Blog Archives

A Show of Hands

Hands put over another, palms down.

Hands put over another, palms down. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe that you will find that many of these “nuggets” so to speak are entirely common sense. However you will also find that often they make more sense than anything. I am sure that you would never be guilty of not washing your hands after using the restroom, but this post is for all of those other people. Perhaps this is a good one to refer to someone you know that might be a bit slack in the hand washing  department.

If you work for a company that has common restrooms that are shared between guests and employees it is very critical that you appear to the guest to be overly clean when you are using the restroom. I have spoken of Ralph Lawrence before, my training Manager and GM with McDonald’s. He was always giving me advice that I found myself passing on to others that worked for me. One time I came out of the restroom and was putting on my gloves. He pulled me aside and asked me if I had washed my hands. I told him I not only washed them I didn’t touch the handle when I came out of the restroom. He then told me, “Once fir them and twice for us.” I looked at him like he had two heads, as I often did when he would say something pithy, and he proceeded to explain. I was told that it was good for anyone who was in the restroom to see me wash my hands, and he praised me for it. Then he mentioned it was always a good idea to do it again where managers and others would see you so that everyone knows you did so. That made a lot of sense to me. You want to always give the appearance that the guest and their food is the most important thing to you.

How you appear to them is very important, and trust me, the one time you don’t it will get noticed somewhere. I can think of several occasions that staff members have dealt with documentations or possibly termination because the guest saw something that the staff member saw as inconsequential.

Pardon the expression, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. As Forrest Gump would say, “and that’s all I have to say about that.”

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How’s the View Up There?

Ivory Towers

Ivory Towers (Photo credit: James F Clay)

This post is devoted to Managers and the struggles that they deal with day in and day out. While I have not been a General Manager in a Hospitality Concept I do hear frustrations from some of those GM’s I have served under. The issue of saving money by decreasing labor hours is all abuzz these days and has been for many years. Seems, just like with our Government, different corporations experiment in different ways with doing this. It seems that regardless of what is done there always seems to be pain points created at the restaurant or retail store level. There are processes that need to take place at the local level to help you deal with each given situation. I want to qualify all of this by saying I am not sure what pain points you will experience because my crystal ball is broken, but I will touch on some areas that will assist you in working through the process. While those in “The Ivory Tower” that may be making the corporate decisions may not be as in touch as Managers at the local level would like them to be they are still making the decisions. Fighting the decisions rarely helps anything; you must be their “Eyes on the Ground” so to speak to help them make appropriate future decisions. If you establish yourself as such you will find more in the long run will work in your favor. Being a voice of reason tends to work better than being a heel biting Chihuahua.

As much as I have felt the crunch of people making decisions for a corporation above me I also understand the reason for it. I am going to try really hard not to side with anyone on this and instead provide helpful insight that will help decrease the pain as it arises.

Training

This is the most critical point I will make, because it seems like this is where I see the most frustration created in the process. I will speak primarily to restaurants in this portion because I have been a training manager involved with creating policy at the corporate level or I have trained staff and walked through the process. You only get a certain amount of training dollars so use them wisely. The two companies that I have worked for that have done the best with this would have to be Olive Garden and McDonald’s.  To be honest, I think most other companies do their best to steal fish from those fishbowls and use previously trained staff from corporations with good training reputations. I think most do it unintentionally; they rather just take the path to least resistance. If you can hire someone that already knows how to cook you can simply just teach them a new menu. A Server that has waited tables previously just needs to be moved to a new station. With this tactic comes certain opportunities. There is probably a reason, and not often blatantly obvious to anyone, why that person is no longer with a previous employer.

English: This is a picture of two Oscar Fish i...

