibly. Hiring wisely, implementing training policies and procedures, treating staff with respect, making scheduling easier and more flexible, ensuring clear communication is embedded in the fabric of your brand’s culture, and offering further incentives can prevent that turnover.

Offer Ongoing Education

“We live in an incentive world now,” says Chef Duffy. Explaining that he doesn’t operate large kitchens, large bars, or employ large teams, he admits he can only do so much in terms of incentives.

However, his approach to incentivizing staff to stay starts with this example of true leadership: “The one thing I can do is treat my employees well.”

With decades of experience in the industry, Chef Duffy’s knowledge is something he can offer his staff. A big believer in education, passing down information that can enrich team members’ careers and lives is an incredibly valuable incentive.

During a recent training session with a very young kitchen staff, the chef started with the very basics of education.

“Hey, guys, here’s a knife. This is a knife,” he said to the kitchen staff. “There’s seven different parts to a knife. Here’s the most powerful part, here’s the most precise part. This is how you hold it, this is what we do…”

Just reading that, it may seem like Chef Duffy was being condescending. That’s not the case. He wants to share as much of what he’s learned over the years to pass on his collected knowledge.

“I want people to feel as if they’re gaining something from me and the knowledge that I have rather than, ‘Go cut those onions and I’m gonna yell at you if you do it the wrong way,'” says Chef Duff.

Make Meaningful Change Today

Making impactful change can feel overwhelming. Let’s face it, it’s easier to just stay the course. But these days, staying the course can cost you your staff, then your guests, and then your business.

One way to start making change is to look inward at yourself, and at your leadership team.

Are your staff gaining anything from you beyond a job and paycheck? Is your leadership team mentoring and incentivizing staff? Are you, your leaders, and your team happy at work?

If the answer to those questions is “no,” do what’s reasonable to improve your brand’s work culture.

As Chef Duffy says, “The whole dynamic of it has to change and we have to take better care of our employees.”

Image: Steve Raubenstine from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

10 Words that Exemplify Leadership

10 Words that Exemplify Leadership

by David Klemt

Level Up neon sign in white and yellow

During episode 50 of the Bar Hacks podcast, Travis Tober sums up restaurant and bar leadership in just ten words.

In fact, this seemingly “small” sentence explains leadership and buy-in for essentially every type of business.

Let’s take a look at what Tober, co-owner of Nickel City and owner Old Pal, says that resonates with me.

10 Important Words

So, what does Tober say during his first appearance on Bar Hacks that embodies leadership?

The following, about his general manager:

“He knows the brand just as good as I do.”

How do those words exemplify leadership and buy-in? For several reasons:

  • They illustrate transparency from the owners.
  • Those words show trust.
  • The ten words put buy-in and mentorship on display.
  • They show that the GM possesses a sense of ownership of the brand.
  • The brand is obviously defined clearly.

Buy-in is Crucial

As an entrepreneur, consider what you’re asking of the people who work for you. You’re expecting others to help you achieve your dream.

So, why would they take their role in your business seriously rather than only seeing it as a paycheck? The answer is simple: buy-in.

Staff want to feel as though they’re a part of something—they don’t want to work just to pay bills.

As difficult as it may be, an operator needs to trust the people they hire.

Why would you want them on your team—and you need to build a team, not just have employees—if you don’t trust them? Filling roles just to have bodies in the building is a losing strategy, labor shortage or not.

In addition to trust, there needs to be brand indoctrination. Every employee should be a brand evangelist for you and your business.

One of the most powerful recruiting and marketing resources at your disposal is your team. People they encounter should want to spend time and money at your business because of your team. They should want to work for you after observing your team at work and out and about.

If that’s not happening, something is wrong. Your team doesn’t trust you; doesn’t feel as though you trust them; doesn’t feel empowered; or doesn’t believe they’re really a part of your brand and business.

So, ask yourself a simple question: Can my GM, management team, and staff say they know my brand as well as I do?

Listen to episode 50 of Bar Hacks with Travis Tober on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Image: Damir Kopezhanov on Unsplash

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