Archive for November, 2011

Defense and Offense

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Defense and offense are words of opposite meaning, yet often linked together.  Their obvious meaning is demonstrated on the football field.  One team attacks an area defended by another, trying to reach the goal.  The purpose of the defense is to stop the attack, to defend their territory, to protect the goal.  Though these terms have most often been applied to armies at war, they can also be used to describe less physical competitions such as a game of chess.  What characterizes each of these examples is a conflict or competition.

Two words derived from these terms are the adjectives offensive and defensive.  The dictionary defines offensive as:

  • Unpleasant or disagreeable to the senses; obnoxious, disgusting.
  • Causing anger, resentment, giving offense; insulting.

Defensive means:

  • Carried on for the purpose of defending against attack or danger.
  • Having an attitude of defense.

Everyone has heard the phrase “a good offense is the best defense.”  This idea is especially useful on battlefields, football fields, and even chessboards.  By keeping your opponent so off balance by relentless attacks, he has no time or resources to plan attacks against your positions.  In this way your offense becomes your defense.

People have natural tendencies.   Whether inborn or created by longstanding habit, they are part of our makeup and we express them without thinking.  One such habit is the tendency to personally associate ourselves with that which we do.  Just as the farmer has a proprietary interest in the fields he labors so hard to till and harvest, we all identify with our organization or place of work.  A corollary to this sense of association is the natural inclination to protect that which we consider our own or with which are associated.

So it is natural for us to feel pride in our work and place of employment.  When someone attacks it with criticism, disparaging remarks, or complaints, the natural tendency is to defend it, to assume a defensive attitude.  This is all well and good unless you depend upon that someone’s goodwill for your livelihood.  When you work in the service industry, you literally cannot afford to become defensive.

When you become defensive, many things happen physiologically and psychologically.  Adrenaline starts flowing; you tense up, ready to repel any further attack; your heartbeat and respiration quicken.  Likewise, your mind races ahead to your next move or response so you don’t hear what is being said and you don’t focus on the moment.  Subconsciously knowing that a good offense is the best defense you become antagonistic; you raise your voice; you develop an attitude; you become abrupt and huffy with the other person.  At this point, without even knowing it, you have become offensive; that is by definition, “causing anger, resentment, giving offense; insulting.”

How can you avoid the natural tendency to become defensive?  The first step is to become aware that you become defensive when criticized or listening to a member complaint.  Notice the giveaways.  Are you tense and nervous?  Do your hands shake or your voice quaver?  Do you feel  a tightness in your chest?  Do you raise your voice?  Any of these symptoms reveal your defensiveness.

Realizing this, what can you do about it?  First of all, understand two important things:

  • Complaints are not usually directed at you, so don’t take it personally.  Allow some distance between yourself and the complaint.  Not too much, though; you must show a sincere concern to resolve the problem.
  • When a member complains, there is, in his mind, a problem.  Whether we think there is a problem or not is immaterial.  Furthermore, because of the nature of the service profession, the problem is ours.  When considered in this light, the member is doing us a favor by making us aware of the problem.  We should be appreciative and thankful instead of defensive.

In addition, there are some particular things you can do when confronted with a complaint.

  • Where there is no conflict, there is no need for offense and defense.  Don’t allow a conflict to arise.  Disarm the situation by cheerfully accepting our problem.  Listen carefully to what the member is saying.  Apologize sincerely for our shortcomings.  If you can solve the problem, cheerfully and quickly do so.  If you can’t, get a manager who can.
  • If you find yourself becoming nervous or defensive, take a deep breath.  The inflow of oxygen will help quiet your system and the moment you take to breathe has a calming effect on your nerves.
  • If you find yourself losing control, try to leave the room on some pretext.  If you are a server, tactfully excuse yourself “to check with the kitchen.”  Once there, take a deep breath and get control of yourself.  Try to put the member’s anger into perspective.  It’s not the end of the world.  Resolve to overcome that anger.  Take another deep breath and go back to the member.
  • Go on the offensive in a positive away.  Take control of the situation.  Ask pertinent questions about the problem.  Take notes as necessary.  This taking ownership of the problem demonstrates a proprietary concern and a desire to correct the problem.
  • While apologies must always be given, remember that easy apologies and facile excuses do not impress.  Our actions speak louder than our words.
  • Be sincere.  You should have a sincere desire to help any member with a need or concern.  If you don’t, you’re in the wrong business.

Two things you must never do:

  • Pass the buck or evade responsibility.  You may not have created the problem, but now that it’s been brought to your attention, you need to resolve it.
  • Don’t become defensive.  It is not us against the members.  We’re on their team!

Responding to member complaints is one of the most difficult things we face in the service profession, but when we avoid becoming defensive, we often can create a turnaround situation where the problem is solved and the member satisfied.  There is no more satisfying situation in service.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Ten Steps to a More Profitable Food Service Operation

Monday, November 21st, 2011

While creativity and innovation are hallmarks of a truly outstanding culinary experience, it is a daily focus on the basics that makes a food service operation profitable.  The following ten basic guidelines are taught in every restaurant or hospitality program.  It is, however, the daily application of these principles that will make a difference on your bottom line.


