Guest Blog: Training on the Go – A Direct Line to Food Service Profits

May 25th, 2015

Several years ago, the Peninsula Yacht Club was selected to be the club to implement the Hospitality Resources International Training on the Go (TOG) Program. Initially, the TOG program was met with some resistance from the front of house staff.  They felt that the program was another monotonous program whereby the dining room managers preach F&B mechanics to them for what seemed like hours.  Upon the staff’s recommendation, I changed the program’s delivery and made it involve the servers and bartenders more than the dining room managers.

In this new delivery, the servers studied a pre-determined module and then they were charged with presenting it to the rest of the staff.  This was the key to making the program work.  Now, servers would become teachers and would instruct their “class” in the pre-shift meetings.  There was no way to avoid having to teach a module as we required busboys, hostesses, servers and bartenders alike to instruct a class twice a month.

At first, the restaurant staff was enthralled by the alcoholic beverage information, especially the histories of liquors and wines.  This is the easiest part to teach because the 18-24 year olds seem to have an interest in learning about alcohol.  After they taught the beverage portion, we focused on foods and specifically our restaurant’s menu.  With the help of our chef, we were able to discuss the history of our menu choices, which wines would complement which entrees, and how to sell the daily features.  After the beverage and food modules were taught, we moved on to other important issues such as the steps of service, flow of the dining room, recovery techniques, etc. In the end, 94 modules were taught over a 16-month period.  Some of the more important modules were repeated.  After completing the modules in order, we have now begun to teach them in random order and allowing the staff to choose the module they wish to teach.

Once the TOG program was instituted and the bugs were worked out, several amazing things happened in our restaurant.  The first noticeable change was in the demeanor and confidence of the front of house staff.  Almost instantly, they became more comfortable discussing foods and beverages with members and guests and with making recommendations. Their newly gained knowledge of the preparations and histories of the food and beverages helped them to become more confident in their ability to answer members’ questions.  They looked forward to being asked about the history or preparation of certain items and the social interaction that was created when these questions were asked.

The second noticeable change was that our front of house staff turnover rate declined.  Our servers enjoyed coming to work and were not as apt to move on to another restaurant opportunity.  The restaurant staff felt more a part of the club and they enjoyed getting to know members more personally through their social interaction.  The staff no longer felt they were ‘going through the motions while waiting for the next new restaurant to open in the area.’

The third and most noticeable change was in the number of appetizers, desserts, and after-dinner drinks sold during the dinner shifts.  Just by gaining knowledge of these items, servers were able to discuss daily specials, suggestively sell at every table they were working.  The increase in the a la carte average check was immediate.  The servers’ confidence created an aura of professionalism and also caused a competitive nature in the restaurant.  Personal bets were being made to see who could up-sell the most wine or desserts.  Managers started offering a complimentary dessert to the server who sold the most after-dinner drinks.  The front of house staff loved the competition and it drove our sales to levels not seen in the past.  Of course, revenues followed.

To answer the question in the title of this article; “Is the TOG program a direct line to restaurant profits?” I offer the following evidence:

At the start of implementation, the club’s restaurant was experiencing a four-year decline in a la carte business.  This decline was, at the time, blamed on the poor economy before and after September 11th and a declining membership level.  In hindsight, these were only excuses for a more prominent problem.

Although the club’s membership level was declining, the average food and beverage revenue per member was holding steady at the 5-year average and the cover counts did not show a decline either.  Therefore, members were using the restaurant at a consistent rate in 1999, 2000, and 2001 up until 9/11.  What we noticed when looking at the revenue data was that the average check per member had declined drastically.  The data told us that members were continuing to dine in the restaurant at a steady rate, but they were spending less on each visit.  Our a la carte menu prices had not fluctuated during this period, so it led me to believe that we were doing something different in the dining room or, as I found out later, we were not doing some things that we had done in the past.

The TOG program was started in October of 2001.  Almost immediately, the average check increased and the number of appetizers and desserts increased as well.  Soon after, our alcoholic beverage sales increased, especially wine by the bottle, which shot up 200%.   In 2002, the program really took off.  By the spring of 2002, the up-selling competitions had begun and revenue increases were seen in appetizers, daily specials, desserts, after-dinner drinks, wine by the bottle and wine by the glass. For the 2002 year, the average F&B revenue per member increased 15% to $62.78 per month.  The trend continued in 2003 with revenues continuing to increase in 2004.  It is without question that implementing the Training on the Go program has had and continues to have a direct positive effect of restaurant revenues at the Peninsula Yacht Club.  If you think this program could help your club, visit the Hospitality Resources International website and download the TOG program.  It is a sure fire way to increase your restaurant’s revenues.

