Knowing Your Oignons...

Comment

Knowing Your Oignons...

Ah French waiters... parodied and championed in equal measure, they know their soufflé, their Sartre, and of course their oignons.

However, one French waiter based in Vancouver, Guillaume Rey, has found himself jobless after being fired for being "rude and disrespectful" to patrons. Last week he filed a complaint with British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal against his former employer, claiming “discrimination against my culture”. Adding that French culture just “tends to be more direct and expressive”.

I obviously haven't witnessed any of the alleged behaviour, but it certainly got me thinking about how British, or more particularly, English culture differs. Where as Guillaume likes to be "direct" the English can be indirect to the point of saying one thing, but meaning something completely different.

The Classic "Thank you" is the perfect example. Sometimes it is said with the intention to truly thank, at other times it is said with the intention to "stop coming to the table to fill up my water!" and at others the intention to "take my food away it was average - is that a nose piercing?"

What's the alternative? Be a touch more direct like Guillaume?

I will certainly try (intention: On ya bike mate!)

Comment

Dear Phil...

Comment

Dear Phil...

I'm not sure if Phillip Hammond gets many letters. Maybe the odd Virgin Media circular and the Screwfix catalogue, but actual Dear Phil letters?

No.

Therefore I can only imagine his delight, when Monday's post came tumbling through No 11. Top of the pile? A letter with Phil written on it from no less than 15 people, including Bill's CEO David Garrod and Steve Richards CEO of CDG. Sadly, it wasn't long before Phil realised this wasn't fan mail.

Instead it was a rallying call. Proudly stating the importance of the hospitality industry from a national perspective. The highlights reel included: Almost 10% sector growth year-on-year, 10% of UK employment accounted for by the hospitality industry, 5% of GDP and tax receipts equivalent to the entire UK defence budget. 

Most people would call that pulling weight, yet sadly this work horse is in grave danger. Rising business rates, rising employment costs and the background hum of Brexit represents a perfect storm for the industry. Time for action Phil...

Please take it, and maybe you'll get a bit more fan mail in the future. 

Comment

National Treasure

Comment

National Treasure

In a time of alternative facts, fake news and "covefefe" it is reassuring to know that some things are, in fact, true.

David Attenborough is a legend - true. There are many reasons for this actual fact; his gravely, yet caramely voice, his withering appraisal of the man behind "covefefe" and his tireless campaign to make the planet a better place. In the last episode of Blue Planet II, he talked about plastic and we listened... we really listened.

Slowly but surely a big wheel has started to turn.

Wetherspoons, All Bar One, Pernod Ricard, Diageo and D&D London have all banned plastic straws and stirrers from their sites.

The big wheel is by no means spinning yet, but the hospitality industry has a shoulder hard pressed.

Comment

An Uncomfortable Truth

Comment

An Uncomfortable Truth

"I felt embarrassed, I felt humiliated, I felt disgusted, but I was very aware that there was very little I could do about it."

This sobering account comes from waitress Nilufer Guler. It is one of a number of quotations from the BBC ComRes Poll which surveyed 3000 men and women on their experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace. And it makes for uncomfortable reading.

40% of the women polled said they had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace, with only a quarter of them reporting it. Amongst men, nearly 20% had experienced similar unwanted behaviour.

The hospitality sector is by no means alone: nursing, events and the health and leisure sectors were all mentioned in the survey, the largest of it's kind in the UK. The clear commonality amongst the participants, is that the majority worked in the flexible/ gig economy, where according to Nilufer  "there's no avenue for [people] to speak out, no process of accountability."

Another participant, advertising campaign manager Honey Jamie suggests that "there is no training if you're experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace". This chimes with some of our experiences at Hop, and we always include scenarios which deal with harassment and unwanted behaviour in our workshops. The impact of this type of behaviour can be severe and long lasting, and it is our collectively responsibility to create a reporting structure that is open, robust and fair.

Comment

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Comment

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Let’s be honest, the Hospitality industry has never been an industry that parents have actively encouraged their kids to go into. Despite ‘eating out’ spend reaching a high it seems an attitude of, “I’d eat there but wouldn’t want my child to work there” still dominates. In a recent independent survey of 1000 parents* the leading jobs that parents wanted their children to go into were, unsurprisingly, 

 

1.    Drs

2.    Accountant

3.    Architect. 

 

 

And these top three careers haven’t really changed over the last 25 years. And nor has the list of careers parents would least like their children to go into - topping this list, you’ve guessed it - Hospitality management including General Manager and Directors. I have friends in work in all of these fields, they’ve worked hard to carve out a career for themselves. None of these jobs are easy, they all require long hours, working weekends and the ability to cope with a lot of stress. In fact, I think my Architect friends have it the hardest (perhaps they should go and speak to some of these parents). 

