Archive for October, 2013

Overcoming Obstacles

Monday, October 28th, 2013

When I became general manager of my first hotel, I spent my initial weeks talking with the employees of various departments.  In meeting with the housekeeping staff, I found a sullen group, who refused to make eye contact, barely responded to my comments, and asked no questions when given the chance.

I made a point over the next few weeks to visit housekeepers individually as they worked about the hotel.  After several small-talk conversations with one particular housekeeper, I asked her how she liked her job.  She proceeded to show me that her vacuum cleaner barely worked.  This poor woman and every other housekeeper spent eight hours a day trying to clean carpets with vacuums that would not pick up trash and dirt.  I couldn’t imagine anything more defeating!

Within a week, we had new vacuums for the entire department.  The cost was several thousand dollars – small change considering the impact it had on the cleanliness of the hotel and the morale of the housekeeping department.  I also publicly praised the employee who made me aware of the problem.  She became an overnight hero to her co-workers, and everyone understood by this positive reinforcement that management was serious about discovering problems and making improvements.

This story illustrates a key point – that you must make it clear to all employees that you want to overcome obstacles that impede organizational effectiveness.

Make it clear to your employees that you want to know what obstacles they face in the completion of their daily duties.  Call a meeting of your team and ask them pointblank, “Is there anything I can do to make your jobs easier?  Is there a better way to do this?  What obstacles prevent you from doing your jobs efficiently?  How can I help?”

Even if you don’t get an initial response, establish and keep the lines of communication open.  Keep probing with questions about their work, the challenges they face, and the obstacles that impede their efforts.

Sooner or later, they will open up.  Hopefully, it will be a problem that will be totally within your power to solve.  If it isn’t, make every effort to convince your superiors of the necessity of change.  Analyze the problem, explore alternative solutions, examine the cost/benefits of each alternative, do all your homework, and present your recommendation to your boss.

If your recommendation is accepted let your employees know and inform them of the timeline for implementation.  If not accepted, find out why, explain it to your employees if appropriate, and be supportive of the decision.  Continue to look for ways to eliminate obstacles.  Revisit the decision periodically in an attempt to convince your boss of the necessity and value of the change.

Putting a positive emphasis on problem discovery and cheerfully following through to correct problems will demonstrate to all your employees your commitment to helping them and improving your operation.

Ed Rehkopf, Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders, Clarity Publications, 2006

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 the Hospitality Industry!

The Pre-Shift Meeting

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Some ask the question, “Is a pre-shift meeting really necessary?”  Compare a pre-shift meeting with the habits of professional athletes, whose jobs require peak performance, both individually and as a team, in an environment where “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”  Without fail, these athletes huddle for a few moments before every game to remind themselves of their commitment to each other and their mission to win.  In the service business the game is every day, every shift, and the need for success is just as important.  So yes, a pre-shift meeting is an absolute necessity for every department, but particularly in the food and beverage operation.

Here are some of the things that should be covered in a food and beverage pre-shift meeting:

  • Proper Dress and Grooming.  Is everyone in proper dress or uniform?  Do they have the right footwear and their nametags?  Does everyone meet the organization’s grooming standards?  These basic standards are critical to a professional operation.  What gets checked gets done!
  • Reservations.  Who’s coming in for dinner tonight?  Do we know their likes, dislikes, and preferences?  Have they made any special requests?  Is it a celebratory occasion?  For private club employees, double check the member database and see the meal could be for a birthday or anniversary?
  • Special Parties.  Are there special parties scheduled for tonight in the dining room?  Have they made any special requests?  Do they have a limited or set menu?
  • Daily Specials.  What are tonight’s specials?  Go over the Menu Item Selling Sheets, HRI Form 484, for those items.  Will the chef do a tasting and explain items and recipes?  Cover any wine pairings with specials.  Are there special appetizers, desserts, specialty drinks, wines by the glass, wines by the bottle?  Review pricing for these, which POS key to ring them on, and discuss suggestions for how to upsell.
  • Review Pronunciation of any unfamiliar or foreign food terms or product names.
  • Upcoming Events.  Review details of events such as Sunday Brunch, Fine Dining Nights, Wine Tastings, Luau at the pool, etc., so that servers can provide information and promote to diners if asked.
  • Review Daily Sales Targets so everyone knows if the operation’s on track to meet budget.  Review any ongoing contests or sales incentives.
  • Kudos, Recognition, and Complaints.  Review any positive feedback to celebrate success and extraordinary service by individual servers.  Cover any complaints received with lessons learned or to brainstorm solutions.
  • Membership Familiarization for Private Clubs.  Short, ongoing review of members, their preferences, special occasions.  Show pictures, if available.  If member data is reviewed incrementally each day, over time servers will have a greater familiarity with the full membership.  In particular, cover information on new members.
  • Basic Service Focus.  Cover any particular items servers should focus on such as getting member numbers on charge slips, quick pick up of hot items from the line, not overstacking the dishwash station, etc.  By focusing on one basic item each day, servers are continually reminded of the basics of our business.
  • Questions, Comments, Feedback.  Servers should always be made to feel comfortable in asking questions, making suggestions, and providing feedback from their serving experiences.

The pre-shift meeting is an essential discipline in meeting standards, ongoing training of staff, and reviewing dining options.

Excerpted from Food Service Management on the Go, Hospitality Resources International

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 the Hospitality Industry!