Every recipe for every menu item, both à la carte and catered, must be standardized and costed.  This basic discipline ensures consistency of product and ongoing profitability.  While the initial set up requires some effort on the part of the chef, it allows each item to be priced based upon its raw ingredient cost.  Given the volatility of some ingredients, it is important to revisit recipe costing on a periodic basis.  One way to simplify this process is to set up each recipe on a separate worksheet in an MS Excel® file.  By linking each recipe ingredient to a master ingredient list, the chef can easily update the master list, hence all recipe costing, on a monthly basis.  This discipline, once established, can easily be delegated.


The standard method of pricing is to take the cost of each menu item and multiply it by an appropriate multiplier to cover the cost of labor, other expenses, and overhead.  For instance a 2½ times multiplier should yield a 40% food cost; a 3 times multiplier yields a 33% food cost.  This simple formula is all well and good, but if your revenues are below projections and/or your payroll cost or overhead are higher than expected, you may still lose money.  Given the interplay of revenues, pricing, volume of business, and cost structure, these numbers must be tracked closely and reviewed frequently.


Standardized recipes are costed based upon specific portion sizes.  If untrained or poorly supervised employees routinely serve larger than costed portions, your profitability will literally be eaten up.  Costly meat and fish products should be weighed to ensure correct portion size.  Ladles of specific sizes should be used to plate specific menu items.  Pies, cakes, and other baked desserts should be cut and served using templates to ensure the correct number of portions are realized.  Cooks and pantry workers must be trained to prepare and serve appropriate sized portions.


Labor, both front-of-house and in the kitchen, is the single largest expense in a food service operation; it is also a continuing challenge to control.  Electronic timekeeping systems make it easier for supervisors to verify daily hours, but regardless of system used, supervisors must monitor payroll hours daily.  Close monitoring of employee hours will reduce overtime and milking the clock, while allowing daily comparison of payroll cost to revenues.  Front- and back-of-house supervisors should also keep a daily log that notes revenues, meals served, payroll hours, and a subjective evaluation of the smoothness of service.  Such an evaluation of each meal period will enable supervisors to better schedule staff.


Benchmarking is the act of measuring and analyzing operating performance.  In a food service operation there are many things to benchmark, such as meals served and average check per meal period by day of week; payroll hours by position by meal period or day; and beer, wine, liquor sold per meal period and day of week.  When tracked over time, these statistics become the baseline to project and monitor future performance.  Benchmarks also allow measurement of member reaction to food service initiatives such as new menus or pricing.  Most importantly, benchmarking makes supervisors more knowledgeable about their operations.  Such knowledge translates to improved operations and bottom lines.


Inventories are critical to monitor stock levels, avoid shortages, control pilferage, and determine cost of goods sold.  Inventories can also be time consuming and inconvenient for hard working chefs.  Inventories sometimes get delegated to poorly trained subordinates who miss or miscount key items.  Sloppy inventories contribute to erratic cost of goods sold.  Poorly organized storerooms contribute to sloppy inventories.  Keys to accurate inventories include well-organized storage areas, knowledgeable individuals conducting inventories, routine and timely inventories, and organized receiving documents, invoices, and credits slips.  Delegating counts is acceptable if employees are trained.  However, having the same employee conduct all inventories without spot-checking and oversight will invite problems.


Service employees who are trained in the techniques of suggestive selling can improve your average check and bottom line.  Whenever a new menu is put in place, all servers should be provided a “selling sheet” that gives key information about each entree.  Such information should include cooking method, ingredients, time of preparation, and enticing descriptors to help sell each item.  Just as standardized recipes are important in the kitchen for consistency of product, selling sheets provide the service staff with the knowledge and information they need to sell the product.  In addition to entrees, special training should be given for the suggestive selling of appetizers, desserts, wines, and specialty alcoholic beverages.  The time spent providing servers with the information and confidence to sell your food and beverages will yield consistently higher average checks.


Every month’s budgeted food sales is made up of how many meals are sold and how much each member spends on average for a meal.  By breaking your projections down into meals and average check and posting your daily targets prominently in the pantry, you provide your servers with goals that connect their daily efforts to your profitability.  By comparing month-to-date actual meal counts and average check to projected, you give your employees a day by day record of their progress.  Most people are competitive by nature and this simple technique will become a powerful incentive to servers.  The same technique can be applied to appetizers, desserts, and bottles of wine sold.


By tracking key revenue and patronage benchmarks and keeping a daily log of staffing, food service supervisors can develop a routine system of forecasting business levels.  While some level of volatility can always be expected in member patronage, the act of forecasting, when formally done and evaluated after the fact, will assist in maintaining member service while controlling labor cost.


While some members are vocal with their opinions, many are not.  Food service supervisors should make it easy for members to provide feedback.  Member comment cards must be readily available, periodic surveys should be conducted, revenue benchmarks should be analyzed to measure member reaction to offerings and initiatives, and employees should be trained to routinely report comments made or overheard to supervisors.