Article written by Chris Conner, formerly General Manager, Peninsula Yacht Club

A number of Training on the Go courses are available on the HRI store.  They can be previewed here.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Performance Leadership and the Internal Consultant

May 18th, 2015

The term leadership is most often thought of in conjunction with leading people, but given the underlying definition that leadership is influence, there are other types of leadership such as “thought leadership,” “management leadership,” “best practice leadership,” and ultimately, “performance leadership.”  While most club controllers supervise (or lead) but a handful of people, it is in the later types of leadership where they have the opportunity to influence a large number of club employees as well as the success of the club.

As we discussed in last week’s email – GM’s Job One – the club’s general manager, in addition to the all-important strategic requirements of the position, has his or her hands full with the many aspects of member relations.  This, then, necessitates a strong #2 who can promote, implement, and watch over the many management disciplines and best practices that are at the heart of a well-run club.

Often clubs have an assistant manager or clubhouse manager who serves as the second in command, but this position is primarily to ensure the smooth daily functioning of club operations with a heavy focus on food and beverage, as well as activities and events.  Seldom does this person have the time or focus to press forward with organizational issues and disciplines that cross departmental lines.

So who on the club’s staff is most likely to have the necessary knowledge and experience to formulate and implement club-wide performance initiatives?

In most cases the logical choice would be the club controller, particularly if you understand that the responsibilities of this position go well beyond accounting and financial reporting.  Of all club department heads, the controller should have the greatest understanding of the disciplines that underlie business success.  Also, a controller by career choice is a “numbers” person and has daily intimate contact with the measures of financial performance.  Last, but certainly not least, the controller in most cases has the greatest in-depth knowledge and familiarity with spreadsheet software – the instrumental tool of financial analysis.

For all these reason then, the controller is the ideal person to take the lead in enhancing the club’s performance.  But how to go about it and where to start?

As with any sort of leadership, the prime actor must have the knowledge; a plan of action and priorities; the skill set to effectively communicate with, instruct, and mentor followers; various teaching aids and tools; and most importantly the authority to direct implementation – either delegated from or with the explicit support of the GM or club board.

While every club will need to establish its own plan and priorities depending on its unique circumstances, my list of requirements would include:

  • Written Accounting AND Personnel Standards, Policies, and Procedures.
  • Written Internal Control Plan, recognizing that such a plan is not a separate, specialized system within the club.  Rather, it is an integral part of each department and the club as a whole; as such, internal controls are management controls.
  • Detailed budgeting guidance and timeline to improve the accuracy and ease of budget development.
  • A Linked Policies Database on the club’s server to provide easy access to key organizational and training material for the entire management team.  Such a database also makes it far easier to keep material up to date and to notify managers of changes to policy and procedures.
  • The discipline of Monthly Review of Financial Statements with individual department heads.
  • Tools to Beat Budget or some similar method of real-time tracking of revenues and expenses.
  • In depth Benchmarking of operations by all department heads.
  • Enhanced financial reporting package to include some form of Executive Metrics Report.
  • Training of department heads in all the requirements of their fiscal responsibilities using Management Disciplines on the Go, Accounting on the Go, 101 Tips to Improve Your Club Operations,  or other similar tools and resources (not only does this improve the club’s performance, but it enhances the skill set and career prospects of department heads).
  • Ongoing outreach by the controller to department heads for the purpose of problem discovery and performance enhancement (by doing this the controller, in effect, becomes an internal business coach or consultant assisting department heads in continual improvement of their department’s organizational efficiency and performance).

Some may object to this expansion of the controller’s duties, and no doubt such a program of performance leadership will require extra effort, but after initial implementation, the improvements in organizational efficiency club-wide will reduce some aspects of the accounting office’s workload.  Not every controller will possess the skills to be an internal consultant, but others may relish the challenge and opportunity to think and work “outside the box.”

In embracing the concept of the internal consultant understand that everything does not have to be done at once.  Carefully tailored pilot programs prioritized by the Pareto Principle, taking advantage of the enthusiasm of early adopters, and utilizing the discipline of incremental progress, will get you to the ultimate goal, as Jim Collins say in Good to Great, “turn by turn of the flywheel.”

