Post Mortems: An Essential Tool of Excellence

April 4th, 2016

There are many disciplines related to excellence in club operations, but there is none so basic as learning from one’s mistakes.  This shouldn’t be news to anyone.  Jim Collins, in his bestselling book on wildly successful companies, distilled the formula for success to the following, “Much of the answer to the question of ‘good to great’ lies in the discipline to do whatever it takes to become the best within carefully selected arenas and then seek continual improvement (emphasis added) in these.  It’s really just that simple.”

We have written extensively on the necessity of discipline in building a successful club operation, as well as the importance of Continual Process Improvement.  The willingness to routinely and repeatedly review all aspects of operations to ensure an improved level of performance will bring any club to a state of excellence.

A simple and highly effective tool for such review is the use of post mortems.  Originally a medical term for an autopsy to determine the cause of death, in common practice post mortem has come to take on the broader meaning of examining any action or event after the fact to determine cause(s) and/or means of improvement.  The military has a similar purpose in the use of “after action” reports to review plans, execution of orders, and battles.

Any club embracing a vision of excellence would do well to establish organization-wide post mortems as an essential discipline of learning from mistakes and improving future performance.  But what sort of things demand such review and how best to do them?

Most important is any action or event designed to entertain or delight members such as entertainment, food service, golf, and sports/fitness activities.  Each of these directly impact perceptions of the club’s quality, service, and member satisfaction and are expected to be well-conceived, organized, and executed.  Ongoing reviews to improve such activities will avoid past weaknesses or missteps, while continually striving for better and more enjoyable events.  Use of the Event Review, HRI Form 807, or some similar means of recording post-event ideas and suggestions is a simple way to institute consistent and continual improvement.

Beyond these are the ongoing reviews of systems, processes, standards, policies, procedures, training materials and methods, and any other significant function of club operations.  Each department head should have both the mindset and focus to continually think and say, “What can we do better, faster, more efficiently, at less cost, and with higher levels of member service?”  Employees must be made to understand that their ideas and suggestions are always welcomed and, when appropriate, acted upon to improve the organization.

Tips for maximizing the effectiveness of reviews:

  • Conduct the post mortem as soon after the event or activity as possible, while everything is fresh in everyone’s mind.
  • Make sure all parties know in advance that a review will be done so they may be alert for ideas and suggested improvements.
  • Include all major players involved in planning and executing the event.
  • Make ongoing review of activities and events part of each department head’s job description and performance review.
  • Ensure that each department head has established an appropriate filing system so that post mortem documentation for any and all events can be quickly found and used in future planning.
  • Ensure that the post mortem files of departing managers are retained by the club and available to replacements.
  • Seek the input of the line employees involved in servicing the event – activity, food service, and golf staffs – as they know better than anyone what worked and didn’t work.  Given their crucial input and the fact that they might not be available for a more formal review meeting in the days following the event, get their feedback prior to leaving the club at the end of the event shift.
  • Consider establishing a recognition and rewards system for line staff when their ideas are accepted and implemented.  Managers are expected as part of their jobs to improve operations, but line employees may need incentives.

Undoubtedly, many clubs and managers informally review their operations for improvement, but greater and more consistent results will be achieved if every employee, managers and line, buys into a formal, effort to review and improve the club.  Post mortems may be performed on cadavers, but a robust, club-wide process of continual improvement, encouraged and supported by the club’s leadership, will breathe new life into any operation.

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!

 

Beyond Oral History

March 28th, 2016

The term “oral history” is used to describe the practices of early societies to pass on historical and cultural information to succeeding generations in an effort to preserve the knowledge and traditions of the group.  More recently it has come to describe the recording of personal impressions from witnesses of historic events.  But as valuable as these methods were to ancient cultures, as well as to modern day historians, they should never, by default, be the basis for preserving and disseminating the organizational values and operational methods of a business enterprise.

The danger of doing so has long been revealed by a demonstration of the unreliability of verbal communication.  In this lesson a simple written message is given to the first person in a group and then whispered sequentially through a number of individuals to a final recipient.  The transmitted message is then read to the group and compared to the original note.  The result is a surprising and often incomprehensible jumble of words in no way resembling the original message.  If this isn’t proof positive of the unsuitability of oral transmission of important information, I don’t know what is!

