Foodservice operators that want to maximize their labor investment and avoid under-staffing during peak business periods should pay close attention to their staff's work content, of course, but also the way they design and equip work stations.
The most resilient resource a restaurant has is its employees. A good manager will figure out how to run a store, regardless of the tools available. And a good, caring, employee will do the same. When visiting an operation, often one of the first things I do is observe the employees and see what they do — even before reading what they should be doing according to the operating guidelines.
More often than not, I can see how the employees have been able to resolve an operational challenge created by two opposing forces. For example, they have learned how to make good on a total service time of less than three minutes while delivering a product that does not sell much and takes longer than that time to cook. I am sure that you have seen many situations when the employee faces difficult tasks, at times impossible to execute, yet they figure it out.
So as we consultants, equipment dealers/reps/factories, or brand owners/representatives go about doing our daily jobs it is important to keep our eyes on situations like those, because in our industry it is an all-too-common occurrence. If we don't monitor these situations and figure out how to fix them, we risk under-delivering on the brand promise, compromising food safety and, worse, putting so much pressure on our employees that we lose them altogether. All of these factors add cost to operator businesses during a time when none can afford to take on greater financial pressures.
Do you know why foodservice turnover rates have significantly gone down in the last 10-plus years? Primarily because the base number of employees changing jobs has gone down in even more dramatic fashion, which means the transient employees are no longer around. The simple reality is that restaurants can't afford a transient workforce, yet these are the same employees that allowed restaurants to have the right staffing for their (short) peak business hours. Nowadays many concepts just under-deploy for peak business periods since they can't afford additional employees. As a result they shortchange the most important aspect of any foodservice operation, the employee.
Yes, I did say the most important aspect of the business, even more important than the customers. Disagree with me if you want, but if you think about what comes first, the chicken or the egg, the employee or the customer, you should conclude that it is the employee. That's because it's the employee that ultimately delivers the brand promise and shapes the customer experience that leads to repeat business that drives brand growth.
Maybe you can accept it by saying that the employee comes first and the customer a close second. I shamelessly actually stole this from a motivational speaker I heard a few years ago.
If you don't take care of your employees, somebody else will. Then consider how long it will take to hire and re-train a new employee and append the appropriate costs to that equation. Don't forget to factor in the possibility of new employees making additional mistakes that could impact the customer experience. Maybe now you will believe the employee comes first.
Once you accept that the employees come first it will be easy to see that it is not very difficult to take care of them.
Of course it starts with how you treat them and how you make them feel. Make sure that they realize that you know that they are an invaluable contributor to the brand.
Now that you did the obvious, which is not always easy to do and often we don't make the time to do, now step back and analyze what you are asking them to do. Ask yourself, what tools do they have and what support do they have. You can get at helping them simplify their jobs through the application of ergonomic and industrial engineering techniques like we do, or through other means. But you must give them the right set of operational tools and parameters, as previously presented in this previous blog post.
This year, I made it a special point to think about what is in it for the employee during each booth I visited at The NAFEM Show. I also asked each member of our consulting team to do the same. What you find is at times a great revelation and at times disappointing. We must keep the disappointing incidence at a minimum if we want to achieve greatness in our ability to help the employees.
So next time you visit a restaurant or a supplier, ask them what do they offer new that will have the most impact on my business, due to how it simplifies the employees' life, allowing them to more consistently execute the brand. By the way, the same holds true for us consultants. What have we done to help employees deliver a better customer experience that can drive profits and overall hospitality experience? I would submit to you this is the best way to help a brand grow.
In "Foodservice by Design", the employee comes first; the customer a close second. Challenge me if you will, but I will stick to this principle.