 

Over the last 25 years or so the hours and pressures of being a Dr, an Accountant or an Architect have grown and grown. Smaller budgets, a downturned economy and more competition mean that these jobs are packed full of stress and never ending shifts. Whereas I don’t think the Hospitality industry has actually become that much more stressful, or harder than it’s ever been. Yes there are more restaurants now, but conditions are better, tech has reduced the workload massively,  and staff are better trained - if anything it’s got better. 

 

But the perception of the Hospitality industry has not. And it’s this perception of our industry as a low paid, unskilled and unsociable career that’s really doing the damage. Yes, there are restaurants out there that do live up to this perception but there are also restaurants that are changing the landscape. There’s a new breed of restaurant coming through that exemplify everything that’s great about the industry. I think of Restaurants like Kiln, Blacklock, Flat Iron, Smoking Goat, set up by incredibly passionate, hardworking people who care inherently about the food they serve and the people who work for them. They realise that running a restaurant is a truly collaborative process, you have to look after your suppliers, staff, and guests equally. I take my hat off to them, the courage they've had to set up on their own and the risks they’ve taken to succeed. If my kids can be as happy and successful as some of the young guns running these places I’d think I’d done a pretty good job. 

 

*1,004 parents ranging from 18 to 65 were surveyed in July and August 2016 across the United Kingdom by TFL Research. Source Best Western Hotels. 

 

Comment

Smile Like You/ If You Mean It.

Comment

Smile Like You/ If You Mean It.

The customer service smile: a paradigm of goodness, gilded with pearly white teeth, and full trustworthy lips? Or, a passé marketeer’s vision of customer satisfaction and retention, loathed by employees far and wide? Well, according to new research by Dr Perminiene of the University of East London, it’s definitely the latter.

According to Dr Perminiene a forced smile is "surface acting" i.e. "putting on a mask and feel[ing] one thing and then try[ing] to display something else." Worse of all? It’s bad for us, causing stress, cynicism, and dissatisfaction in the work place.

The research goes on to mention a legal precedent in which "fake emotions" caused a more serious, sinister result. In the late 1990’s U.S. food giant Safeway was taken to court after employee’s complained that the "always smile, always make eye-contact" policy led to sexual harassment from male customers. This, is obviously at the more extreme end, in terms of the consequences of fake emotions, but, if we look at the hospitality sector in particular, what exactly are we saying to our teams when we say "always smile"?

Be dishonest to yourself and your guests… Not ideal eh?

So what is the answer? Well, like us at Hop, Dr Perminiene recognises the importance that acting methods and techniques can play in customer service training. Perhaps, more importantly though, she recognises that if your business is about people: employing them and serving them, then you must train your staff not to "always smile" but to always be genuine.

Comment

You lead, I'll Follow.

Comment

You lead, I'll Follow.

Last week I was lucky enough to be a guest at The Royal College of Surgeons Emerging Leaders Workshop. It was a fascinating day, with contributions from some of the country's leading medical professionals.

On the face of it, there doesn't seem to be much crossover between the medical and hospitality industries, but leadership, it seems, is one such area. Royal College of Surgeons Council member John Abercrombie spoke passionately about leading his surgical team, with one soundbite standing out in particular...

Always take the blame for your failures, and never take the credit for your victories, and your team will run through walls for you.

Sometimes in our Workshops we joke that we are not saving lives, but John probably has... and so if he can live and lead by this mantra, why can't we in hospitality? 

Last Christmas I went out for a meal with my Girlfriend's family. The restaurant was buckling and the service was all over the place: late food, no food, undercooked food. In truth, it was a horror show. I spoke to the manager and he said the following...

"Look, I haven't got enough staff on tonight, it's busy and it's a really weak team on."

Would you run through walls for this manager?

No, let me re-phrase that...

Would you turn up to work for this manager?

Comment

Where's My Latte?

Comment

Where's My Latte?

With all the major parties participating in the recent TV debates, it was disappointing that not one of them mentioned the potentially disastrous effect that a hard Brexit may have on the hospitality industry.