Yet this is what many private clubs do when they fail to create written expectations for the performance and behavior of their employees or provide thorough and consistent training based on those expectations.  This is all the more egregious when one recognizes the complexity and nuance involved in quality and service – a far cry from the simplicity of the mangled message from the previous paragraph.

Often it seems that when a club hires someone who has worked in hospitality or service positions before, their experience is viewed as prima facie evidence that they know what to do in all important and expected service situations.  Such an assumption borders on lunacy.  The fallacy of such thinking is exposed in a number of ways:

  • Service employees come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, learning environments, and experiences.  What constitutes manners, norms of behavior, and the expectations inherent in quality and service are by no means commonly understood.  Expecting that they are is equivalent to playing slots and hoping for a triple 7 with every spin of the wheels – very long odds indeed!
  • Even an applicant with a strong service resume at another club does not in any way ensure he or she will meet the standards of your operation.
  • Many clubs have significant turnover, meaning that successive generations of employees can move through the doors with mind-numbing speed.  Without well-defined (read “written”) training materials, your expectations and standards will be just as fragile and fleeting as the whispered message mentioned above.
  • Since hiring for the service ranks is rarely done in bulk, but rather piecemeal as employees come and go, there is seldom the opportunity for the consistency that results from group training.  The danger here is that any new hire(s) may not get the same orientation and training as previous hires due to the busy-ness of the season and the other priorities of distracted managers.
  • All the same dangers inherent in the faulty assumptions concerning line employees are just as real, only with far greater consequences, in the hiring of new managers and supervisors.  Don’t for a moment expect that they possess from prior experience the unique values, leadership methods, expectations, or standards of quality and service of your club.
  • Lastly, how can the general manager who is ultimately responsible for the club’s performance be sure that the various departments have established the expected standards of quality and service without the ability to review these and modify them as necessary.  While personal observation is helpful, it does nothing to ensure consistency of message and practice.  The only sure way is to have all the essential details of your operation in writing and available for review while also forming the basis for consistent training and transmission of important information throughout the organization.

So what can the conscientious manager do to ensure his or her club is not operating from the communication practices of ancient communities or the memories of long-past events?  Here are some suggested priorities:

  • Establish and continually reinforce Organizational Values as the consistent code for how the club’s staff is expected to relate to and interact with all constituencies.
  • Create written standards, policies, and procedures (SPP’s) for all areas of the operations.  Provide easy access to these by use of some sort of linked policies database.  Use these SPP’s to develop onboarding and training materials to ensure consistency of message.
  • Spell out performance and behavior expectations to managers and employees alike through a variety of onboarding, ongoing training, and reinforcement tools and techniques, such as New Hire Orientations, Employee Handbook, Managers’ Handbook, Training on the Go, Notable Quotables, Daily Huddles, Values Pocket Cards, and ongoing discussion of critical quality and service topics.
  • Prepare formal annual plans for the club as a whole, each department, and individual managers to guide the management team to uniform accomplishment of goals and performance.
  • Use ongoing review and continual process improvement in all areas of the operation to solidify achievements, improve processes, and deeply implant organizational values and best practices in the club’s DNA.
  • Routinely provide ongoing feedback, both formal and informal, on performance and progress.  Reinforce desired performance and behaviors by celebrating “wins” with recognition and expressions of appreciation.

All of the above are common sense solutions to the ongoing challenges of club management.  If so, why aren’t they more prevalent in club operations?  I suspect that the primary barrier to their implementation is the effort and work involved for busy managers coping with the myriad challenges of busy operations.  But if there is to be any type of moving beyond an unsatisfactory status quo, extraordinary thinking and action is necessary.

Hospitality Resources International has developed and offers a wide variety of resources to assist in improving the current operating paradigm of club operations.  Certainly there is a cost and effort involved, but the reasonable investment in ready resources to move beyond the oral history foundation of so many operations is a small price to pay to the immense benefits to be reaped from the effort.  A good starting point is to read the overarching plan described in The Quest for Remarkable Service.  Then go back and review the various linked resources in this article to gain a more detailed understanding of these methods and means to excellence.

