Tuesday, July 1, 2014

14 Things I learned as a restaurant manager that even my 1st grader should know!

Community at it finest...sometimes!
As I sit here writing an article that has been jumbling around in my brain for a few months, I have come to the conclusion that EVERYONE should work in a restaurant at some point in their life. A restaurant - to me- is the best and worst representation of our society. It mimics a typical high school with your clicks, gossip, and (for family friendly sake, we are going to call it) dating and also provides a warm sense of community through teamwork, passion, and unity. I have spent 18 amazing years in this industry- surrounded by it all- and have nothing but pride for what I do everyday. I have even managed to have 5 beautiful children while navigating my way through the waters of the industry (thank you amazing husband).  I have often thought to and even tried to trade in the long hours and sweat for a less demanding career path but have found that there is nothing like the high of a completed rush (busy time for the non restaurant readers) or the feeling you get when you a see a team member get things right.

My promotion to GM A LONG time ago

At any rate - love it or hate it - there are some basic things that I have learned throughout my years that EVERYONE should know....including my 1st grader. These are basic things that seem to be lost in our society today and if everyone worked in a restaurant for just a month...the world may be a better place.
Here they are in no random order

1. In a group setting, even though we don't all speak the same language, if we keep the common goal in sight - we can achieve.
You can take this literally and figuratively if you want to. In restaurants, not only might you have individuals who don't have English as a first language, you also have your own way of speaking.
Here are some terms
All day = all together count
Hands = someone needs to carry this
Check or Heard = I got you! I heard you and will do it
Stainless = board is clear of orders
These are just a few and for some people...they never stick. Different concepts have different versions of language but as long as you are all focused on taking care of the guest...the pieces will fall into place.

2. People are not pets 
People should not be trained, they should be developed. They should not be barked at - or expected to bark on command. I think that this one is self explanatory. I am not saying that I buy into the whole, "you catch more flies with homey" approach to life but I will say that being taught, lead, and developed is way better than being strong armed into results.  

3. The reward of an experience is not always monetary.
This was most learned during my days as a server. While many servers group people into 2 categories...tippers and cheap people, I think that they are missing out on some amazing guests by putting them under these labels. I have 2 more groups that most servers tend to overlook....Those who tip and act like it and those who wish that they could do more.   The ones who tip and act like it are typically rude, handsy, and just plain unappreciative. Sure, they left you a great tip but how many times did he comment about your booty as you walked away? The ones who wish that they could do more are usually sweet, friendly and appreciative of your service. These folks are the ones who will come and see you every week without fail and will take care of you for the long term...heck, most will bring you a birthday card to brighten your day, a Christmas gift, or even drawings from their children. Maybe they do all of these things because you never looked at them as less because of the tip they left. If you have never received a Christmas gift, a card, or a sweet picture from a child...its because you didn't look past the tip at the end. START LOOKING.

Wow, this one is huge these days. Look around you today. Did you notice that everyone is glued to an ipad, cell phone, or media device. How many random people smiled at you? Did many say, "hello" just because you were there? My guess is probably not. I am even betting that you ran into a person who works in customer service who barely said, "hello" as they rang you out for your purchase. In the restaurant industry, these behaviors are frowned upon. We have this thing called the "Three Foot Rule". This rule states that any guest within three feet of your should be acknowledged. The acknowledgement doesn't have to be a grand gesture...just a smile, nod, or a greeting. Imagine how much better the world would be if we all did this in our everyday life?

5. If you mess something up.. apologize, do your best to fix it, then fix why you messed up!
You all know where I am going with this. In a restaurant, you may overcook a steak. So, you apologize to the guest then go back, cook a new steak, and explain the issue to the cook. If we can handle this, why don't we treat all of our "mess-ups" in this manner? Did you get caught gossiping about a friend? Instead of being a brat and upset that "so and so" told her that you were gossiping...apologize, fix-it, then learn from it and don't do it again. The same goes for our finances? Did you overdraw? Awesome. Tell yourself that you are sorry, put the money into the account, and do better on balancing your check book next time. It is just the same for kids. If you break your mom's vase because you are playing ball in the house...apologize, glue it together, then stop playing ball in the house - you know you aren't supposed to!

6. Networking your brand is HUGE.
 When I say "networking", many of you will go to social media outlets to define the term.  That is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about real world "shaking hands and kissing babies" marketing. You may also think that you personally are not a brand...but you are! YOU define your values and what you put out to the world and that - in a nutshell- is a brand. There is nothing like putting a smiling face in front of your personal brand to establish recognition. Not only can marketing your brand drive sales in but many of my friends have obtained career upgrades through getting to know their guests. YOU ARE A BRAND so market yourself with your attitude and your presence, it will pay off! Why is this beneficial to a 1st grader? You never know who packs the good cupcakes for lunch!