According to the latest figures from Fourth Analytics, 43% of those currently working in the hospitality sector in the UK are foreign nationals. The immediate impact on the industry, if these employees are not guaranteed the right to remain, is clear: Almost half the current workforce will disappear.

Perhaps more worryingly is the medium-term post Brexit picture. Hospitality is known for its relatively high turnover, so after another cycle of churn who's going to serve you your latte? Who's going to cook your ramen?

One particularly enlightened suggestion from immigration minister Robert Goodwill, would be to impose a £1000 levy per non-UK employee. One wishes his suggestions were more in line with his surname.

 

Embed Block
Add an embed URL or code. Learn more

Comment

A Stress Ball Won't Cut It

Comment

A Stress Ball Won't Cut It

Job site company CV-Library recently published research suggesting that over half of us (53%) cite stress as a current issue in the workplace. Moreover, 63% of those believe that poor management is the main driver for that stress. These statistics are worrying enough in themselves, but really only show the tip of the iceberg... The bigger question across all sectors is where does this increase in stress lead?

Let's focus on hospitality. At times, it can be an incredibly stressful industry to work in, and at other times, it can be joyous like no other. However, we'd be naive to think that bad managers and stressed staff don't exist in the fraternity. Returning to my earlier question, in the hospitality sector, stress can leads us down a dark and dangerous road. Poor management affects (stresses) staff; this leads to low morale, and as Lee Biggins from CV-Library suggests, this may in turn make staff "turn on their heels and look for a better working environment elsewhere".

This you may think, is bad enough, in an industry where turnover tops out at 72%. However, there is another more silent, deadly killer lurking down this dark and dangerous road. For just as good management and culture will trickle down to your customers and guests, so will stress and dissatisfaction. It's a top down virus, which infects a whole site. And worst of all? Your guests take it home with them and spread it around everyone they know. 

 

 

Comment

The Future's bright...

Comment

The Future's bright...

Insight and strategy consultancy Pragma was recently commissioned to write a ‘market snapshot’ report on the state of the food and beverage industry in the UK. The general gist of things… There’s reason to be optimistic even in the post-Brexit quagmire. Pragma forecast that the ‘branded dining market’ is estimated to be worth £22bn within the next 5 years, with its current market value topping out at a punchy £16.4bn. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising that Pragma also discovered that almost a third of us eat out at least once a week.

However, the most telling stat came from a dreary looking graph on page 11. Respondents were asked, what's the most important drivers when choosing a restaurant? Top of the list at 88% was food, but for once let’s remember who came second, third and fourth…

Consistency: 78%
Service: 76%
Environment: 74%

These metrics can be grouped under one useful umbrella term: People. It is people that provide consistency, it is people who provide service, and it is people who create the right environment

So what is the takeaway here (excuse the pun)? 

Invest in people… train them to adapt to all different types of guest (service) train them to be self - aware and use Emotional Intelligence (consistency) and train them to work in cohesive teams from manager to KP. These are the cornerstones to creating an amazing environment in your site, in which guests want to eat and staff want to work.

The future’s bright for the sector, but the spoils will go to the champions of Consistency, Service and Environment.

Comment

The Wolf at the Door

Comment

The Wolf at the Door

Soho is a pokey part of town, rich in history and more diverse than a box of Celebrations; it is not known for its square footage. However, there are more quality restaurants in this square mile than in any other part of the country and for those who get it right, full houses await. The difficulty is, full restaurants often mean full pavements, and that dreaded of British institutions… the queue. As a restaurant, and indeed as a host, managing the queue is of paramount importance. You’re having to say ‘no’ to guests who want to eat with you and how we do this will have a direct impact on whether these guests will come back. At Hop, we always work with three possible outcomes when training hosts:

Outcome A: Guests come to dine, there is space available and they’re seated immediately.

Outcome B: Guests come to dine, there is no space available currently, but they return later because of the quality of interaction they had with the host.

Outcome C: Guests come to dine, there is space available and they do not return because of the poor interaction they had with the host.

We always want to be working towards outcomes A and B. Outcome C is a dangerous road down which friends will be told they expected me to wait for two hours!" So how do we achieve outcomes A and B? It is a mixture of empathy, reactive listening, honesty and of course a sincere apology. It takes practice, patience and a touch of Emotional Intelligence. Luckily, these are learnt skills, and we teach them.

Hosting is a challenging job, but it can also highly rewarding if it’s done with care and honesty. So be the enabler, be the fixer - don’t be the wolf at the door.