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 Tale of Two Service Experiences

March 21st, 2016

Most private club general managers intuitively understand the importance of the member experience at their club.  To do otherwise is to put their employment at risk.  Great effort is expended on providing warm, friendly, courteous, welcoming, personalized service to all members.  Despite this effort though, ongoing service complaints from members seems to be a fact of life in many clubs.

Each complaint starts a familiar cycle of apology; investigation to pinpoint failure; corrective or disciplinary action as necessary; and renewed emphasis on training.  Often, the ongoing investment in management time and effort in these service matters precludes adequate focus on larger and more long-term operational objectives.  Yet for all the effort put into resolving service failures, there never seems to be a permanent solution as they continue to crop up again and again.

While there may be a variety of institutional causes for service failures – lack of consistent leadership, lack of organization, lack of well-defined service culture, and lack of training – one of the most damaging can be the attitude and commitment of the service staff as a result of the club’s employee experience.

The following story relates my own early experiences many years ago in three different hospitality properties – a club, a hotel, and a fine dining restaurant.

What was most distressing was their similarity – no onboarding, no welcome, no introduction to purpose and means, no spelling out of expectations, no employee handbook, and no adequate training.  What little effort put into orientation at the club was a sheath of worn photocopies with disjointed information from a variety of sources that spoke vaguely of service.  But this material lacked the larger context of what, when, why, where, or how and provided no introduction or segue from topic to topic.

Even more disturbing was the introduction to the fine dining restaurant where new employees were treated with open disdain.  Unforgettable was the abrupt response to one bold question about treatment and training – that we could leave if we didn’t like it, that there were plenty of others who could take our place.  In hindsight it was more like induction into the military than working for an organization whose business was predicated on service excellence.

This early introduction to hospitality motivated my leadership and managerial efforts throughout a long career.  It just seemed commonsensical to provide a more welcoming and supportive introduction to the very people who would deliver service.  Instead of alienated and cynical employees locked in an adversarial relationship with management, I wanted willing and committed team members to help advance the aims and purpose of the organization.

In contrast to these experiences is the example of the Ritz-Carlton Company that operates luxury hotels worldwide for the Marriott Corporation.  They view their employees as indispensable partners whose daily attitude and actions form the basis for the company’s legendary service.  As a company, they purposely invest as much focus and effort in their employee experience as they do their guest experience and the results are remarkable!  Read Service the Ritz-Carlton Way for more detail.

While the Ritz-Carlton employee experience may be reasonable for a large company with deep pockets and wide-ranging resources, the basic premise of their success is built on the simple notion that if you care for your employees (providing them all the necessary tools, training, resources, inclusiveness, engagement, and leadership example), they’ll be motivated to care for your customers.

First and foremost in Ritz-Carlton employee experience is the attitude that their employees matter.  From this attitude flows a commitment to value and treat employees with the same consideration and respect they provide their guests.  All the rest is just the details of how to do it consistently in all departments and properties.

With a little creative thinking and a lot of consistent Service-Based Leadership, this model is just as achievable for any private club.  The resources to do so consistently are at the heart of most everything provided on the Hospitality Resources International website.

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!

 

 

 

Listening to the Line

March 14th, 2016

Because of my interest in military history, I frequently come across the impact of leadership as the essential ingredient and foundation for winning military campaigns.  I recently finished reading General Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe recounting the Allied military efforts in Europe in World War II.

His perspective is unique in that, as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the European Theater, Eisenhower’s authority eventually encompassed 3 million men and women from over a dozen countries in both fighting and support roles on land, sea, and in the air.  The enterprise itself was, in size and scope, the greatest single endeavor of the 20th Century – the defeat of Hitler and the Axis Powers.

While military leadership is distinct in purpose – the winning of wars; the broader role of inspiring and directing followers to the accomplishment of a goal or venture is universal in application and entails the same needs that we as club managers face daily in directing a service organization – how to get the best from our workers.

