Many who refer to their work group as a “team” fail to tap the real power of the analogy.
Teams generally share a common purpose. There is agreement about stated goals
everyone is committed to achieving. If we are on a team together, it is considered
reasonable for us to hold one another accountable for performance.
Purpose, commitment, and accountability; these are essential ingredients.
Even better when team leaders create a context in which team members can engage in
productive conflict and truly participate in defining team goals. Those who “weigh in” are
more likely to “buy in”.
And better still if there is some structure around accountability, like a review process,
especially one that includes safe space for peers to review one another.
Still not enough for us, though.
When we work with a client “Rethinking a Restaurant,” we say,
“Real Teams Play to Win!”
Here is the ultimate key for making a successful restaurant team:
Make sure “winning” is
a) defined by what matters most for the business during the upcoming period
b) so well-defined it is can be expressed as a score, i.e. a single number
c) understood by everyone on the team
d) displayed on a scoreboard so it can be closely monitored by all
You can do all these things with or without our coaching.
This Hasn’t Changed
Our dining room closed mid-March. When we can fully reopen is unknown. We hope to gain
approval from the city to create some outdoor seating. To keep our core staff working and to
pay some bills, our restaurant has become a takeout and delivery business.
When as anxious as we are, and struggling to inspire confidence and good humor, it is awfully
hard to stay in touch with our essential purpose but here it is:
We are still hospitality professionals.
Even now as a takeout and delivery operation, this is still the fundamental truth. Our guests are
still our guests, even if we cannot welcome them into our dining rooms.
Here are some reminders from our prior life which take on new importance in these alien
Make Hospitality the Mode of All Interactions
Staff cannot be expected to be genuine in their hospitality to guests if they do not themselves
feel cared about and respected. This was never truer than it is now. Our staff is risking their
health, possibly their lives and the lives of family, just by coming to work.
If the hospitality of the team is to be genuine, it must start internally – it must be “The Way”
we all interact at work. Supervisors must convey caring for those we supervise. Take the time
to know what is going on in their lives. Is anyone close to them ill? Do they feel safe where they
live? This is not a one time effort — Keep up with how things are going for them.
Be polite when giving direction and feedback. Be careful with promises. Know how best to
appreciate each of them (it can be different for different individuals) and then follow through
and do it! When what we call “Internal Hospitality” is the established culture, extending it to
guests is natural and effortless.
Take Orders With Sensitivity
In these anxious times, the first interaction with guests is even more crucial. How we answer
our phone or engage with someone ordering takeout sets the tone and can make or break the
entire experience. It depends on how genuinely, how promptly and how effectively we convey
interest and caring. Do not be hurried with people on the phone! Your patience will be a stark
contrast to competitors who are not attuned to its importance. Would you like to know about
our curbside pickup? Would you prefer contactless payment?
Bottom Line: Be Leaders Who Listen
We learn about what matters to both staff and guests when we simply take the time to listen.
The First Taste
Before, if I worked expo, I could see exactly how each plate would look to the guest. I could
wipe the edge, arrange the garnish, perhaps call for a refire. When I handed a plate to a runner,
I knew exactly what the guest would see moments later.
Now, it gets loaded into a box and our “guest”, stuck at home, sees it twenty/thirty minutes later.
Perhaps the box has been turned on its side or flipped over along the way.
Given that the first taste is with one’s eyes, this is a really alarming change. Understanding the
customer experience is essential in any business, and now our access to that experience is
We have some customers we have cultivated as “Critical Friends”. They feel they are on the
team, and they are indispensable. They have permission, actually a mandate, to be critical in
the spirit of friendship, in the service of our kaizen, or “continuous improvement”. When their
delivery arrives, they open it and send us a photo so we can see what they see. They send us
notes on how various items held up.
Some of our menu items travel better than others. Some lend themselves to being reheated. We
have pared down the menu. We are testing new items with the Critical Friends.
We have to take our packaging more seriously than ever. We are meeting with sales reps for
competing packaging sources. We can’t assume our regular supplier has the best options.
Before, as a full service restaurant, delivery was a small percentage of our business. Now it is
critical. Many Japanese restaurants that serve sushi and bento boxes have had takeout
packaging down for years. The packaging is exquisite. It doesn’t just hold the food – it enhances
the dining experience. We are taking lessons from those operators.