English: This is a picture of two Oscar Fish in a Fish Tank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Managers, please check references. This can be done one of two ways. First, call the places they have listed.as a previous employer. The will at least give you an idea whether that person would have been eligible for rehire. Secondly, you may have people that work for you that you trust who may have worked with some of these people in the past. Those people are a good source of referral for you. Use them. I recently worked with a young Manager at a concept I won’t mention that asked me if I had worked with a couple of people that had turned in applications. I did not recommend either of them. I am not in the habit of shooting down new applications unless I know there is a history. Anyway, one of them wasn’t a productive employee where I was working at another job, and the other had been fired from two of the locations they listed. That wasn’t indicated on the applications. Well, we spent training dollars to bring the first in and after two days they washed out. The second made it through training, and I really hope they have better luck than the previous two positions. Often you pull fish from other aquariums and you get diseases that spread throughput your new tank. In Branson, there are a lot of places to work, and many just hop from one to the next without modifying their behavior. It’s simply a process of people taking advantage of the fact that references aren’t often checked. For each person you put through training you will have to pay them for training, so it reflects well on you to hire effectively.

Document Everything

Ever tried calling your Corporate Supervisor and tried to explain a problem and had them come back and ask for numbers? Chances are you realized this information before you read this point. However, for those learning vicariously through those people  – You lucked out.  It’s so much more helpful if you can come to your supervisor with vital statistics to support your observation. If you have a boss who just changes something because you said it needs to change you would probably want to hang onto that job because chances are his job will be up for grabs soon.

Monitor Waste

One of the most effective  training sessions happened for me in Basic Management training when I was with McDonald’s. One day all of us budding new Managers were brought outside to the back parking lot of the McDonald’s to the dumpster. It was asked of us to collect trash from there and from all of the cans that were around the dining room. It was all laid out and all of the condiments that were unopened and thrown away were counted. Talk about a major realization that day. There is a specific reason why you are handed only the amount of condiments you ask for. You can be a hero in your company if you can find a way to control waste. You would be amazed at how often that is taken for granted.

In a hotel, it isn’t that hard to use the backs of old handouts for scratch paper. Obviously if it should be shredded then that isn’t the same. Going paperless altogether is the best way to save there. It takes some doing but it makes life so much easier in the long run.

When It All Goes Down

English: Ellensburg, WA, February 14, 2009 -- ...

English: Ellensburg, WA, February 14, 2009 — A FEMA Disaster Recovery Center is set up in Ellensburg at the annual rodeo venue. Disaster Recovery Centers are an important part of disaster recovery. Photo by Ed Edahl/FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the bragging I do about McDonald’s  I can’t say my experience with losing a main server in a storm is worthy of bragging about. The fact that we made it out alive to talk about it was pretty amazing. We had a major storm in Branson and it created a power surge or two, and took out our power completely for a few minutes. When the power came back on a minute or so later the main server didn’t. Everything was connected to that server. For the rest of that day we took orders and received money without the aid of a Point of Sales system. It cost over 2000 dollars for the new server, and all of that would have probably been unnecessary if money had been spent on an automatic back up system. Those often cost a little less than a few hundred dollars.

Preparing for disaster is essential for your business. and is critical in the digital age. Even if you are a Mom and Pop company your data is important. If you don’t know where to get started with that, I would like to recommend that you call a Data Protection Specialist like DaZZee Integrations. They can help you get started with that. I also have a background there and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Budgets being altered can be worked around as frustrating as it seems. Often it just means you do  a little preparation to make sure you are using your money and manpower hours wisely. I understand that is get’s frustrating, and I also understand that there aren’t enough hours in the day, but that should be more incentive to place a stitch in a possible tear before it rips and becomes a gaping hole.

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Makin the Old Man Proud – Keys to Impress Your Boss

It’s the weekend and I am posting this Blog article. I wouldn’t want you to get caught reading helpful information while you are on the clock. This post may be relatively short because it really is just common sense. However, so often it’s just a matter of following simple steps that shows  your worth to the company you work for that you are more than just a body in a spot. The majority of the people who read the first two sentences of this post and click away are those people you may pass up for a promotion someday because you hung in there. I promise, it won’t take long.