Among the many lessons to be learned in Eisenhower’s book is the following quote,

“There is, among the mass of individuals who carry rifles in war, a great amount of ingenuity and initiative.  If men can naturally and without restraint talk to their officers, the products of their resourcefulness become available to all.  Moreover, out of the habit grows mutual confidence, a feeling of partnership that is the essence of esprit de corps.”

This observation resonated with my firm belief that an open and unimpeded flow of information up from employees to the leaders is just as important as the direction and guidance that goes from the top of the organization to its line staff.  This exchange of ideas and information can only come about when leaders at every level inherently recognize that such openness is a critical success factor for the organization.

But senior leadership must understand that this recognition does not spring by happy and universal coincidence from the minds and consciousness of subordinate managers – it must be taught and modeled continually and consistently to everyone who fills a leadership role.  Without this effort, the critical concepts of success will not be faithfully communicated to those who serve the club’s members and, conversely, the ideas and innovation of front line employees will never reach the decision makers.  The end result is a lack of mutual confidence and that spirit of partnership so essential to any effective group effort.

Bottom Line:  To be successful in the challenging world of club management and to avoid organizational dysfunction, a leader needs every conceivable advantage.  None is so important as good leadership and its attendant openness to ideas and innovation.  In the words of Bill Robinson, noted business, technology, and entrepreneurship journalist, “To be able to regularly solicit, capture and execute upon the strong ideas of those on the front lines who really know what the customers want will be the panacea for the 21st century business 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!

 

 

New Hire Orientations – Getting Them Off on the Right Foot

February 29th, 2016

Hospitality operations in general and managers specifically go to a lot of trouble to find new employees – but not just any employee.  By using the principles and techniques of Disciplined Hiring, they make the effort to not only get the right people on the bus, but to get the right people in the right seats on the bus.  In making this effort they should have only one goal in mind and that is to find and hire people who will make a positive and continuing contribution to the success of the organization.

Keeping in mind that first impressions are powerful determinants in establishing any person’s attitudes about, and commitment to, a new job, it is imperative that the organization make an effort to welcome and impress the new hire.  But the consequences of not providing a warm, welcoming, and informative onboarding process go far beyond first impressions.

Understand that your establishment’s reputation as an employer in the local labor market is directly related to the work experiences of your employees.  When they are not properly onboarded and trained, when they are not given the necessary tools and resources to do their jobs, when they are not properly led, when their leaders do not set a professional example, you can be assured that your operation will have high levels of turnover and people in the surrounding community will know just what kind of employer you are.  With this kind of reputation you will have a hard time attracting dedicated and competent employees – the ones that every employer wants to hire – and you condemn yourself to unending personnel problems, lack of employee commitment, and famously poor service levels.

On the other hand, when you treat your employees with dignity and respect, when you recognize that willing, committed, and empowered employees make all the difference in service to your customers/guests/members, you know that how employees are treated from day one will go a long way toward demonstrating the organization’s commitment to its staff, thereby ensuring their commitment to the organization.

So the first step in the process of gaining the commitment of employees is a well-thought out and consistently executed onboarding plan for new hires.  This initial orientation to the organization is usually given by the HR Manager or the person acting in that capacity.  Here are some of the basic things to include:

1.   An Introduction to Organizational Values and Culture of Service.  Organizational values are the foundation for how you conduct your business and interact with your customers.  Every employee must be well-versed in these values and they must be constantly reinforced throughout every employee’s tenure.

2.   Etiquette and Service Training.  A brief introduction will set the foundation for these important topics, though they must be taught and reinforced at regular intervals during employment.

3.   Review of Uniforms, Dress Code, and Grooming Standards.  Employees in a professional service organization must understand and consistently abide by these requirements.

4.   Performance Expectations and Reviews.  Employees must understand basic expectations for their performance, conduct, and demeanor, and it is only fair to let them know when and how they will be reviewed.

5.   Work Week, Pay Cycle, Timekeeping, and Overtime.  Employees need to understand these basic matters relating to their compensation.  Spelling them out in detailed way consistently for all employees will answer a lot of their questions.  They also need to know who to see if they have questions or problems relating to their hours and compensation.

6.   Employment Status, Benefit Eligibility, and Benefits Enrollment.  Benefits are usually determined based upon an employee’s employment status (Full Time, Part Time, and Seasonal).  Each employee must know his or her status, what benefits they might be eligible for, and when they can enroll for benefits.