Comment

The Art of Delegation (In Hospitality). More Time, Less Stress and More Cohesive Teams.

Comment

The Art of Delegation (In Hospitality). More Time, Less Stress and More Cohesive Teams.

Ask anyone who runs a restaurant and you’ll find there is a hell of a lot to do. As managers get promoted it becomes easy to take on the many responsibilities of the business. P&Ls are delicate things and for most it makes sense to take on the responsibility of all the major tasks in the business to ensure the restaurant turns a healthy profit. 

In theory, this seems like a good idea, but with so much focus on all the daily and weekly tasks we can lose touch with the most important people in our business - our employees. Your teams interact with many more of your guests than you do. If you can’t keep them motivated and happy, they’ll have very little inclination to treat your guests with empathy and kindness. We’ve all worked with GMs who spend a lot of their time in the office - this never goes down well with team members. In fact it’s one of the quickest ways to create cynical, lacklustre waiters. 

Your teams interact with way more of your guests than you do. If you can’t keep them motivated and happy they’ll have very little inclination to treat your guests with empathy and kindness.

To be effective leaders we need to be able to build rapport and trust with our management teams and our front line employees. If we’re spending too much time focusing on the admin, it’s too easy for those relationships to slide. As leaders, our job is to manage the emotional state of those we lead, to keep them happy and motivated so they can deliver a brilliant guest experience. 

Obviously we can’t just spend all our time on the floor, motivating our teams and neglecting the daily running of the business. But there is a way we can combine the two. 

Most people are happy if they feel like they are moving forward, learning and developing. We want to create an atmosphere of constant learning and progression. Through coaching and developing our teams we can actually reduce our workload whilst at the same time building trust and rapport. Here’s how.

If you take all the tasks that you, as GM, carry out weekly and then write them out into a list of blocks like below. 

Although the tasks might vary, you’ll notice that the most junior managers always have the least ‘office’ work to do and therefore spend most of their time ‘managing’ shifts and ‘managing’ the team. By contrast, the most experienced person in the business spends the least amount of time ‘managing’ the people in the business. To us that makes no sense. We need to free up the most experienced person to truly lead the business and the people in it. 

The goal is for the GM to delegate 85-95% of their workload so they can focus on their teams and guests. This doesn’t mean we are no longer responsible for those tasks; of course, the buck always stops with us. But we need to coach and develop the managers below us to be able to do those tasks in order to free up our time to focus on our guests and employee wellbeing. We provide support all the way and then simply review and check at the end. The key to making this work is to train the person well enough to do the task as well as (or better) than you. Achieving this takes a bit of planning and time - but trust me it’ll be worth it in the end. 

Let’s take one of our tasks as GM we want to delegate to our AGM. Perhaps it’s Monday morning admin. How long (be honest with yourself) is it going to take me to train my AGM to carry out this task perfectly. Let’s say 6 hours. I’m going to spread this time over 3 weeks. Next I’m going to schedule two one hour training sessions over three weeks with my AGM. I’m going to Timeblock this in our diaries. Timeblocking is simply putting time in your diary where nothing interrupts you. You must protect that time so your sole focus is on training your AGM. Too often training in restaurants is haphazard as there is always so much going on and the task never gets taught properly which leads to mistakes - the whole thing becomes a frustrating waste of time. 

During these one hour sessions your task is not simply to teach the AGM how to do Monday morning admin; it’s equally important to build trust and rapport. This is quality one-on-one time that is such a rarity in our industry.  Be kind, support them, allow them to make mistakes and learn. Then by the end of the six sessions, you simply have to review and check that they are doing the task well. You now have a stronger relationship with your AGM and one less task to do.

Too often training in restaurants is haphazard as there is always so much going on, the task never gets taught properly which leads to mistakes - the whole thing becomes a frustrating waste of time.

Your AGM can then do exactly the same with the manager below them. What we end up with is a management team that are constantly learning, developing and improving and a GM who has the time and headspace to focus on the most important aspect of the business - it’s people. 

 

If we keep this style of learning and delegation going, we’ll end up at a point where we have managers who are trained and ready for promotion or to step up if someone else leaves. What we want to end up with is a GM who is still ultimately responsible for the all administration of the business but they are simply reviewing, guiding and checking as opposed to doing. There’s a real joy to be found in developing those below you. Done well, you’ll have more time, less stress and more headspace to focus on the most important aspect of the business, its people. 

 

Comment