Since it’s the weekend enjoy this example of exactly what I won’t be talking about in this post

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Bus Staff, Concessions Workers, Hosts, and Maintenance this one may ring true for you. Some may think that these are some areas in a company that you would make the least amount of impact to those who  visit your establishment. I want to tell you that this is the furthest thing from the truth. While your pay rate may not be the highest it can be a stepping stone to some place you want to go. The person who learns everything there is about their job and does the best at it they possibly can will get noticed. I can’t think of the number of times I have wished as a server that there had been an effective and well engaged Host  at the front. Some may think that is a very easy job – I have even heard it referred to as Monkey Work, but to be really effective there it takes skill and an ability to see the big picture to make you really great at this task. How many people would think a guy who sells Hot Dogs at a baseball game could move up in the world? Do you know how many people you brush up against in life when you do that kind of work. If you are good at what you do; opportunities will happen.

Look Up

This one is going to get under your skin just a bit, and I am sorry. The person who is the most important while you are in a service oriented position is the person right in front of you. They aren’t on your cell phone, and they won’t be the server that is trying to flirt with you so you will give them more tables. The person you greet who walks through the door, or you see in the hallway when you are cleaning the room has the ability to really be an asset to you if you make them happy. A corporate praise can go a long way for you, and certainly a whole lot further than what a complaint will because they saw you smoking outside the building when the area around you is a disaster.  Refer to the Manager’s frustration  in the last post to understand my position.

Yes, I Can

You manager is often forced to be creative because he is in a pinch and you being willing to slide into something new is always going to work in your favor. Even if you really blow it, you were willing to try. A willingness to jump in will go a long way for you in anything you are involved in.

We didn’t have a guy to make salads on a busy night one evening and we asked a new host if he would step in. Well, that night we found out that the kid that was “filling in” was doing a better job than the guy who did it all the time. The fill in found him,self on the Expo line and now is a Server. Rob is a Diamond in the Rough. You never know what can happen.

Be On Time

I can think of so many times as a Manager that I would have really appreciated someone walking into the door that works for me when I got a sudden rush of business. It’s amazing how endearing you can become to your supervisor if you are there to bail him out. 15 minutes early is always appreciated.

The key to this one too is coming in prepared to work. In uniform and ready to clock on. A supervisor will grow tired of someone who clocks in before they put their coat away.

Smile, it’s the Best Part of Your Uniform

It’s amazing how much more what you have to say can change an impression if you smile. There are so many reasons why this is a good idea, and it’s so easy to do. Just take the opportunity and I assure you that it will make a difference in the people around you. I almost didn’t put this in because it seems so simple, but it’s essential. People like working with people who smile.

Like I said, this is a very short post and isn’t  Earth shattering information.The key here  is you need to do the common sense things because there are a lot of people who won’t. Keep it simple and stay true to the basics that will always be the best practice. Even if it doesn’t seem exciting, if you do your job with interest and grace it will reflect well on you at some point.

Thanks for reading!

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If You Build It They Will Come

We all dream of something better. When we take on a position as a Manager we have hopes to build something no one can resist. We have dreams and desires. I find myself drifting to this movie clip when I think about that.

I post this blog in many groups I am a part of on LinkedIn and I have gotten some great feedback. Something that was said in reference to my last post  made me think that he may be a bit frustrated. I am going to post the message and tell me that you haven’t felt something similar as a manager.

Dirk; the experience of a guest begins when they pull into your driveway and continues long after they leave. From the flowers by your front door to the cigarette butt on the sidewalk. From the valet who runs to their door to the bell hop texting his girlfriend instead of offering his services, they notice everything. The experience is everything the guest see’s and how you make them feel added together, upselling, having excellent Menu’s (not as easy as you may think) in your restaurant, awesome housekeeping and a functional front desk area must work seamlessly together. As a manager how many times have you heard from BUT guests, everything was great BUT, the room was perfect BUT, the hotel was excellent BUT. Unluckily the human condition makes it easier to remember the BUT’S than it does the excellents. Putting your best foot forward or Knowing who the best employees are has always been easy for any manager. Taking the average employee and through training creating the NEW best employee that is what good management is all about. To Take an average hotel or resort and through training, leadership, personal contact and example turn it into an exemplary establishment is what great managers accomplish. Maya Angelou said ” People may forget what you said, People may forget what you did, BUT they will never forget how you made them FEEL”