7.   Receipt of Employee Handbook.  Every employee must be given an Employee Handbook that provides all the information they need to know about employment with your organization.  Such information must be fully integrated with the Personnel Standards, Policies, and Procedures.  It’s also a good idea to have them sign a receipt for the handbook that includes an acknowledgement statement that the material in the handbook is extremely important and must be read and understood by all employees.  The handbook receipt should be filed in the employee’s personnel file as proof that they received the handbook and were apprised of its importance and the need to read it.

8.   Employee Work Rules.  Every organization has its own work rules covering all sorts of topics from where to park, use of personal cells phones on the premises, calling off, work schedules, availability of lockers, entrances to use, employee meal policy, etc.  These rules are usually included in detail in the Employee Handbook, but it’s a good idea to go over them in a face to face meeting, giving them ample opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification.

9.   Safety, Accidents, and Emergencies.   It’s important to give employees a basic overview of safety policies, what to do in case of an accident or emergency, and the operation’s emergency and evacuation plans.  While these should be covered in more formal safety training in each department, having a basic understanding from the very beginning of employment is essential.

10. General Manager’s Welcome.  Employees should meet and hear from the General Manager at the beginning of their employment.  This is a great opportunity to hear about the organization’s mission and vision from the chief executive or operating officer.

11. Tour of Property and Introductions.  New employees should be given a tour of the property and be introduced to each department head.  Department heads can welcome the new hires and give a brief overview of the department’s function.

12. Review and Retention.  The person giving the New Hire Orientation may also want to give a brief test to reinforce key points and to determine individual retention of this important information.

At the conclusion of the orientation, the new hires should be directed or taken to their departmental manager and the HR Manager should document the orientation in each new hire’s personnel file by using an Orientation Checklist, HRI Form 105.  I also would strongly recommend that each department head conduct a similar departmental orientation covering essential information specific to that department.  Some of the same information should be reviewed in this second orientation to reinforce the message and ensure comprehension.  As with the enterprise Orientation, Department Heads should complete and forward a Departmental Orientation Checklist, HRI Form 106, to the HR office for inclusion in the new hire’s file.

While all of the above requires time and effort, the results of a well-planned and executed onboarding scheme and the appropriate enterprise and departmental orientations will start the new hire off on the right foot and will establish the organization’s professionalism – both of which will make a strong first impression on all new hires.

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!

 

Leading Change

February 23rd, 2016

Amin came to work for me as the Restaurant Manager in an historic university-owned hotel.  He faced many challenges, not the least of which was the fact that the restaurant was losing money and badly needed repositioning.

He attacked the problem with enthusiasm and energy, and he promptly ran into a buzz saw of opposition.  It seems that many of his customers, including several academics who were powerful shapers of university opinion, thought the existing operation was just fine.

While surprised by their reaction to his plans, Amin developed a strategy to win them to his cause.  He actively courted them, made appointments for office visits, listened to many nostalgic tales of meals gone by, but also heard in all the conversation their distinct desire to maintain the restaurant as a quiet, dignified place where ideas could be discussed over a good, reasonably-priced meal.

He then enlisted a respected professor’s wife and interior designer with a deep sense of university tradition to prepare designs to renovate the restaurant.  He also formed a focus group of key individuals to communicate menu preferences to the Chef.  As the plans began to take shape he was careful to keep his many advisers abreast of developments.

Amin also took great pains to involve the food service staff in his planning and designs.  Not only were their suggestions helpful, but they looked forward to the repositioning with proprietary interest.

Finally, the day came when the restaurant was closed for renovation.  During the three-week closure, a number of our “advisers” stopped by to see how the project was coming.  Most made reservations for re-opening day so they could bring friends and colleagues to see the results of “their work.”

Needless to say, the re-opening was a great success.  Certainly, there were some minor glitches, but the pride and good feeling of our many active participants carried the day.

As this example suggests, a lot of mistakes can be prevented if you take the time to completely think through the ramifications of planned changes.

