Viewing entries tagged
Hospitality

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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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. 

 

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

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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. 

 

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Getting Your FOH Staff to Deliver Your Message.

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Getting Your FOH Staff to Deliver Your Message.

As a business expands there comes a moment when you can’t spend all your time on the floor watching what's going on. Ask anyone who runs more than one site and they’ll tell you spending time on the floor watching what's going on, is pretty rare. As you expand, you have to make sure your staff are delivering the same levels of hospitality and service you would, taking the same care and attention to make your guests feel nourished and valued. 

 

So how do we make sure they’re delivering on our expectations? One way is to create very detailed “steps of service”. Telling an employee what to say, what not to say, how exactly to greet a guest, precisely which words to use and when to use them. 

 

Job done, right? I am now pretty certain my employees are saying and doing the right thing all the time. Wrong. They might be saying the right thing, but what they’re doing is anybody's guess. Let me explain. I might train my hosts to greet everyone with a friendly “Good afternoon Sir / Madam. How are you today?” Sounds great, right? But now my host is so used to repeating the phrase that it becomes empty, valueless. I might as well record the greeting and play it every time someone walks in. They might be saying the right words, but the thought behind the words has gone. 

 

That’s the real point here. If you are over prescriptive in the way you want people to behave, you stop them thinking for themselves. Once they’re not thinking for themselves, you have a team of people who are disengaged with what they do. You’re essentially saying, “I don’t trust you enough to think for yourselves”. The good ones will put on a fake smile and feign interest and the bad ones will most probably stop following your instructions altogether - neither will be paying much attention to your guests. 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there shouldn't be procedures or steps of service. But there has to be a balance. Do you really need twenty three steps of service when seven will do?  Allow your employees to choose how they greet a guest, but give them guidelines on how you want them to make the guest feel. They can then make a decision in the moment that best suits that particular guest. Now they have to be thinking on their feet, they have to be adapting, they have to be present in their work. 

 

Although it may seem scary giving more freedom to your staff, it’s essential for their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of your business. Employ good people, train them about your culture, show them your vision and then give them the freedom and trust to do their job. That’s how you create a team that makes your guests feel nourished and truly valued. 

 

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What ‘the perfect Martini’ can do for service.

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What ‘the perfect Martini’ can do for service.

Meet Keith Mrotek, a bartender from the Norseman Distillery in Minneapolis. He’s making a Martini from a recipe that dates back to 1903. The recipe he’s using details 30ml of Dry Vermouth, 60ml of Gin, Orange Bitters and a Lemon Coin. Three ingredients and a garnish. Pretty precise, right? As he skilfully prepares this classic cocktail, you can hear him say “there’s no such thing as the perfect Martini. But there is a perfect Martini for each guest”. The amount of ice you use, the length of time you stir the drink (Keith likes his stirred for 45 seconds), the amount of orange bitters you use. These all add subtle changes that can be tailored to suit each guest. The cocktail is still their unique recipe, it’s uses their own Gin and Vermouth but there’s flexibility in their approach that delivers something specific to each individual. For me that’s real modern bartending. 

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That also happens to be the exact approach we have to delivering great service. The U.S. has always been way ahead of us when it comes to customer service, and there’s no doubt we’re catching up. But I also think we’ve picked up some of their bad habits too. As big brands realised the importance of customer service, they developed rules and regulations to create ‘consistency’ throughout the company. Scripted “Good Morning Sir” and “You have a great day Miss” seemed to be the basis of great customer care. The problem is, we’ve got so used to these hollow please and thank-yous that we see straight through them. Robotic and scripted jargon like this is embarrassing for all involved. Airlines are a classic example. Whenever you depart from a flight and the three or four crew say, "thank you" for flying with them, sometimes not even looking at you and repeating the same words in the same tone in between conversations with themselves. Why do they do it? Because the training manual tells them they must. The whole exercise becomes pointless. Sadly that generic, robotic and soul destroying “good” customer service practice has found its way over here. 