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

If you haven’t felt some of these same emotions then you haven’t been in management long enough/ Like in the movie clip we brush up against positive and negative influences everyday. We have to decide how we will deal with it.They key to remember is that your staff will be a reflection of you because you are their leader. You will be the benchmark your staff compares everything to. Chances are, you will also be the measuring stick your Supervisors will judge things by as well. Regardless of how fair you may think the circumstances are you will be accountable for what you make of the situation. For some people that paralyzes them when they know they are being watched, but for others it’s something different.

It’s important to seek  “Buy In” from your staff, bu it’s important that you know what it is you want them to jump into. Do you know fully what your supervisors expect from you in your role, and do you have clear goals reflecting that? If so, are you familiar with your company’s philosophy? Does your philosophy reflect that of the company with the team you manage? These are questions you should be asking yourself often so that you don’t lose touch with what it is you strive to achieve with your staff. When you do or say something does it reflect your company in a positive light? Back to the benchmark thing – your staff will take cues on how you support your company’s ideals by what you say and do. I don’t think I will really touch here in your off-work life, because I am sure that it will appear in a future post. Remember, everything you do will be put under a microscope at one time or another.To acquire “Buy In” from your staff you will need to show them an example worth buying into. Ask yourself in every situation if you have truly done everything you can over a given situation. Then your example will dictate the direction of your crew.

I was a Manager with McDonald’s for three years, and most of that tenure was primarily nights. I called my night crew “The Island of Misfit Toys> They were primarily young and I handpicked the majority of them. We were all a little crazy and definitely unorthodox. However, we held to one thing all the time. We held ourselves to the standard of providing food the way we were supposed to do it when we were there. I always said to them that it was easier to learn to do the right thing and get good at that as opposed to cutting corners. Did we goof off some – oh yeah, but we came together like a well oiled machine when it was time to do what we did. The kids I had didn’t all seem like everyone’s first choice in the regular world, but it was amazing to see them grow up as young men and women.The one thing I learned from my first supervisor with McDonald’s, Ralph Lawrence, is that they need to see you pick up a mop before they will respect your asking them to do so. Ralph showed me a great example of Servant Leadership. I try to make that philosophy mine where ever I am. He also said, “It’s not about you; it’s about the business.” I have to remember that a lot; When you put yourself before the company and if someone isn’t trained to fill in for you in your absence then you aren’t doing what you need to do to protect the business. It’s always important to duplicate yourself in someone else; not because they can’t live without you but because you need to leave the place better than you found it when you got there.

If you work hard to reflect the company’s standard and show your team the best example of a sold out leader for that team as you can be your team will notice. It’s so much easier to hold your crew accountable when you are a person of integrity. Then you don’t have to try and backtrack or even worse deal with a do as I say and not as I do moment.  That’s a death knell to your ability to keep your crew’s respect. Unfortunately, I have learned that the hard way.

Most importantly your staff isn’t going to care how much you know until they know how much you care. This will be reflected with your crew and the guests you take care of. If you keep that key element in mind you will do more good than harm wherever you are.

As Always, please feel free to shoot me feedback and I will be happy to help or listen however I can.  I really appreciate the opportunity to interact with people of many industries.

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It’s All In How You Look At It

English: The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Mem...