  • Attempt to understand the impact of proposed changes on all elements of the organization and customers alike.
  • Change can be threatening to employees.  They sometimes do not understand that change can also be an opportunity.  Reassure them.  Much of how change is viewed is attitudinal and can be influenced by the manner in which you, as the leader, approach it.
  • Enact change in a manner that lessens the threat to employees.  Lead your staff through change.  Make sure they understand the reasons for the change and whatever new goals you have.  Brief them thoroughly on new policies or procedures.
  • New processes also impact your customers, so make sure you communicate changes to them.  Start well in advance of the proposed changes and “sell” new services and procedures to your customers.
  • Change isn’t any good unless it works.  Evaluate change and analyze the effectiveness of new systems, policies, and procedures.  Corrections and modifications will inevitably be necessary.  Do not be afraid to admit that things aren’t going as planned or hoped.  Intervene as necessary.  Stay focused and committed until all the bugs are worked out.
  • Communicate well and thoroughly throughout the period of change.  Fear feeds on itself and can get out of hand quickly.  In the absence of information, employees will usually assume the worst.  Listen to their fears and try to allay them.
  • A leader must exude confidence and enthusiasm for change.  Be supportive of the change even if you don’t agree with it.  Leaders usually have opportunities to express disagreement with proposed changes.  Once a decision is made, though, support the idea as if it were your own.  Never disparage the change in front of your employees.  You will doom it to failure.

Work to create an environment where change occurs naturally and the process of change thrives.  It can be essential to your success.

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 Hospitality Operators!

 

Understanding Your Members’ Preferences

February 15th, 2016

Knowing what your members want is the first step in meeting their needs and desires.  Much intelligence can be gained by analyzing member buying and use habits at your club.  These choices can be highly personal for a particular member or provide more general trend information on your membership as a whole.

One of the most important things you can do to better understand the dining preferences of your members is to analyze your menu sales mix every month, not only food sales (appetizers, soups, salads, entrées, and desserts), but also alcoholic beverage sales by beer, wine, and liquor by brand or label.  The information to do this is easily obtainable from your point of sale system which, when properly set up, will give you the number sold and total sales for each item.

At its most basic these numbers tell you what sold well and what didn’t.  It also gives an indication of your diners’ preferences for beef, chicken, seafood, salads, pasta, heart healthy, pricey vs. inexpensive, desire of appetizers, and how much of a sweet tooth they have.  Additionally, when you track specific beverage sales, it will indicate whether your members prefer house or premium liquors, domestic or imported beers and wines, and which brands you should replace as not selling well.

The same review of sales in your pro shops will help you better understand what members are buying.  A further step would be to monitor vendor fashion lines, styles, sizes, and colors.  This will not only help with your future buys, but will enable you to alert particular members when new items are received, thereby fostering additional sales.

When you understand what your members want, you can be proactive in providing for their needs and desires.  The more you meet these needs and desires, the greater their use of the club.  And with their greater use of the club comes a more financially successful operation.

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

February 1st, 2016

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!

 


 

Running a Profitable Food Service by the Numbers

January 18th, 2016

Most hospitality managers would agree that food service is the most challenging part of their operations, but recognizing that knowledge is power, there are a number of management disciplines that will enhance any operation’s bottom line.

  1. Benchmarking revenues, cover counts, and average check by day of week and meal period.  This will help you schedule staff more efficiently, monitor sales trends, and allow you to track the success of new menus and efforts to upsell.
  2. Benchmarking payroll cost, hours worked, and average hourly wage by pay period.  This essential discipline will allow you to stay within budget, monitor overtime, and control your most significant expense.
  3. Formal forecasting by using historical cover benchmarks and knowledge of upcoming events, external factors, and optimum staffing levels, you can ensure expected service levels in the most cost-effective way.
  4. Timely and accurate inventories and benchmarking of inventories.  This will ensure budgeted cost of goods sold and identify any adverse anomalies or trends for investigation.  A further discipline that will yield significant benefits is to identify and inventory high value items weekly.
  5. Sales mix analysis.  This discipline will help you understand your customers’ dining preferences while protecting profit margins.
  6. Basic dining policies.  Well-thought out and advertised dining policies will give all customers/guests/members an equal opportunity to enjoy the dining services while ensuring the highest service levels for all customers.
  7. Consistent pre-shift meetings with a purpose and continual On the Go Training.  There is no better way to prepare and train your staff for service.
  8. Product knowledge and upselling training for servers.  They can’t sell what they don’t know and servers well-trained in upselling techniques will increase your operation’s average check while enhancing your customers’ dining experiences.
  9. Upselling feedback.  If servers are provided daily sales goals and feedback on their efforts to upsell, they will be far more engaged, enthusiastic, and effective in increasing their average checks.  You just need to provide the numbers to them on a daily basis.
  10. Tools to Beat Budget.  This powerful discipline of tracking revenues and expenses in real time will ensure your bottom line, make you more knowledgeable about your operation, and make preparing future budgets a breeze.