 

I’m not saying rules and points of service are a bad thing. They’re not. You couldn’t make this Martini without Gin and Vermouth - but we have to have flexibility. We have to trust front line employees to make their own choices and decide exactly how they think it is best to thank a customer. Our barman Keith takes pride in knowing exactly how to tailor his cocktails to suit his guests. And if you give your employees the right skills to tailor their service to suit each guest, they too will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. It takes no skill to mindlessly repeat “thank you” a hundred times. But it takes a great deal of skill to make each individual guest feel valued, welcomed and appreciated. These are skills that can be taught and honed and are incredibly satisfying to use.

 

Service without the freedom to go off script is tired, out-dated, dishonest, and your guests will see straight through it. Give your team a bit of freedom and trust, and see what they can achieve. 

 

Right, now I’m off for a Martini… Keith?

 

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Motivating Your Front Line Employees.

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Motivating Your Front Line Employees.

Motivating floor staff can be an uphill struggle. Getting your front line employees to hold the same values and enthusiasm you do for your business can be incredibly frustrating. Speaking to any manager or company director you’ll hear similar frustrations: “I just wish they’d get on with - it’s not rocket science”. Perhaps it isn’t. But without the right perspective, it can become impossible to deliver great service consistently. 

 

Take a moment to think about the frustrated front line employee dealing with your customers. Their interior monologue could run something like this: “These customers are all so annoying today. Why I am here? I don’t want to do this anymore. Why is that person so rude? Another idiot I have to deal with. I don’t get paid enough for this!” Sound familiar? 

 

It’s interesting when you look at comments like these how self focused and insular they are. There’s no real perspective. It’s also interesting that depression, anger and other negative feelings follow a similar cycle: An inability to see past the current circumstances to the bigger picture. 

 

One of the techniques we’ve used recently, to great success, is to involve these front-line employees in other aspects of the business. Buddying them up for a few hours with senior managers explaining the details of how the business operates. Going through budgets, labour, forecasting and exactly what the business needs to do to be successful and where things can go wrong. 

 

We’re trying to achieve a few things here. Firstly, we’re creating a greater sense of trust between management and staff. This can be really useful one-on-one time that staff rarely get with management. Secondly, we’re hoping to crate a sense of enthusiasm and interest as team members feel like they are learning useful business skills. Thirdly, we’re creating a sense of perspective, and ownership. The employee realises they have a role to play in the business and that their actions have a direct impact on the financial success of the company. 

 

By creating a new sense of perspective we are removing the self-focused negativity and creating a sense of responsibility and shared ownership in the business. That’s the real key - you want your employees, not to mention your guests, all to feel like they have a sense of ownership in what you do. 

 

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The Secret to Great Customer Service

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The Secret to Great Customer Service

The Secret to Great Customer Service. 

 

If there’s one secret to delivering excellent customer service it’s empathy. Human beings are a pretty complicated bunch and trying to make all of them happy can be a pretty exhausting experience. 

I find it fascinating that most businesses, for whom customer service is a key factor to their success, do no emotional intelligence training.

 

I find it fascinating that most businesses, for whom customer service is a key factor to their success, do virtually no training on Emotional Intelligence. We should embrace the fact that human beings are complex, and what makes one person happy, may not work for another. That’s ok, in fact, it’s a good thing. If the same thing worked for everyone customer, service would be pretty easy, but it would also be pretty dull. 

 

I see so many employees who get frustrated when their usual customer service dialogue doesn’t get the response they want. For example, a guest walks into a restaurant, the host gives them the warmest welcome and the biggest smile, and the guest does not smile back and simply states “A table for one, I’m in a rush”. The host is now resentful of this guest and his rude attitude. 

 

But is it rude? Perhaps, perhaps not. In fact the answer is immaterial. The host is upset because the guest hasn't behaved in the way the host anticipated. How is the rest of the night is going to go for the host do we think?

 

If we expect someone to react a certain way and they don’t it causes us distress, and that becomes tiring over time - that’s why working with the general public can be so draining. 

We need to teach employees in the customer service industry that people are different and that’s ok.