English: The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Tennessee. The first self service grocery store, opened 1916. Français : Le premier supermarché Piggly Wiggly ouvert en 1916 à Memphis, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s five o’clock in the afternoon, and you just got off work. You have gone to the grocery store to get the one item you needed to finish dinner. After picking up your cart you see an immense stack of Coke strategically placed like the White House, and realized you needed a case of soda because it’s been a long day and you are thirsty. Then you turn the corner and you see all of these beautiful vegetables displayed and realized that you could make a great salad with just a couple more items. Rounding another corner you see dessert  peering through a little glass case at you, and of course that Angel Food cake would be great with some strawberriesand whipped cream. So, back to produce and on to the one thing you needed. Passing the meat counter you see fresh Porterhouse steaks displayed on sale, and “Shazam” you have tomorrow night’s main course. On each end cap is displayed amazing Little Debbie treats and Tortilla Chips.  Turning you go over to the aisle where the salsa is located because you really wanted a different brand. Now you have four more items and you are headed for that one thing… What was it? Oh yeah!  Get milk… Then that takes you past the ice cream, and then another display with sale wines. Excellent… Oh, now you see one of those “Chip Clips” hanging next to the wine. Turning around you see the new Sports Illustrated displayed on the magazine rack. Then before you get to the register you see a display of beef jerky and realize how hungry you have become. With the saltiness of the jerky you are going  to want a soda in the cooler, next to the jerky,  to wash that down. By the time you get through the register, the milk you came for just cost you 83.55, Does  it dawn on you then that you have just been cleverly outsmarted by technical genius of a grocery store team that you thought was well below your pay grade? No, but you do remember to pick up flowers for your wife on the way out so she won’t yell at you for getting the Little Debbie’s.

English: Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, made by Mc...

English: Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, made by McKee Foods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a commissioned, or tipped, employee I would like to suggest that you need to take the “grocery store” approach to the services you provide. The key to a great haircut, meal, or outfit sale is to give your guest what they want while adding nuances along the way that will enhance their experience. We want them to walk away from that occasion in time knowing this was the best opportunity ever, and that they couldn’t duplicate it anywhere else with anyone else for that price.

When you introduce your customer to the menu they need to see all of the things that made your establishment special – your “Signature’s” so to speak. If it is a suit, they couldn’t have done it just right without one more really nice tie. In addition, the really needed the French Cuff shirts to set off the ensemble.Your job is to be aware of everything available to them with each option and then enhance their experience with such an option. Here’s the tough part – ready? You have to lay that suggestion in so softly they don’t notice they were just sold on it. They key is to never look hungry – like you need the sale, and never question in your mind whether they need something; – assume they do.

If the majority of the people that walk in have a set tip percentage in their mind then it is to your benefit to deliver the best experience at the optimum price point.

English: unrecognized dessert.

English: unrecognized dessert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a trick for a server – It’s a bit of a Ninja maneuver – So, don’t let  just anyone try this. When you approach your table, before you get their drink order, introduce them to some of your favorite items. These items will be a little higher price point than the lower end items everyone else sells. Here’s what happens next. You get their drink order and are heading to the back to get their drinks. The time you are away works for you. Their mouth is now watering for the specialty Filet as opposed to the chopped steak they would normally be looking at. What just happened was you diverted their eyes from the inexpensive items and focused them with a laser fine gaze open the mouth watering top dollar steak. The time you have gone away has turned into time for that steak to melt into their braincells. Try it, and if you do it just right you will have them eating out of the palm of your hand, actually the best part of the menu the majority of the time.

The key to making money as a commissioned professional is to fully educate yourself with the items that are available to you and how to pair them with the accessories that are available with each item. You will find that the more tools you add to your toolbox the more prepared you are to to do specialty work in your job.

Always remember, most anyone can wait a table, or sell an outfit, but it takes a special person to create an experience.

Cheers!

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The Intangibles

Charles Barkley representing the 1992 Dream Team

Charles Barkley representing the 1992 Dream Team (Photo credit: dgaproductions)

All throughout my life I have been a sports fan. I love to watch some of the greats and how they play. Basketball, Football, Baseball ad other sports it was always amazing to see the huge upsets or the amazing plays. Men  receive Hall of Fame status because of the ability to do great things constantly.Names like Michael Jordan, Ryne Sandberg, Dan Marino, Charles Barkley, Greg Maddux, and Mike Singletary. Some very vivid memories come from plays made by these great athletes. There were other names that I heard of men who never really made the same splash in every category on the statistics sheet, but nonetheless they had a series of intangibles that they brought to the court everyday as well. Does anyone remember when John Paxson drained the three pointer in 1993 during the Championship game to beat the Suns? I am a Suns fan, and I remember the blood draining from my face. Dan Majerle was famous for his last second heroics and his defense. Mark Clayton made Dan Marino look amazing. I remember following Cedric Ceballos when he was with the Suns, and remember his coaches always saying that they never ran a play specifically for him. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, A.C. Green and Steve Tasker are some guys that had amazing facets to their game that made them amazing in there own areas of excellence to make big plays at any given time.  I speak of these guys because these are the types of individuals I want to focus on in this post.