Food service managers must make these disciplines part of their daily and weekly routines.  Once these disciplines are instituted and mastered, a number of them can be delegated to properly-trained and motivated subordinates.  When consistently applied, these basic and commonsense disciplines will ensure both profitability and customer service.  What more could you want for your operation?

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 Cost of Chaos

January 11th, 2016

Common wisdom tells us that quality costs more, but according to one of the foremost experts on quality this is not the case.

W. Edwards Deming, statistician, professor, author, consultant, lecturer, a man who made significant contributions to Japan’s reputation for high quality products and its rise to an economic power in the latter half of the 20th Century, wrote extensively about how a focus on quality actually reduces costs while providing a number of other benefits.  Convincingly, his ideas and methods were proven true by numerous success stories – most dramatically the rise of Japanese manufacturing to world class status after World War II.

How does a club measure or quantify the cost of confusion, mishandled or incomplete information and orders, time to investigate and correct errors, and member dissatisfaction?  The bottom line is that poor quality and disorganization is a major driver of costs in club operations.  Conversely, an improvement in quality not only lowers costs but also improves service.  The combination of lower cost and better service attracts more member patronage which improves the club’s bottom line.

Detailed organizational systems and processes allow the operation to function efficiently.  When things happen consistently and routinely in all areas of the operation, employees have the time and the inclination to focus on quality and service.  When everything is messed up all the time, employees will find it difficult to care.

So help yourself and your employees by structuring the routine to happen routinely.  This takes both the will and the organizational discipline to make it happen.  When 80% of the details happen routinely, everyone can focus on the 20% that will wow your members.

So what are some of the things food service managers can do to better organize their operations.  This short list is pure common sense:

  • Prepare written procedures for all routine tasks – opening, closing, and cleaning procedures, conducting inventories, replenishing par stocks, making coffee and ice tea, and on and on.  Since your staff does these things on an ongoing basis, take the time to write them down in detail so they can be used for consistent training and task completion.
  • Prepare and use checklists for both training and accountability.
  • Prepare room diagrams of all dining and event spaces.  These will save time and avoid misunderstandings when it comes to room set ups.  Prepare and save set up diagrams for all types of events – receptions, carving stations, buffets, wedding receptions, etc.
  • Organize a filing system for each of the above so you can find them quickly when you need them.
  • Anytime you hold a training session, organize and save the material.  You’ll certainly be using the same material again . . . and again!
  • Review all activities and events after the fact and record your observations.  You will undoubtedly hold the same or similar events in the future.  Your notes for improvement will help continually improve the quality and execution of all you do.
  • Prepare written standards and guidance for such basic matters as background music selections for differing meals, activities, and times of day.  Make the same effort to define appropriate lighting for differing events and time of day.
  • Prepare and use an ever-updated list of project work that can be used to assign to staff in slow moments when you’re not prepared to send anyone home early.
  • Train yourself in the techniques and disciplines of time management.  Time management is not really about managing time, it’s about managing those task that use up your limited time.  When you waste your time, you can’t help but waste your employees’ time as well.

Bottom Line:  No one wants to work in a chaotic environment.  If your department or section is well-organized, if everyone knows where things are, if employees are well-trained in opening and closing procedures, if everyone knows their responsibilities and is held accountable, the workplace runs almost effortlessly.  Don’t run off good people by putting them through the hell of a disorganized operation.

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!