Lastly, there is also the great personal satisfaction to be gained in the role of leadership, instructing, mentoring, and “consulting” with department heads to improve their operations and performance.  Various authors have long advocated that the basis for any act of leadership is service to others.  The service of performance leadership is its own reward – for the club, its member, the management team and employees, and not least of all – the club controller.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

It’s Closing Time at the Club

May 11th, 2015

It’s been a long day for John the General Manager.  He arrived early this Friday morning and had a full day of meetings, including discussions with the architect regarding some planned renovations of the kitchen and locker rooms and a long session with the membership director over the upcoming fall membership campaign.  Having stopped by the Lakeside Room to check on the Taylor’s rehearsal dinner, he congratulated the happy couple, said a few words to Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, and is now heading out the door to join his wife and son for a dinner before John Jr. leaves for college the next morning.  The time is 7:15 p.m.

Marie, the Clubhouse Manager, assured that all catered events and the main dining room service is winding down, stops by the kitchen to let the Chef and Dining Room Manager know that she’s leaving.  She’s got to be back at nine in the morning to meet with the Lanes and the Catering Director to begin discussing plans for their Octoberfest party.  As she walks past the loading dock she notices a beat-up old car parked behind the dumpster.  She heads to her car thinking she must remind the Chef about enforcing the no parking policy at the rear entrance.  It’s now 9:30 p.m.

By 10:15 the banquet staff is well on its way to completing the breakdown of the two private dining rooms that were in use this night.  Ever mindful of controlling her payroll cost, the Banquet Captain sends three servers home while directing the remaining two in the reset of the Founders Room for a Saturday morning breakfast.  On his way through the kitchen one of the departing servers who missed his employee meal puts the butt of a tenderloin of beef from the Taylor party in his backpack.  Another departing server helps himself to two bottles of Heineken sitting on a table outside the beer cooler.

At 10:45 Chef Rick leaves after giving final instructions to Tim, his evening Sous Chef, who is in the kitchen office preparing production schedules for Sunday Brunch.  The new dishwasher who started this past week notes the Chef’s departure as he carries two bags of trash out to the dumpster.  Upon returning he enters the unlocked meat cooler and places a case of NY strip steaks in a trash bag, covering it with empty cans for the recycling bin.  He carries this back to the dishwasher area where he places it on the floor behind a stack of glass racks.

At 11:35 Marilyn, the Dining Room Manager, secures the various exterior doors in the dining room and lounge and passes through the kitchen announcing to Tim, “I’m outta here.”  Tim says he’s not far behind.  Before leaving Tim checks the storerooms and walk-ins to make sure they’re locked.  He discovers the unlocked meat cooler and locks it, shaking his head at the carelessness of the line cooks.  He notes the dishwasher is just finishing up at the pot sink and asks him how much more he’s got to do.  “Just some trash to take out,” is the answer.  Tim reminds him to turn the lights out and to pull the self-locking loading door tightly shut behind him as he leaves.  It’s now 12:05 and Tim is looking forward to stopping at O’Hanlon’s on his way home.

At 12:30 the night watchman makes his second round and discovers a back door to the pro shop unlatched and notes it in his security log.  This is the second time this month he’s found the same door unsecured.  In the meantime, at the other end of the clubhouse, the dishwasher loads his car by the dumpster with the case of steaks and two bottles of Glenfiddich he pilfered earlier from the unlocked liquor vault.

This fictional tale or some variation of it is an all-too-common scenario in private clubs.  By their very design clubhouses have a large number of exterior doors providing convenient member access to outside spaces and safe egress in case of an emergency.  While many of these doors have panic bars and are self-closing, they may be in remote locations and are easily left ajar.  Unless a club has a security system with electronic door contacts wired to a conveniently-monitored alarm panel, some responsible individual must check every door before leaving.

Many clubs have limited security monitoring devices and even fewer bear the expense of a night watchman or security service.  While cameras may be employed in key areas, the prevailing approach to protecting the assets of the club seems to be to trust all employees to do the right thing.  This is a major mistake that invites all kinds of trouble.  As a professor in hotel school told the class many years ago, “Respect everyone, but trust no one!”

Given that every club is different in age, amenities/facilities, setting/site layout, and investment in security systems, here are some basic things that every club should consider:

