Voice of the Restaurant Industry
Soup and Sandwich. Bacon and Eggs. Love and Marriage. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Culture and Customer Service.
Some things just go together ! Like the lyrics from a song my Mom used to sing “you can’t have one without the other”! If there’s any truth to this premise, why then are there so many organizations that seem unable to admit it?
(Break out house analogy) The house is only as good as the foundation. In business it’s been proven time and again that culture is foundational to long term success. The new upstart companies get it. Many of the older stodgier ones don’t. I suppose it’s less about not getting it and it’s more about this
"I have to survive this week” mentality. I get it but I don't.
The restaurant industry is famous for running the business week to week. If you’ve been in the business for more than a week you are familiar with “Black Monday” - the day the P&L prints. Like clockwork multi-unit managers are on the phone conducting the inquisition with each manager. Why is your food cost high? Your labor seems low. I noticed your training hours were over budget! What are you going to do to fix it this week? You know the drill. It gives me the heebie geebies just thinking about it.
Meanwhile the company (if it has a conscience) is preaching culture and values. While the jargon varies the messages are the same. Quality of life. Open Communication. Empowerment. Enthusiasm. Integrity. Customer-First. We Value Our Employees. Hmmm. I feel another trite, overused metaphor coming on. Dare I ask the question - “Are we speaking out of both sides of our mouth”?
I understand the importance of staying on top of the business. I know if we don’t focus on week to week results before we know it we could have a profit issue on our hands. What is the solution?
For me it’s less about WHAT and more about HOW. The nature of this business won’t change. Focusing on the numbers week to week is necessary. The way we do it needs to change. As operators we are trained to discover what’s wrong. Think about it. When a good operator walks into a restaurant the first thing she sees is the light that is out or the employee whose uniform is not spec. Same thing happens when we look at the P&L. What numbers need improvement? I can’t believe we are over budget in labor dollars again this week. What is the GM thinking?
All these are well-intentioned natural tendencies. It’s the way we’ve conducted business since Fred ordered his first Brontoburger. It has served many well over the years. Some would even say it’s been the key to their success. Don’t shoot the messenger here but this approach has to change.
If what I’ve described sounds familiar then your organization’s may be out of cultural alignment. The behavior doesn’t match the values. In my opinion the behavior is out of whack because some of the leaders lack self-awareness. They haven’t taken the time to understand how their behaviors - what they say and the way they say it affects their managers. Taken that one step farther the organization hasn’t devoted the time or the resources to help them become more self-aware. They haven’t learned how to support the company’s values and get results at the same time. By the way, supporting the values and getting results is not mutually exclusive.
You’ve probably noticed that customer service hasn’t been in the conversation since the headline. Curious don’t you think? Why do you suppose that is? In my opinion the importance of customer service tends to get lost in the P&L shuffle. Eighty percent of the discussion is about the numbers and if we are lucky we spend 20% of the time discussing the customer (and half of that time is spent on why we had dissatisfied customers!). Not to mention the fact that there’s been little if any discussion about the people who are responsible for delivering that customer experience! Am I starting to make sense?
What we are talking about here is a balancing act that would challenge The Flying Wallendas! If culture is truly the foundation and providing extraordinary customer experiences is the #1 objective why aren’t we being more aggressive in taking on this challenge? I suppose there IS a long list of excuses many of which seem legit. I think it requires a certain boldness to shift the focus from the financial P&L to the people P&L. It requires a leap of faith that many are unwilling to take in today’s environment. The stakes are high the risk is significant. The risk is higher if we accept the status quo.
What’s your opinion? Am I describing a situation that is out of the norm? I’d love to hear your thoughts.