 

We need to teach employees in the customer service industry that people are different and that’s ok. Some people won’t smile back at you. Embrace that. Understand that for some people it’s just not in their nature to be open and friendly, and you must adjust your style and expectations to suit their needs. 

 

The more we can empathise with the emotional state of our guests, the more resistance we have to their behaviour. Instead of forcing everyone into the way we would like them to behave we start to change our behaviour to suit them. Instead of working with resistance we are working with fluidity and purpose. It’s way more rewarding and way less stressful, not to mention more genuine. 

 

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What we learnt in the Pinchos Bars of San Sebastian

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What we learnt in the Pinchos Bars of San Sebastian

If you’ve never experienced a chaotic Pinchos bar before, it can be a pretty confusing and intimidating experience. Imagine a packed bar, counter covered with plates of amazing tapas, beautifully displayed, people reaching over you, grabbing things, wine being poured, money flying over your head, and not a queue in sight! Everyone seems to understand how the chaotic system works apart from you, and a few other bewildered tourists desperately trying not to make a social faux pas. 

 

Finally, you get to front of the bar. Nervous, you muster your best Spanish and ask for two glasses of wine and ask tentatively for a plate, hoping that’s the right thing to do. The barman looks at you with the warmest smile, mocks your Spanish accent with his perfect English, completely disarms you of all tension, and tells you about the specials they have in the kitchen. The encounter only lasts a minute, but you now feel like a Pinchos Jedi - and you have a buddy behind the bar. The bar is packed, but in that minute he gave you his full attention and changed your mood entirely. Five minutes later you're even get a mini check-back. There are three barman working in this bar with over a hundred people wanting service, and you still get great service. The atmosphere is bustling, exciting and fun. 

 

All but one of the Pinchos bars we went in we’re like this, bustling, full of energy and great service to boot. Ironically, the Pinchos bar which had the best food was also the one with the worst atmosphere. We get there as it opens, excited. As soon as you walk in you can feel the tension, the bar is packed but eerily quiet. We get to the front, the barman is distracted, stressed, his manager talking to him whilst he’s taking our order. No real eye contact. The food arrives - it’s amazing - though one of our dishes is wrong. More shouting behind the bar as we eat. I turn and I accidentally bump into the American lady sitting next to us - she looks like she’s going to punch me. We leave as soon as we can. 

 

What I find amazing about the former bar is how only three barman can completely control the mood of over 100 guests. That’s pretty impressive. Even if you run a counter-service company, the relationship of the people behind that counter sets the mood for everyone who comes in.  

 

 

 

 

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Effort vs Productivity

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Effort vs Productivity

Ever been to a restaurant where everyone seems to be running their socks off, sweat pouring down their brows and steam rising from their team t-shirts, and yet the level of service is slow and messy?  Or perhaps you've managed a shift like this (I know I’ve had a few in my time?) Restaurants are unpredictable beasts and we can all get caught out at times. Sudden spikes in trade for no apparent reason can cause havoc for anyone. But what about those shifts where the labour budget is not to blame, and for some reason, despite everyones best efforts it all goes a bit wrong? Welcome to the Hop Guide to Front of House Productivity. 

 

So I want us to think about productivity in two ways. Firstly the productivity of the whole team. The group output from all the individuals combined.  And secondly the individual productivity. How productive each team member is.

 

Now you may think, the more productive the individuals are, the more productive the team will be. Not quite, it’s a little more complicated. The key thing we’re looking for is ‘Equal Productivity’. If all your employees are equally productive and working at a similar rate (their work rate) then the overall productivity for the restaurant will be good. You can see the graph below. 

Pretty obvious, right? Ok, but what happens if just one member of my team decides to slack off a bit. If you’ve got a good team they will usually pick up the slack. Their work rates go up, perhaps service suffers a little, but overall productivity of the restaurant goes down only slightly. 

 

If this is just a one off it’s not such a big problem. However, if it starts to become a regular thing, the rest of the team will start to notice and the sense of cohesion and team work will start to erode, “Why should I help him if he doesn’t help me?” What you end up with is six individual servers only interested in their own sections. If it’s not busy, it’s not too noticeable, perhaps guests will pick up on the negative energy, but productivity isn’t affected too much. 