  • A rigidly-enforced policy that nothing is to be removed from the club.  This policy must include a warning that bags are subject to search at any time.  All managers must understand the legal ramifications of such a policy and how to go about enforcing it properly.
  • A rigidly-enforced policy of which doors employees must use to enter and exit the club.
  • A rigidly-enforced policy of employee parking, specifying that no employee vehicles may be parked at or near the employee entrances, dumpsters, or loading dock.
  • All policies spelled out in an employee handbook which contains an acknowledgement statement that employees have read and understand the policies, a signed copy of which is placed in each employee’s personnel file.
  • A review of all sensitive security areas of the club – food and beverage storerooms, pro shops, golf cart and bag storage areas, snack bars, activity centers and aquatics areas, golf course maintenance facility, location and use of all exterior doors, employee entrances, and the loading dock and dumpster area.
  • A review of key control policies and plans, as well as a determination of who has what keys.  Such policies must include procedures for reporting and handling lost keys and the security planning and responsibility for early morning and late night access needs.
  • Written opening and closing procedures with assigned responsibilities.  Use of signed checklists by opening and closing personnel, reviewed daily and double checked by management.  Keep in mind that W. Edwards Deming said, “Divided responsibility means that nobody is responsible.”  In other words when everyone is responsible, no one is!
  • Prepare a written security plan for all the club’s facilities.  Investigate costs and make cost/benefit decisions on cameras and access keypads for high-risk areas and employee entrances.  Such devices will allow review of access and aid in investigating losses.
  • A policy of fully prosecuting any employee caught pilfering or stealing club assets including retail and food and beverage inventories.
  • Periodic covert surveillance of employee entrances, particularly late at night.  Food and beverage managers, including kitchen managers/chefs should be given this duty with specific instructions to monitor closing activity on a periodic basis.  An alternative is to contract out this requirement to a security company, though having club managers do it is far more effective in that they have a better understanding of the operations and knowledge of individual employee duties.
  • Ongoing reminders and review of security policies and procedures at weekly managers’ staff meetings to continually remind all managers of security requirements.

The security of the club and its assets is a central responsibility of management and must be attended to in a formal and disciplined way.  Anything less invites trouble – and not just at closing time!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

So What Does Your Most Junior Manager Know about the FLSA?

May 4th, 2015

Jimmy started working at The Prestige Country Club when he was sixteen and still in high school.  For several years he worked in the snack bar and then waited tables in the club’s dining room.  But his first love was golf and when offered a position with the golf operation’s outside staff, he jumped at the chance.

Outgoing, friendly, and always reliable, the golf professional staff could count on Jimmy to work whenever needed, frequently covering shifts for others who called off at the last minute.  He was one of those rare individuals who stayed busy any time the course was slow or when waiting for the last few groups to come in off the course on summer evenings.  Any time he had spare moments Jimmy was policing the practice tee, picking the range, or detailing golf cars. 

Over the years through his hard work, dedication, and outstanding attitude, he became one of management’s most appreciated employees and was selected the club’s employee of the month on a number of occasions.  When Bob, the club’s long-serving outside manager finally retired to free golf for life in central Florida, Jimmy was the natural choice to replace him.  It was an easy decision for Tom, the Director of Golf, as Jimmy was well-versed in the operation requiring little if any training, was a great ambassador for members and guests, and seemed to have a knack for recruiting the best prospects to work on the outside staff.  Everyone from the golf shop to the GM’s office were thrilled with the choice and the members loved the story of a dedicated young man working his way up through the ranks to a management position.

In the ensuing years the outside staff functioned so smoothly that no one gave the operation another thought.  So when the club was contacted by the Department of Labor, it took everyone – the club board, the General Manager, and the Director of Golf by complete surprise. 

As the Wage and Hour Division’s investigation unfolded, it turned out that Jimmy, in an effort to control his section overtime, had worked a “deal” with his employees that he would promise them paid time off in future pay periods in lieu of receiving overtime.  The arrangement worked well for Jimmy, allowing him to eliminate overtime while ensuring his section was well-staffed for any contingency.  He kept track of his promised time off informally in a notebook he kept and generally kept his staff happy with the arrangement.

But the “deal” went south after he was forced to fire Jerry for a variety of infractions including repeated tardiness, calling off on a three separate occasions, and the final straw – pilfering range balls.  Jerry felt aggrieved, particularly when Jimmy refused to “pay” him for the time off he was owed.  Jerry was determined to “get even” and contacted the Department of Labor.

During the investigation by the Wage and Hour Division, Jimmy said he was not aware that his actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and that he was just continuing a practice that Bob, his predecessor, had instituted to control overtime.

To make a long story short:  The investigation revealed that the club had been violating the FLSA for at least 12 years going back to Bob’s time as outside manager.  They also found similar violations in golf course maintenance.  The club was ordered to pay back wages to all identified employees, current and former, for the past three years; these payments amounted to over $127,000.  In addition, given the duration of the violations and the fact that they were found in multiple departments, the club was fined $10,000.

Collateral damage:  The club’s board was appalled at the lapse in management oversight of such a basic labor law requirement.  The Director of Golf’s annual bonus was withheld for two years and the General Manager was discharged for cause.