Greg Maddux in 2006

Greg Maddux in 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In management it’s hard not to focus on those “Rock Star” employees, because they run up the most sales on a given night, or they seem to handle the front desk best when there is a rush from a bus. These are revenue driven tasks and they are vitally important to the team. They are people we feel like we can build a team around because often they are charismatic and full of energy. Those people deserve attention; however, here are other people that you should make sure you witness as well. Some of these people work hard in the support roles, or they bring special talents to the table that may be outside of their job code. These are many different kinds of gemstones with beautiful facets, but their colors emerge when they are polished. A person with great organizational skills can be consulted on their ideas about group dining practices. The person who is always bringing fun to the group would be great to assist with planning company parties. Maybe you have a blogger in your group that could help publicize your company. Finding ways to utilize those hidden talents is the best way to make them feel appreciated and lighten your management load.

English: Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen 1995

English: Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen 1995 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those people make great role players for your team and can get often overlooked. The key to great management that takes you to the Hall of Fame as a coach, so to speak, is your ability to develop your diamond in the rough and find beautiful places for them to sparkle. The key to building great teams is making the bench players feel like integral parts of the game at every level.

In addition to the great team that you have created you need to find ways to improve upon that. In the off season or when a hiring push is about to arise it’s a good idea to create a depth chart to assess which areas of the organization are strong and where you have opportunities for improvement. Then you can analyze your players and see what traits seem to make them strong and look for similar traits ion new candidates for positions with your company.

If you take the time and analyze your staff and find ways to reward those with the hidden aspects that make them special it will benefit you on many levels.

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The Journey To Great Experiences

Servicelogo

Great Experiences Don’t Often Happen By Accident

The journey can be just as sweet as the destination if you take the time to enjoy the sensations and nuances that make the experience amazing. That’s why I have created this Blog. I work in a town in the Hospitality Industry that is known for great experiences. Individuals and families come to Branson, Missouri to see and feel things they don’t feel in their everyday life. People spend tons of money to see shows that will make them forget what may have been going on at home and give them something to remember for years to come. In a town where building memories is so important to people it’s sometimes very surprising that the people who work in the Hospitality Industry in Branson don’t always seem aware of that big picture. Of course, we all want to make money, but even more importantly the key to making that money is helping people to really enjoy their experience.

I am devoting this Blog to the Service Professional that wants to bring their game to the next level, or feel they have something to offer in what they do. I don’t know everything and I am counting on the feedback of the audience of this Blog to assist me on this Journey. I am going to use examples I have experienced to point out aspects of this and I am hoping it will become a springboard to your sharing of great experiences you will have as well. In addition to that I may at times point out some of the other opportunities I have had to witness some experiences that were not so great, not to embarrass those making the mistakes, but to help us all learn. Please feel free to interact with me in this process so that we can all take this journey together and enjoy the ride.

Much of my experience in service has been in the Hospitality Industry has been in Restaurants, and Hotels. I would hope that this Blog will be something anyone in the Service Industry can use with a little application tweaking to make it fit their given situation. I have done stints in other areas of occupation in my life and so I am hoping I can find a practical middle ground for those working in Hospitals, Grocery Stores, or even Ministry. Again, this is going to be where you come in; I will need your input to make that an even better offering as time passes.My vision is something that will help us all get better, and I am looking forward to seeing how this develops and what stories may arise through the course of time to follow.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this Blog; it is my pleasure to serve you with this vehicle your great service experiences.