 

However, once it get’s busy, disaster strikes. Because the team is divided and the servers have become used to working on their own, they can longer generate the Team Productivity needed for the volume of trade.  Individual work rate soars but Team Productivity is low.

All because one person in the team started to slack off a bit. I hope you’re getting the point now. It is far more important for everyone to be working at the same rate, being equally productive, than it is for a few to be doing the majority of the leg work. It only takes one person to upset the balance.

 

Teams where individuals are working at different levels of productivity don’t last long. It’s the quickest way to upset employees and can be a nightmare, not to mention costly to fix. The key is spotting it early - that means even on quiet shifts. You need to notice the behaviour, then stop it, before it becomes habitual. 

 

So remember, every time a server is not pulling their weight they are starting to create conflict within the team. If that carries on, it will divide the team, which in turn, will have a devastating effect on your business and your employees. 

 

 

 

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The Art of Making People Feel Valued.

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The Art of Making People Feel Valued.

It’s a Tuesday evening in central London, the sun is slowly sinking behind the horizon, and I fancy going for dinner. Where should I go? 

 

Let’s be honest, I have an overwhelming amount of options. The first step is working out what food I fancy...? OK got it. But that still leaves me quite a few places to choose from. The next, and defining step, is all about my memories of places. Think about a restaurant you’ve been to recently. Got one? Ok good. What did you think of it? Would you go there again? Would you recommend it to a friend? The thought process you’ve just been through is a pretty complex one. You will have conjured up images of the place, sound, textures and will now have an emotional response to it. And it is this emotional response, which is a mixture of all those senses stored in our memory, that influences our decision to return or not. 

 

Our emotional attachment to a restaurant, both good and bad, is essentially a recollection of how we were made to feel. How you make your guests feel is the determining factor as to whether or not they return. 

 

Make each of your guests feel valued and you will have a successful business. Part of that is the food, of course. That’s the foundation of any restaurant. People want to feel like they are getting value for their pounds. That doesn’t have to mean cheap. People will happily pay a lot for a plate of food, but they need to feel that the plate of food is worth it. 

Our emotional attachment to a restaurant, both good and bad, is essentially a recollection of how we were made to feel. How you make your guests feel is the determining factor as to whether or not they return.

If your guests don’t feel that they’re getting their money’s worth they certainly won’t feel valued. If you don’t get this right you’ve fallen at the first hurdle. 

 

But let’s say you do get this right. The next phase is all about your staff. Your staff need to make each and every guest feel valued. Your servers are your brand. They represent you, and you need to invest in them as such.

 

Easier said than done. Don’t forget every guest is different and they all want to be treated differently. What might make one guest feel valued might be over-the-top for another. Also don’t get complacent; regular guests can be in different moods on different days and will want different levels of service. 

 

A good friend of mine is head waiter at an iconic London restaurant. His regulars will behave, and require, completely different styles of service depending on who they are with. If you really want to learn how to adjust service on-the-fly, book one of our courses, but in the mean time, here are the basics... 

 

Listen to them. Actively listen to everything they say. Don’t be too keen to fix and interrupt them. Hosts do this all the time, in a rush to seat their guests, they forget to take the time to properly welcome them. I hear things like

 

“Good Evening. How are you? Table for two?”

 

Don't ask a question and then not wait for the answer! If you ask someone how they are at least have the courtesy to wait for the response. Running questions together with no concern for the answers comes across as scripted, generic, and soulless.  

 

Always make your guests feel like you have time for them. No matter how busy you are. Whenever you are at a table your focus should just be on that table. Open body language, no tension, good eye contact - soft, gentle tone, and a good pace of speech at a good volume (your voice should be audible enough for the guest to easily hear but, not loud enough to push past them to any other tables). 

 

Do not approach tables too often. There’s nothing more annoying then getting three check-backs during a meal, or being interrupted mid-conversation. This happens because the server is lacking awareness. You should never interrupt a table more than is absolutely necessary. Again, book on one of our courses to learn how to deliver great attentive service from afar. 