Lessons learned:  The “deal” wasn’t a deal for anyone involved.  All managers need to know the basic requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The employer is responsible for ensuring all managers are properly trained in the basics of the FLSA.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Freedom and Responsibility within a Framework

April 27th, 2015

Throughout my career I have struggled to balance the competing needs for entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, and initiative and the necessities of organization, structure, consistency, and control.  How does one create and sustain a nimble organization that can quickly respond to new technologies, changing member wants and desires, and the competition of the marketplace while maintaining an efficient operation and conscientiously meeting regulatory requirements?

No thinking business person wants to saddle their operation with a bureaucratic mindset, yet efficient operations need systems to function properly and avoid risk, liability, and regulatory problems.  The very word “bureaucracy” carries the negative connotation of inefficiency and stultifying processes where crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s become an organization’s reason for being.

In examining this never ending challenge for businesses, Jim Collins and his research team at Stanford University found that the good to great companies they examined gave people the freedom to do whatever was necessary to succeed within a highly developed system or framework.  Then their people were held strictly accountable for their results.

The analogy that he gave was a commercial airline pilot who works within rigid air traffic control and safety systems on the ground and in the air, but who has the ultimate responsibility for success – that is, the safe delivery of plane and passengers from location to location.  That singular responsibility allows a pilot, at his or her discretion, to remove unruly passengers, abort landings, fly to alternate airports, and take any other action deemed necessary for the safety of the flight.

But essential to bestowing such freedom and responsibility is the necessity of defining the system and clearly identifying constraints.  In the airline industry the Federal Aviation Administration establishes all standards, policies, and procedures for both commercial and private pilots and ensures their ongoing understanding of the system through licensure, certifications, simulator and cockpit training, as well as continual flight and safety bulletins.  To quote from the book:

“The good to great companies build a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave people the freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.  They hired self-disciplined people who didn’t need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people.”

As a club manager at any level of the organization, you cannot do it all yourself.  Holding the reins tightly creates a bottleneck where all decisions have to come through you, thereby stifling the initiative and creativity of your subordinates.  It also puts a tremendous burden on you to perform, requires you to be on property at all hours, and leads to burnout.

The only way to be truly successful in any complex enterprise is to empower those under you and give them the freedom and responsibility to succeed in their portion of the operation.  But to do this successfully you need to fully develop the framework for their empowerment and a means to hold them accountable.  This means you have to have well-defined organizational values and written standards, policies, and procedures.  Lastly, you need measurable accountabilities for performance.

With these in place you have started on the path to greatness in your enterprise, but it’s only the start – Collins offers much more proven guidance for those willing to invest the time in this well-researched and written, as well as entertaining, book.

The book is Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, Harper Business, New York, NY, 2001.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Make Any Day a Special Occasion at Your Club

April 20th, 2015

Most people don’t need much of an excuse to go out to eat, especially if they have a little jingle in their pockets – as we hope your club members do.  The reason to go out doesn’t even have to be particularly important because who doesn’t like a little celebratory occasion?

While ever club recognizes and celebrates the standard holidays for its country and locale – as in the U.S. we celebrate New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter Sunday, Mothers’ Day, etc. – every day of the year is celebrated somewhere for some reason; and in many cases there are multiple occasions for each day.  Some are wild and crazy; others are traditional, national, and even local to their state, county, and town.

By using any one of a number of websites listing celebratory occasions, you can create your own reason for bringing members to the club to dine.  Many international holidays can be tied to a specific cuisine as in Cinco de Mayo, which has now become a commonly-celebrated holiday in the U.S. with Mexican food, beverages, décor, music, and traditional costumes.  Such holidays present a perfect opportunity to market your food service to your membership.  You just have to do a little research and get creative.

Even the weird, wacky, and unusual commemoration can be made into a fun, celebratory occasion that members will enjoy.  Consider that in 1968, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder named their new cafeteria grill the “Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill” in commemoration of the prospector’s conviction for cannibalism with the slogan “Have a friend for lunch!”  Today students can enjoy the meat-filled “El Canibal” underneath a giant wall map outlining his travels through Colorado.  Even the National Press Club in Washington D.C. offers an Alferd G. Packer burger on its menu.

