Walk a Mile in Their Non-slip Shoes

May 18, 2019 | 207 Views

Walk a Mile in Their Non-slip Shoes

Gabe Hosler, FMP

Vice President of Operations Support and Training | Del Taco

Most of us in the hospitality training or operations support business have performed store evaluations at one time or another. We gathered our clipboard and pens, loaded up our ten-page checklist, and then lurked through one of our hotels or restaurants to rate a million different items on a scale of 1 to 5. After completing the form, we’d pull the manager aside to review our findings, get him or her to promise to do better next time, and then rush off to our next assignment confident that we had “fixed” everything at that location. And, of course, we were shocked to discover on our next visit that real progress wasn’t made, and the unit would get the same low ratings over again…and again…and again.

So why don’t these evaluations lead to sustained improvement? There could be several reasons. Perhaps managers don’t believe your ratings are truly accurate since you only swoop in and get a brief glimpse of the operation. Or maybe they know there’s no incentive for getting higher scores (or punishment for negative scores), so why bother working harder? Or it could be that they have more pressing concerns than replacing one burnt-out light bulb or making sure Trevor wears a clean uniform on his next shift. As a result, your reports are shoved into a binder after each visit and quickly forgotten.

But beyond those possibilities, these evaluations typically don’t move the needle because they are based on several HUGE assumptions that are rarely true. These assumptions include the following:

  1. Evaluation ratings are based on completely impartial criteria and can be consistently determined under any circumstances and by any reviewer.
  2. All brand standards can be universally applied in every location, without any accommodations for differences in its construction, menu or service mix, or current employee life cycle.
  3. Standards have not needed to evolve since they were originally set, regardless of anything new that has been introduced to or changed about your operations (such as an expanded menu, technology, etc.).
  4. Management teams always have enough room in their budgets to afford all the necessary tools and materials to achieve these standards.
  5. Training programs meant to teach standards in your hotels and restaurants were not only flawlessly designed and implemented, but also resonated strongly with all staff members.

Is there any time when your workplaces aligned all with these assumptions? Probably never. So instead of wasting time filling out all these forms while watching from the sidelines, my suggestion is to get in there and see what’s really going on.

First, head to one of your locations, go through your training as if you were a new hire, and ask yourself if it was engaging and relatable. Additionally, if it’s an online course, is the seating that you are given comfortable, are you free from distractions, and does the Wi-Fi provide a smooth connection? And if it’s field-based training, are you given adequate time to practice and all the necessary tools? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then document those reasons that made it harder to learn the material.

Next, schedule yourself to work in several of your hotels or restaurants (and I don’t mean job shadowing; I mean take full responsibility for manning different positions or workstations). As with any staffer, that process starts with getting a uniform – do you get a new one or somebody’s stained/wrinkled hand-me-down, and do you get enough to work more than one shift? Once in position, are you able to perform up to par, or are there obstacles that keep you from getting there – maybe the kitchen is a lot larger than normal and it takes you longer to reach the walk-ins, or maybe the computer systems are older and it takes additional time to process guest requests? You should detail anything and everything at each location that prevents you from reaching the standardized goals expected across the company.

Finally, while working your shifts, talk to front-line staff members and managers about their daily challenges. Which parts of their jobs are really difficult (or maybe impossible), what new tools or systems do they think would be most beneficial, and has anything changed in the operation recently which might be impacting their performance? Getting their input, and their buy-in on possible solutions, will be essential to finding out how lasting change can be achieved.

Yes, this process will take much longer than filling out an evaluation form with a bunch of numbers, but trust me when I tell you this collaborative approach will allow you to discover the real causes why standards aren’t met much better than the more combative “I’m-here-to-rate-everything-check-check-check-ok-bye” approach. I recently spent two weeks working every position in the restaurant as a part of my orientation at Del Taco (where I recently was hired as Vice President of Operations Support and Training), and I learned more from that experience than I could from conducting 1,000 store evaluations. It gave me such a well-rounded perspective of the operations and the teams, as well as help determine the priorities for what I need to work on, that I plan to continue this undertaking as much as possible in the future.

So the next time you are asked to perform a store evaluation, just remember that old saying: “Before you judge people, you should walk a mile in their non-slip shoes.”

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