 

Finally give a genuine goodbye. One of my massive bug bears is when three different people say goodbye and not one of them has meant it. Screaming goodbye at me, with no eye contact, means nothing. 

 

A good goodbye, is soft, gentle, warm, and genuine. I only need one of those. 

 

Managers you should value your staff as equally as you value your guests. Listen to them, have time for them, when you’re speaking to them, they should feel like they have your full attention. If you can make them feel valued they in turn will find it much easier to make your guests feel valued. 

A good goodbye, is soft, gentle, warm, and genuine. I only need one of those.

 

It’s all about making people feel good. If you make someone feel good, that makes you feel good. The more you can cultivate this win win scenario the more successful your business will be and the more likely I, and the rest of London,  will be to pop in on a Tuesday night.

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Mindfulness Mid Shift?!  I haven't got time for that…No Really.

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Mindfulness Mid Shift?! I haven't got time for that…No Really.

OK I admit it, at first glance the idea of finding time to be mindful, in a hectic restaurant may seem a little crazy. Taking fifteen minutes out to meditate on a Saturday lunch (although it would be wonderful) isn’t the most practical of ideas and certainly wouldn’t help your labour budget. But what if I suggested that there are ways to get a good dose of mindfulness even in the most hectic of shifts, and these moments of consciousness, aren’t just good for your mental well-being but are, in fact, vital to the growing success of your business? Even if you’re not sold on the idea of mindfulness and presence, read on, you may just find it useful.

 

So let’s imagine you’re a waiter, it’s a Saturday lunch, it’s busy, it’s hot, the bar are running a little behind on drinks and the host has just given you one too many tables. Just take a moment, imagine this situation (I get a little tense just thinking about it). Now, I want you to start thinking about your thought process at this point, the stream of consciousness inside your head. As the pressure grows that interior monologue gets quicker and quicker, louder and louder, “where are my drinks? "I told that host not to sit me any more tables!" "I hate this job? What am I doing here? Where’s the spinach for table 6?” Our heart rate increases, tension grows, and we start to become less and less present and more and more locked in our heads. Awareness decreases and stress increases.  

 

This scenario is not uncommon, go into any busy restaurant on a Saturday night and you may just see it. But is it really that bad? Surely that’s just part of working in a restaurant isn’t it? Well yes and no. Yes it is bad, I’ll go into why in a second, and yes it is part of working in a restaurant.

 

Nothing frustrates a customer more than when they feel the waiter is not giving them their full attention.

 

So why is it bad? Firstly, for the waiter. Health wise, both physically and mentally that amount of stress is simply not good for you. It’s exhausting. I’ve just been reading The Art of the Restauranteur by Nicholas Lander. There are so many incredible people who have founded wonderful restaurants only to tragically die of a heart attack ten years in. Leaving their business partners to carry on alone. That’s the pay off for working with all that stress. Secondly, for the customer. The customer is on the receiving end of distracted service. Nothing frustrates a customer more than when they feel the waiter is not giving them their full attention. Thirdly, for you, the owner. As stress increases our ability to make rational decision decreases. There's proper scientific studies into this. The more distracted we become the more mistakes we make, the more wastage we create, the less productive we become. Not to mention the fact that your customers are now not having a great time either and might not be too keen to return. 

 

That idea of mediating for fifteen minutes doesn’t quite seem so crazy now does it? I jest... But we do need to get present, and we need to be able to do it quickly. It can’t interrupt service and it has to be done on the floor. So here’s how we do it. Every time you go to a table it is an opportunity to be present. Think about that for a second. The waiters have to talk to the tables. So why not use this time to bring yourself into the present. To stop all that interior monologue. A three minute break from all the stress to enjoy being with your guests. When you’re at a table, you don’t have to run food or drink all you have to do is be present. Listen to them, speak to them, enjoy that human connection. If you find that connection you will become present. Simple. 

 

At the heart of it, we are social beings who enjoy connecting with other people.