For starters here are three websites that list holidays (and this was just on the first page of the Google search return):

Holiday Insights

Holidays and Observances around the world

Brownie locks

So get busy and have some fun creating special occasions for any occasion.  Not only will you make some money doing so, but you may create a new club tradition.  With a little research, creativity, and effort you can create your own special celebrations at the club.  Well-conceived, marketed, and executed, these occasions can grow your food and beverage revenues during traditionally slow periods.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

The Golf Course Superintendent

April 13th, 2015

Maintaining a championship quality golf course may cost a million dollars a year or more depending upon location and the owner’s desired quality.  This coupled with the fact that much of the work of grooming, setting up, and maintaining a golf course is labor intensive makes the Golf Course Maintenance staff one of the larger staffs in a golf operation.  Managing this large, highly specialized operation requires a professional turf management expert as well as a sound business manager.

Modern Golf Course Superintendents are typically graduates of collegiate level turf management schools.  Before ascending to the Superintendent position, they typically work a number of years at golf courses learning the practical skills of their trade and working their way up to Assistant Golf Course Superintendent.  They are typically compensated with a base salary commensurate with their education, background, and experience.  On top of that they may be offered a bonus opportunity for meeting budget or other specified goals.

Their challenge in the golf business is unique—how to maintain an artificially created playing environment with specialized grasses in various regions of the country with a host of micro-climates and conditions at the highest possible level while meeting the desires of the owners and players.  A superintendent’s knowledge base includes agronomy, pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers), soil composition, irrigation techniques, turf care equipment and techniques, equipment maintenance, tree and shrubbery care, and a deep knowledge and love of the game of golf.

Every golf course is different; in fact, every hole on every golf course is different.  Combinations of soil, water, grass, sunlight, weather, temperature, and the knowledgeable application of chemicals make each area of the course a microcosm of nature.  This, the Superintendent is responsible for knowing, tending, and nurturing throughout the year.  Ironically, the end of all his efforts—the players for whom he is trying to provide ideal playing conditions on the course—are the very ones that damage and degrade the course with every round played.  All this requires the Superintendent to monitor conditions on the course very carefully day by day.

The Superintendent and the Head Golf Professional need to work closely on a number of important issues —course set up, pin placements, tournament and event schedule, major turf treatment schedules, and playability.  Like the Head Golf Professional, the Superintendent in a private club setting reports to a committee of members—the Greens Committee.  Often his greatest challenge will come from individual members with an uninformed opinion and vision for the golf course.

The Superintendent hires, trains, and supervises a large staff of specialists and laborers to set up and maintain the course.  In larger operations he will usually be assisted by an Assistant Professional, an Equipment Mechanic, a Chemical Applicator, an Irrigation Technician, Crew Leaders, Equipment Operators, and Greenskeepers.  Throughout the year there are different tasks confronting the GC Maintenance staff.  Various applications of fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides, mowing the fairways, roughs, collars, and greens during the growing season, setting up the course each day with pin placements, leaf blowing in the fall, repairs from storm damage, and constant repairs to course equipment.  During the slower winter months there is a large effort to service the specialized course equipment—including fairway mowers, greens mowers, aerators, utility carts, and other equipment.

In many parts of the country, golf courses need to be irrigated to maintain the growth and vitality of the grasses.  Modern golf courses used computerized irrigation systems that allow the Superintendent to adjust the amount and cycles of course irrigation with pop-up sprinkler heads, all controlled from the Superintendent’s office by a computer.  The downside to irrigation systems are the inevitable breaks and washouts on the course caused by pressurized water.

Most Golf Course Maintenance staffs are made up of a core staff of year-round, full time employees.  During the busy season this staff is augmented with seasonal workers.  While most private clubs close their courses one day a week, very often that day is reserved for golf outings—a great way to increase overall club revenues.  Naturally these outings come during the busier, more popular times of the year for golf play.  As a result, the Golf Course Maintenance staff must frequently work long hours and long weeks to maintain the course.  In other operations such as resorts, golf is played 7 days a week, thereby increasing the wear and tear on the course and challenge to maintain the course in optimum condition.

While the Superintendent makes every effort to give players optimum playing conditions on a daily basis, he also adjusts fertilizer applications and water schedules in the weeks before major events and tournaments to give the course the fast and firm conditions that are difficult to achieve all the time.  This necessitates the Head Golf Professional and Superintendent working closely together to schedule major course maintenance at times that won’t impact major events.

In addition to the ongoing maintenance of the course, the Superintendent is responsible for the daily set up of the course.  This requires a team of employees to change the pin placement, mow the greens and collars, replenish the on-course water, refill and service the ball washers, empty the course trash containers—all before the first players tees off.

