You know that kid that shows up late for his shift with pants hanging halfway down his butt? The one with the baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, iPod in hand, earphones dangling from his neck? Yeah, that kid, the one that speaks in mono-syllabic street slang, and smiles only when you're not looking. Pay attention to him. He's an invaluable business asset hiding under an XXL hoodie.

He can shoot killer footage with a Flip camera and edits with iMovie. He's been social networking "since, like forever, dude," and thinks that MySpace is "old school." He's uses Youtube to learn about kite surfing (his passion) and Skype to visit with his friends in Costa Rica. He used to love Facebook, but thinks it's become overly-hyped and generic. After his shift, he goes home and reads the Waiter's Rant blog, secretly wishing that there were more positive and empowering venues to connect with fellow servers.

He is living, creating, and breathing social media. But he needs direction, especially if it will benefit him professionally.

He could be shooting and editing video of his coworkers performing their sidework, video-blogging about wine service, instant messaging with other employees concerning open shifts, using Skype for all staff meetings, Twittering with wineries, and updating the chef on customer feedback from his previous shift. He could be communicating with ranchers about free range cattle, and learning more about sustainable agriculture through web links and weekly podcasts. He could be leading a conversation about acupuncture and meditation for food servers as an alternative to drinking and smoking post-shift. He could be building a cache of contacts and resources that directly enhance his future job prospects.

Get where I'm headed?

He's waiting for those channels to be opened. And once they are, look out! He might actually show up early for work, pants pulled up, hair combed, eyes sparkling. Empowered and ready to serve!

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Non-Operator
Comment by Paul Paz on August 21, 2009 at 10:34pm
I like your idea of the "circle" of creating standards for the SM activity.

I see from your profile that you and I are professional peers! Do you partiicpate in an SM program at your restaurant?

Paul
Comment by Michael Biesemeyer on August 21, 2009 at 10:18am
Thanks Paul! You ask the 100 million dollar question! Here's a thousand dollar answer.

I think that the term 'manage' should be re-considered here. SM is about collaboration. It's about rearranging the chairs into a circle. This is about listening (and asking questions). This is about creating an atmosphere that attracts as many voices as possible to a forum that recognizes productive, positive discourse. I'm not quite sure that SM can be managed the same way that, say, side work, service points or scheduling are.

Managers and restaurant owners are worried that if SM is left in the hands of younger employees it will devolve into some sort of 'moshpit'. I think their concerns are valid. A quick Google search of waiter sites turns up a heady dose of negativity (why these sites are so popular confounds me, and begs for a positive/alternative response).

So, here's an idea. Let your staff come up with the a set of rules for their SM network. That's right, give them the opportunity to articulate the guidelines for their community. I guarantee that, one their own, they will set parameters that discourage negativity and 'control' the tone of the conversation. It's one thing to disappoint your boss, and an entirely different thing to lose your coworker's respect.

If they need to blow off some steam, they can text each other.

Non-Operator
Comment by Paul Paz on August 21, 2009 at 12:26am
Nice vision there Michael!
Much of what you say is true and as you have said before... how does the "old school" restaurant decision makers manage this exciting resource?
Paul

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