 

On a busy shift you need to see tables as a gift, a gift to be present. Like a mini pit stop during service. So many waiters go over to a table so distracted and rushed they completely miss this golden opportunity. 

 

Here at Hop there’s a little mantra we teach all of our students to remind them how to get present on busy shifts. Before they go over to a table they take a second, I literally mean one second. They take a breath and say the following in their heads. “Establish. Engage. Enjoy.” Now let me explain. Establish: they establish good body language, usually just letting go of tension. Engage: they genuinely try to engage their guests, great eye contact, good smile. Enjoy: now they have the engagement from the guest they can enjoy that connection, enjoy that human experience. That’s why we all do this job because, at the heart of it, we are social beings who enjoy connecting with other people. 

 

Establish. Engage. Enjoy. At first waiters will say I haven’t got time for all that. But it only takes seconds. At first they will feel like they're spending longer at the table, because they are speaking at a more relaxed pace. But in reality the actual time at the table is the same.

 

Furthermore, whilst they’re at the table their stress will reduce, their awareness will increase, the guests will be getting a much more unique and genuine experience and you will have a happy restaurant with a better atmosphere. 

 

That’s how to get a good dose of mindfulness in a busy shift. Joss sticks are optional. 

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 Managing the Unmanageable

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Managing the Unmanageable

One of the unique things about the restaurant industry in the UK is it’s workforce. Love it or hate it, the restaurant industry is a stop gap for many on a path to something else. Lawyers, Actors, Economists, Writers, Nurses, Teachers, Photographers, Athletes. These are just few of the professions I’ve come across moonlighting in the restaurant game. Personally, I think it’s something to be embraced, where else would you find such a diverse group of talented people all working in one place. 

 

But, as with most things, there are drawbacks. Some people enter the industry with every intention of moving on but, like it so much they stay. They choose to go into management and push on from there. I can think of a few well known and highly successful company directors who ‘fell’ into the industry. 

 

Then there are those who were always planning to leave but never quite did. They don’t want to go into management, they don’t really want to work in the restaurant, they don’t really know what they want to do. They become stuck, which leads to frustration, conflict with colleagues and most importantly poor service. There’s no joy in what they do anymore. All because they feel their life isn’t where it should be. The vision, if it was there in the first place, has gone and with it, their enthusiasm. 

 

These people can be highly destructive to a team and managing them properly is key. You can’t just hope they will leave, or hope you can build up a big enough case against them for gross misconduct. By that time your whole floor team could be ruined. 

 

So what are our options? One: we go in hard telling them that they aren’t performing to a high enough standard, they look miserable on the floor and are too negative. But how exactly do we break that down? Tell them they need to smile more? Say please and thank you more? Be kinder to their guests? Good luck with that. If anything you're gonna create a fake over-the-top cynical style of service which won’t last long and then you’re back to square one. You’re not addressing the root of the problem, just temporarily masking it. 

 

So what else can we do? We need to remember these people are stuck. The vision of what they want from their career, their life has gone. You’re job is to help them find that vision again and guide them down a route to achieve it.  Progress makes us happy. Moving towards a goal makes us happy. Would you prefer to be cruising down the motorway or gridlocked on the slip road. 

 

Ok so here’s what to do. Ask them about what they want to achieve both at work and in their personal lives. If they’re not sure give them a few days and tell them to come back with something written down. You’re be surprised what they come back with. Even the most unmotivated will come up with brilliant ideas, when they commit it to paper. So now we have a vision. Now get them to break down these goals into sub goals, or steps along the way that they will need to achieve before reaching the big goal. 

 

For example, Jon has worked in a site for four years, he hates working in the restaurant. A week after out initial chat he comes up with the idea that he wants to travel the world and teach English as a second language. Boom! We have a vision. So now we need to break that goal down into smaller goals. He needs to research courses, he needs to save money, he needs to improve his grammatical understanding of English (couldn’t we all). Jon keeps adding to this sub goal list over the next few days. Next I help Jon break down the goals into daily, weekly and monthly goals. I get him to develop his own planner. We have a vision and now we have clear steps of how to get there. 