Throughout the year the Superintendent must monitor weather and course conditions and make daily decisions about whether carts must remain on the cart paths or whether the ninety degree rule will permit carts on the course.  Whenever inclement weather occurs, the Superintendent must quickly mobilize his staff to repair any damage on the course.  This can include rebuilding bunker walls, storm debris cleanup, tree removal, marking any parts of the course under repair, noting drainage problems for scheduled repair work, and ensuring that all sprinkler heads are operating properly.

Though Superintendents operate from a golf course maintenance facility, they are usually on the course and can best be reached by cell phone or radio, especially during the busy season.  While most Superintendents will tell you that theirs is a tough job, most wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Conducting Employee Counseling/Disciplinary Sessions

April 6th, 2015

How you conduct counseling and disciplinary sessions has a lot to do with their success.

First, the meeting must be held in private, in a quiet, uninterrupted setting.  You may wish to include a witness, such as a trusted associate or the Personnel Administrator.  Do not use a departmental peer of the employee being counseled.

Second, the tone of the session should match the purpose.

  • If the session is for counseling, the meeting should be less formal, more comfortable, and supportive.  The conversation should focus on constructive criticism, problem discovery, and proposed solutions.  While this should be done in a supportive way, it is also necessary to communicate to the employee the negative consequences of continued problems.
  • When the purpose of the meeting is disciplinary, the session should be formal and the tone serious.  The idea is to impress upon the employee the serious nature his actions, the impending consequences if he does not improve his behavior or performance, and the issuance of the disciplinary report, suspension, or discharge, as the case may warrant.

Third, your investigation of any incident or your documentation of a series of problems must be thorough and detailed.  Do not go off half-cocked to write somebody up before investigating.  You may have an incomplete picture of what happened and be embarrassed when the full story comes out.

Fourth, after telling the employee the reason for the meeting and relating the incident or allegations as you know them, give him a chance to tell his side of the story.  He may have mitigating circumstances or give a very different version of what happened.

His story may require further investigation.  You may need to call other people in as witnesses or to corroborate or contradict his version.

Fifth, after hearing his side of the story, decide what action you will take and prepare the Record of Employee Counseling, CRI Form 103, describing the incident or problem, allowing him to offer any response, and providing your summary of the counseling or disciplinary action.

Last, present him with the Report.  Ask for his signature.  If he chooses not to sign, so note it.  Make sure the Report is complete.  Provide the employee with a copy, send the original to the Personnel Administrator for inclusion in the employee’s Personnel File, and save a copy for your departmental files.

Documenting the Session

The key to successful disciplinary actions is good documentation.  Supervisors have two documentary tools at their disposal – Staff Notes and the Records of Employee Counseling.

As previously mentioned, Staff Notes are daily or weekly notes made about employees’ performance.  They should contain instances of tardiness, absences, failure to follow instructions and procedures, complaints, arguments or disputes with other employees, instances of outstanding performance, etc.  These brief notes are invaluable in helping you reconstruct circumstances, give details in review sessions, or document continuing disciplinary problems of a minor nature.

Records of Employee Counseling are to be used for formal documentation of problems when you wish to give the employee a copy.  These reports must be filled out completely and accurately.  If you fail to enter a date, fail to sign it, fail to present it to the employee, or fail to get his signature or note “chose not to sign,” the record may be useless as documentary evidence.

Right to Respond       

Each employee subject to a disciplinary action has a right to respond.  Such response should come within 7 days of the disciplinary action, i.e., the meeting when he was informed of the action.

You should consider the response, amend the report if warranted, and attach the response without alteration to all copies of the Record of Employee Counseling (personnel file copy and departmental copy).

Choosing Not to Sign 

Employees are requested to sign all Records of Employee Counseling, but have an absolute right not to sign.

The absence of the employee’s signature will not affect the validity of the document, so long as it is noted that it was presented to him.

If an employee chooses not to sign, do this by writing “chose not to sign” and the date on the signature line.  Please do not use the words “refused to sign” as this connotes coercion or lack of choice.

Summary

Developing employees to their fullest potential and establishing and maintaining discipline are two of the core responsibilities of a supervisor.  Ultimately your success and our success as an organization depends upon how well supervisors train, lead, motivate, and develop their employees.

Establishing and maintaining discipline in a reasonable, fair, and consistent way contributes to good morale and improved departmental performance.  It will also protect you and the club from wrongful discharge and discrimination lawsuits.

Excerpted from the Managers Handbook

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

A Service Attitude

March 30th, 2015

While each person brings his or her own attitudes to the workplace, your company expects employees to be indoctrinated into a culture of absolute dedication to quality and the needs of the customer.