The Value of a Super Service Employee

Monday, October 14th, 2013

For those of us who eat out with any regularity, we’ve all had the experience, unfortunately too rarely, of being waited on by what I call a “super server.”  From the moment she approaches the table we know we’re in for a treat.  Sparkling with personality, she overflows with knowledge about the food, beverages, and accompaniments.  She immediately sizes up our interest in engagement and calibrates her contacts accordingly.  She speaks with confidence and authority, questioning us regarding our preferences and without hesitation recommending what she thinks we’ll enjoy.  The best of the best can even unerringly take and serve orders without benefit of pen and dup pad – an ability that never ceases to amaze me.

Such extraordinary individuals are worth their weight in gold.  Not only do they serve with flair and expertise, but they sell, thereby increasing the average check, while making a distinctly favorable impression of competence and professionalism that brings diners back again and again.  This is true in restaurants as well as private clubs where members appreciate the recognition and special touches that a super server adds to the dining experience.

Far more frequently, we’ve experienced the norm of service – undertrained, inexperienced employees who may understand the basics of service, but little more.  Often lacking in knowledge, personality, and attitude, their service may meet minimum expectations but seldom inspire the diner to sample the extras – appetizers, desserts, wines, and specialty drinks – that the kitchen works so hard to create and which enhances the dining experience.  If truth be told, these employees are doing no service to their employers and in many cases are doing outright harm by driving customers away.

The often repeated maxim for employers “to hire for personality and train for technique and competence” encompasses a basic truth.  Attitude, personality, and engagement seem to be inborn skills and are difficult to teach.  While training can provide service skills and knowledge, thereby increasing a server’s confidence and maybe even engagement skills, the best service employees posses an indefinable quality that is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

Given the dearth of these extraordinary service employees, they should be recognized and compensated for the rare skills they possess.  Too often though, their presence on an employer’s staff is viewed as simple good fortune with little or no effort made to differentiate them from the common herd.  The result is that in short order they move on to greener pastures where their talents are more fully appreciated.  When this happens the loss to the establishment is often more than can be appreciated at the moment.  Not only has the employer lost a super server, but a money-maker, an ambassador, and an example for other less accomplished workers.

And everything said about food servers applies as much to super service employees in lodging, retail, recreation activities, golf, tennis, administration, and other areas of hospitality.

So why don’t we recognize and reward super service employees for their special abilities.  I suspect it’s a combination of cost consciousness, an unwillingness to go beyond the status quo, and a fear of exchanging known costs for unmeasured benefits.

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 the Hospitality Industry!

 

Value Your People

Monday, October 7th, 2013

“Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language, and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you. Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person’s unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on their current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.”

Susan M. Heathfield, Business Consultant

What things can you as a leader do to demonstrate your regard for people “in all your actions and words”?

Know and use employee names.  Everyone likes to be recognized as an individual and called by name.  Certainly your regular customers do and your employees do as well.  Introduce them to customers and visitors when appropriate.  Failing to do so implies they’re just part of the scenery instead of key contributors to the success of your operation.

Learn about employees as individuals.  Get to know them, their life situations, their dreams and plans, their goals in life.   This does not mean you are to become their friend or confidante, but it does mean you have enough interest in them as individuals to try to understand their situation, their needs, and motivations.

Greet employees daily.  You should never fail to greet employees when you see them each day.  You don’t like to be ignored as if you were unimportant, and neither do they.

Share your time with employees.  As busy as you are, make time for your employees.  They have questions, concerns, and needs that should never be ignored.  Be open and approachable.  When you are not, when they are afraid to come to you for fear of your reaction, you are kept in the dark about what is really going on in your team.  If any employee is monopolizing your time or is a “high maintenance” employee, do not be shy about letting him know the inappropriateness of this behavior.

Recognize each person’s strengths and weaknesses.  None of us is the perfect manager, server, retail attendant, etc.  Don’t expect your employees to be.  Learn each person’s strengths and weakness.  Capitalize on the strengths and help each person overcome their weaknesses.  The time you invest in helping an employee develop his or her skills and abilities is well worth the effort and will be appreciated far more than you’ll ever realize.

Be involved in the workplace and work processes.  Do not create a hostile work environment by failing to adequately engage with your employees.  Without your ongoing guidance and direction, petty dissensions and friction will grow among the workers of your team as they struggle to figure out who must do what.

Look out for your peoples’ welfare.  Make sure your employees get adequate work breaks, that their work spaces are set up for comfort and efficiency, that they are properly trained and equipped for their jobs, that you adjust work schedules when possible to meet individual needs, that you resolve pay discrepancies quickly, that you get back to them to resolve issues they’ve raised.  Make sure they understand their benefits, taking the time to explain the details to them.

Treat employees as adults.  When you treat employees like children, they will act like children.  Don’t talk down to them or treat them as if they’re immature.  When you give people responsibility, most will reward your trust.  Those who demonstrate they can’t be trusted should be encouraged to move on.

Show respect.  This is critically important in the way you speak, the tone of your voice, your choice of words, and your body language.  Your respect for others cannot be faked.  You must sincerely value people to treat them with respect at all times.

Do not take advantage of people.  Employees are not your servants and should not be expected to perform personal services for you.  If you delegate tasks, make sure there is value in it for them, either in enhanced compensation or a genuine learning opportunity.

Demonstrate the common decencies of human interaction in all your dealings.  Be kind and courteous.  Give your people the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t be quick to take offense or become upset.  Maintain control of your temper and reaction to events.

Thank employees often.  How easy is it to say “Thank you”?  It costs nothing and it reaps great rewards.  The only requirement is that it must be sincerely given.

Say goodbye at the end of the day or shift.  A farewell is a common courtesy that you would extend to family and friends, if for no other reason than as an acknowledgement of departure.  The members of your work team, who you depend on for your success, should receive no less a courtesy.  Again, the need for sincerity is absolute.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Clarity Publications, 2009

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 the Hospitality Industry!