 

So yes, Jon might be leaving in a year now but all of a sudden he’s working with discipline, clarity and vision. He knows what he wants and therefore we’ve pulled him out of the well of negativity he was stuck in. Just Google ‘goal setting’ and there’s ton of resources on how to set plans. The Jon you hired four years ago is back and he’s delivering good service again. 

 

You might think this is a lot to do and hasn’t got much to do with the restaurant but it’s worth the time invested. You’re making them make change. Change for them is good, it makes them more malleable and more manageable. It’s also incredibly satisfying, for you as a manager, to create that sort of change in another person. I’m not saying they will be perfect all the time but they will make a huge improvement, and the rest of the team, not to mention your guests, will thank you for it. 

 

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What to look for when recruiting Managers?

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What to look for when recruiting Managers?

When it comes to building a successful restaurant, recruiting good mangers is a costly and time consuming process and it is essential you get it right. Recruiting the wrong people can be disastrous.  The number one cause of people leaving their job, according to a recent Linkedin article, is poor relationships with management. One bad egg could ruin your entire team. 

 

But before we even begin the recruitment process we’ve got to know the exact skill set we are looking for. What is a managers primary function and what skills do they need to fulfil that role. 

 

The over-arching goal for any manager is to grow your business: reduce costs and drive sales, right? But how exactly do we go about that? Let’s start with Cost of Sales. The two biggest factors that managers can control are labour and ordering. Workforce and wastage are key when it comes to making a profit.  

 

It’s no surprise that there are literally hundreds of computer programmes that help restaurants with these two factors. Programmes like FnB and Fourth are great because they make it super easy to manage costs that can ruin your bottom line. They also allow a lot of control from senior management and directors. These programmes are super simple to use, I could teach someone to extensively use both in a couple of weeks. Set your thousand pound pars and the rest is a little like painting by numbers. I’m not saying there is no skill here, but let’s be honest, technology has taken a lot of the skill out of it. As technology improves, which it will, that skill is going to become less and less important. The computers are going to do all that for us!

 

So what really is a managers primary function. It’s not to control labour but to manage it. I’m not just talking budgets here, I’m talking the actual individuals that work for you. These guys are your biggest asset, your biggest tool, your biggest expense. Managing and maintaining them so they can work to their full potential is key and that ladies and gentlemen is a managers primary function. 

 

Look at this way, if you spent twenty grand on a new oven, you would expect that oven to be pretty well looked after. Daily cleaning, monthly maintenance, annual servicing, so it could do it’s job day after day, week in week out. If after a month that oven hadn’t been cleaned and looked after you would be pretty angry with your head chef right. 

 

But your workforce costs way more than an oven and needs way more maintenance. Yet the oven usually gets looked after with far more care. We all know if you don’t care for your assets they will stop working and leave a big dent in your P & L - but your biggest asset is your staff.  

 

A manager must keep their staff motivated and happy. Happy people sell well, happy people make customers feel good, happy people create great restaurants. Your managers must be able to create and maintain cohesive happy teams. They must be able to build trust, to be able to empathise, have great emotional awareness. This is the key: they must be able to manage the emotions of their team. Let me repeat that, their primary function is to manage the emotions of their teams. It's oven maintenance but for people. To keep them on a even keel so they can perform consistently. For any growing brand consistency is key. 

 

A manager who can’t motivate and build trust has no place in a restaurant. A manager who has no emotional awareness has no place in a restaurant. A manager who doesn’t value his workforce as their biggest asset has no place in a restaurant. 

 

So next time your recruiting ask the questions that matter. How do you motivate teams? How in the past have you built trust with a team? How have you helped employees grow? Talk to me about all the different personalities you have worked with and how you specifically managed them?  In your opinion what’s the most important asset in a restaurant?

 

Great managers must be focused on other people not on themselves. 

 

Recruiting great staff isn’t easy, but it’s insanity (and costly) to recruit a great team only to destroy it by introducing a manager with the wrong skill set.

 

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