Your emphasis as a leader and all the training focus for your employees is on learning how to say YES to customers.  If this attitude is kept foremost in mind, it will help you and your employees handle any unusual requests or difficult situations involving customers.  This indoctrination is the ongoing responsibility of leaders at every level and can best be accomplished by your wholehearted support, daily reinforcement, and personal example.

Equally important, this attitude should characterize your work relationships with fellow employees – your internal customers.  Everyone who works for your company is a member of a team trying to accomplish the same mission.  Cheerful and complete cooperation with one another makes work easier, more meaningful, and fun.  Your first thought when approached by a customer, external or internal, should be “How can I help this person; how can I be of service?”

Attitude is the major determinant of success in any endeavor.  Your thoughts color everything you do.  Each person has a filter through which all sense perceptions pass.  Since the conscious mind can only process so much information, perceptions are screened and only those supporting your thought system, biases, and views are accepted.  All others are rejected.  Stated another way – since your brain interprets sensory information to support what you already believe – YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK!

If you believe yourself to be misunderstood or mistreated, you will seek every piece of evidence to support this belief.  If you are optimistic and happy, you will select every perception that supports that happiness and optimism.  The process is self-reinforcing and reciprocal.  If your thoughts tend to the negative, you will see only the negative.  If a person is a liar, he or she will assume that everyone lies and will go through life never trusting anyone.

The implication is that you create the world you want through your thoughts.  People who are upbeat and look for the good in everything know that, while they cannot control events, THEY CAN CONTROL THEIR REACTIONS TO THOSE EVENTS!  Simply put, you can make whatever you want of any situation.

Attitudes are clearly infectious and you owe it to others to be as positive and cheerful as possible.  One defeatist, grumbling, negative attitude can ruin the day for many others.  The sad thing is that you allow the negative person to do this.  When one considers the uproar in society over the danger to people’s health from passive smoking, it is surprising that they aren’t just as adamant about the threat to health from passive bad attitude.

So don’t tolerate your employees’ bad moods.  Confront them; shock them back into an acceptable frame of mind.  Tell them to go home if they can’t be in a better mood.  The requirement must be:

“Be of Good Cheer or Don’t Be Here!”

As a leader you are responsible for building morale within your team.  Protect your employees from people with negative attitudes and sour moods.  Don’t permit one employee to drag down an entire operation.  Confront, counsel, and, if necessary, discharge the employee.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Quality and Service

March 16th, 2015

I have yet to come across a hotel, resort, restaurant, club, golf course, or management company that doesn’t claim to offer its customers/members/guests extraordinary, legendary, remarkable, superb, world-class (you pick the one) levels of service; yet how many of these organizations have taken the time or made the effort to define their quality and service standards?

Let us take a moment to define what we mean by service and quality.  According to Dictionary.com:

  • Service is “the act of helpful activity.”  In hospitality operations it is the process or performance of some task or event for your customers/guests/members.
  • Quality is “a characteristic or property that signifies relative merit or excellence.”  In our industry the word is used to express the relative merits or excellence of the facilities, amenities, activities, and service we provide our customers.

Given that a hospitality operation’s quality is defined by the relative merits of those things and the service provided to customers, let us pose some questions regarding the service to which you aspire or claim to offer:

  • Have you or your organization defined what service is for your service-delivery employees?
  • Have you explained or trained your employees what you and your customers’ expectations for service are?
  • Do you know what your customers expect when it comes to service?  If so, how do you know?  What methodology is used to determine customers’ needs and expectations?
  • Have you identified your key service touch points or moments of truth for your employees?
  • Have you taught or demonstrated for your employees how to handle various touch points in all their possible variations and contingencies?
  • Have you documented touch points and service standards, policies, and procedures to ensure that they are taught consistently to each new employee and new generations of employees?
  • Do you have a means of measuring compliance with service standards, policies, and procedures?
  • Do you have a process to address service failures?
  • Do you have a process to make service failures right for your customers?
  • Do you have a process to discover underlying causes of service failures to ensure they don’t happen again?
  • Do you have a consistent process to educate employees about changes to standards, policies, and procedures to eliminate service failures?
  • Do you have a means of monitoring service failures to identify trends or spot problems?
  • Do your employees know that they can self-report their service failures without fear or repercussions?

If you’ve answered “no” to the majority of the questions above, you do not provide quality service.  What you do provide is a series of interactions between customers and employees that may or may not meet the expectations of customers or management.  The quality you provide is based purely on chance and, therefore, has an unacceptably high risk of service failures.

If the above describes your operation’s quality and service, there is much to work on to meet the promises you’ve made to customers/guests/members.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!