7. Great leaders are just that - LEADERS not managers!
Look to your daily life: bosses; pastors; elders; group leaders; parents....they all do one thing. They lead a team of people to a common result. How they do it, however, is the variable. I truly believe that a great leader doesn't "manage". A great leader will get people to follow by inspiration and devotion. You naturally will want to follow the people who make you WANT to do the right thing and not those that tell you to do the right thing then check it off the list when you have completed it. Don't get me wrong, there is always a room for a "manager". These are the people who keep things inline and audit actions....they are necessary BUT a real leader, can make things happen correctly without even asking. The team around them WANTS to do it right because they were lead to! Think of the kid on the playground....if he tells people how much fun dodgeball is and is excited about it...the others just might play and enjoy being pummeled with flying balls. If the playground kid forces them to play, they are going to be traumatized by the game and possibly not play again!

8. Sometimes "I am sorry" can not undue an injustice
Sorry to say it...this is true. There are just some situations where you have messed up so much that a simple apology is of no use. This is when you need to look towards making it right and making sure it doesn't happen again. Yes, I know - this is similar to number 5 but I think that we have all lost site that each action we take can create an outcome - either good or bad - that we simply can not undue. There are guests who will just never come back and people who you will never win back personally. Learn from the mistakes that cause injustices and don't let them happen again.

9. EVERYTHING has instructions if you are willing to learn them. NEVER make fun of those who need them.
I was so shocked to learn that true training manuals have detailed instructions for EVERYTHING. This includes basic things like: handwashing (at least 10 steps); drying a dish (at least 5); mopping (many steps); washing windows (about 10) etc. We get so caught up in our own knowledge that we forget to realize that many people do not know everything that we do. I have hired team members previously who honestly had never mopped a floor! While I was stunned, I had to take a step back and help them learn that it was okay to ask "how". If you don't ask these types of questions...you will never learn. I am going to be honest on this one...I never look at the instructions when I put things together - this could explain why my barstools are crooked at home! Children and team members who are developing need to understand that asking questions are necessary to learn.

10. It is easier to do things the RIGHT way the FIRST TIME!
Remember your childhood and being told to clean your room? How many of us hid dirty clothes under our beds or shoved things into a closet only to have mom come in and then add cleaning the closet to the list of chores? Anyone...was that just me? It would have been so much easier for me to simply take my dirty clothes to the hamper and put my toys on their shelves. The same goes for a restaurant. Getting just one order wrong can set off a whole chain of events typically resulting in lost money, re-cooks,  low tips, slower table turns, and non-returning guests. If we had done it correctly the first time....things would have been different. 
11. A smile can make someone's day 
This is just as easy as it sounds. You NEVER know what the person working alongside of you is feeling or what the guest in your booth just went through. Your smile can make all of the difference. In a time where our schools are filled with bulling and depression....just one smile could make or break a hurting child's day.
12. Just because you aren't great at one thing - does NOT mean that you aren't great!
I hate seeing people frustrated that they are not a rockstar grill cook or an award winning bartender! Everyone has their role in a restaurant and maybe you just haven't found yours yet. Every station in a restaurant utilizes a different skill-set and a different mentality. Keep trying new things and working on what makes you great. This is so important for children to understand! Just because you aren't the fastest one in your class to learn to tie your shoes does not mean you can't win the spelling bee! Improve on what you can and never be afraid to fail! Many well known- successful companies were formed from failed concepts or have had failed products. The difference between the successful companies and the ones who closed up shop? The successful companies didn't let failures define them. Do you remember crystal pepsi or clear coke? Check out this list of 10 failed products.

13. TEAMWORK is one of life's great gifts.
It shocks me everyday to find team members who think that they should do it all on their own. They are typically the same people who look like a beaten piƱatas at the end of the shift as well. A restaurant is a team and should be filled with folks who understand the value of working together. The whole "there is no I in team" is pretty well proven by the inner workings of a successful restaurant.  The same rings true for school  life and family-chores, projects, and tasks are all completed more quickly and with more fun when they are tackled by a team.

14. Sometimes, the most important person washes the dishes.
You heard it here, sometimes the job that most people look down on is actually the glue that holds a business together. Its not the manager that plays the most vital role nor is it the lead server....it is the quiet person who keeps their nose to the grindstone no matter how tall the dish pile is. If the manager walks out....maybe the team members will run a muck BUT for the most part, the building will not fall down. If the dishwasher walks out...No clean dishes = no fed guests. Poorly washed dishes = very grossed out and upset guests. Take a look around your home... who is the glue who holds the family together...my bet is that is the same person who washes your dishes. Thank them and give them a hug (if HR allows).

So, there you have it. 14 things that I have learned in a restaurant that I feel it is important for my 1st grader to know. You may have read this and though, "duh, you see those things in every job".  Okay, maybe you are right but we all certainly could do better on these in our everyday lives. Next time you need a life lesson for your kids...take them to a restaurant and look around, there is a lesson around every corner.

Hope you will keep in touch with me on my social media outlets
LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/pub/heather-may/49/499/226
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Heather May has spent 15 years in the restaurant industry both in Operational Roles as well as in Management recruiting. She currently is utilizing her passions operating Pattyburger in West Chester, Ohio. Pattyburger is a high energy burger concept currently making a brand rebirth.