Every professional food and beverage manager is aware of these necessary elements to success.  Unfortunately, in the ongoing rush of business they are often overlooked.  At its root the problem is one of organization and discipline.  By taking the time to establish systems to address each guideline, by training and delegating tasks, by making each guideline part of the daily routine, each of these steps can be easily integrated into your operation.  While the initial effort may be great, so also is the ongoing payback.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Guest Blog: Dignity…We All Crave It, So Why Do We Keep Ignoring It?

Monday, November 14th, 2011


What is the motivating force behind all human interaction – in families, in communities, in the business world, and in relationships from the personal level to the international level?  DIGNITY.  It is the desire to be treated well.  It is an unspoken human yearning that is at the heart of all conflicts, yet no one is paying attention to it.

When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance; the human connection is the first thing to go.  On the other hand, when people treat each other with dignity, they feel their worth is recognized, creating lasting and meaningful relationships.  Surprisingly, most people have little understanding of dignity.  While a desire for dignity is universal, knowing how to honor it in ourselves and others is not.

After working as a conflict resolution specialist for twenty years, I have observed and researched the circumstances that give rise to dignity violations.  On the other hand, when the following ten elements of dignity are honored, people feel their dignity has been recognized and that they have been treated well.  Relationships flourish under these conditions.

The Ten Essential Elements of Dignity

Acceptance of Identity.  Approach people as being neither inferior nor superior to you.  Give others the freedom to express their authentic selves without fear of being negatively judged.  Interact without prejudice or bias, accepting the ways in which race, religion, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, and disability may be at the core of the other people’s identities.  Assume that others have integrity.

Inclusion.  Make others feel that they belong, whatever the relationship – whether they are in your family, community, organization, or nation.

Safety.  Put people at ease at two levels: physically, so they feel safe from bodily harm, and psychologically, so they feel safe from being humiliated.  Help them feel free to speak without fear of retribution.

Acknowledgement.  Give people your full attention by listening, hearing, validating, and responding to their concerns, feelings, and experiences.

Recognition.  Validate others for their talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, and help.  Be generous with praise, and show appreciation and gratitude to others for their contributions and ideas.

Fairness.  Treat people justly, with equality, and in an evenhanded way according to agreed-on laws and rules.  People feel that you have honored their dignity when you treat them without discrimination or injustice.

Benefit of the Doubt.   Treat people as trustworthy.  Start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity.

Understanding.  Believe that what others think matters.  Give them the chance to explain and express their points of view.  Actively listen in order to understand them.

Independence.  Encourage people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility.

Accountability.  Take responsibility for your actions.  If you have violated the dignity of another person, apologize.  Make a commitment to change your hurtful behaviors.

Our desire for dignity resides deep within us, defining our common humanity.  If our capacity for indignity is our lowest common denominator, then our yearning for dignity is our highest.  And if indignity tears relationships apart, then dignity can put them back together again.

Our ignorance of all things related to dignity – how to claim our own and how to honor it in others, has contributed to many of the conflicts we see in the world today.  This is as true in the boardroom and in the bedroom, as it is in politics and international relations.  It is true for all human interaction.  If we are to evolve as a species, there is no greater need than to learn how to treat each other and ourselves with dignity.  It is the glue that could hold us all together.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Not only does dignity make for good human relationships, it does something perhaps far more important – it creates the conditions for our mutual growth and development.  It is a distraction to have to defend oneself from indignity.  It takes up our time and uses up our precious energy.  The power of dignity, on the other hand, only expands with use.  The more we give, the more we get.

There is no greater leadership challenge than to lead with dignity, helping us all to understand what it feels like to be honored and valued and to feel the incalculable benefits that come from experiencing it.  The leadership challenge is at all levels – for those in the world of politics, business, education, religion, to everyday leadership in our personal lives.  Peace will not flourish anywhere without dignity.  There is no such thing as democracy without dignity, nor can there be authentic peace if people are suffering indignities.  Last but not least, feeling dignity’s power – both by honoring it and locating our own inner source of it – sets us up for one of humanities greatest gifts – the experience of being in relationship with others in a way that brings out the best in one another, allowing us to become more of what we are capable of being.

Donna Hicks Ph.D., author of Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict, Yale University Press, 2011.  You can read more about the author and her book at

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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The Necessities for Employee Empowerment

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Having discussed again and again the benefits of empowering employees, what is necessary for a club to provide this empowerment.

First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.  Leaders must:

  • Embrace the principles of service-based leadership.
  • Be open with their employees.
  • Be trusting and trusted.
  • Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
  • Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
  • Be good communicators.
  • Intrinsically understand and value the important role of line employees in the organization.
  • Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
  • Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.

Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.  It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other Department Heads fully informed of any resulting changes.

Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.  Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.

Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.  This recognition will further cement the partnership.

There must be opportunities for employees to grow personally and professionally.  When employees know that the club is also committed to their advancement, they will more willingly participate in making it successful.

Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.  They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.  There can be no substitute for this example.


Empowering employees is a requirement in any effort to provide remarkable service.  Busy managers cannot do it all and need the help of their willing, committed, and empowered employees.  While it takes time and effort to establish a culture of empowerment at a club, the resulting improvement in operations, efficiency, and service levels make it well worth the effort.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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