All of Us Working Together
July 13, 2016 | 2033 Views
On March 31, I received many texts, tweets, and Facebook posts wishing me a happy 48th birthday, and a staggering two-thirds of those messages came from people I’ve met through the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers. As I read through them all, it was a terrific reminder of how my CHART membership has had an impact on my life both professionally and personally.
I wanted to do something to say thank you for all the wisdom, kindness, and support given to me during my 14 years with the organization, so I decided that on each day during the next month, I would visit a CHART hotel or restaurant, help out another member, or do something to support one of our wonderful partners, sponsors, or speakers. I was going to turn April into a 30-day thank-you card to CHART and post daily updates about it on Twitter using the hashtag #CHARTMonth.
As a result, April 2016 was packed with wonderful experiences. I probably gained 5 pounds from all the delicious food I ate, and in the process became a big fan of the Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket sandwich at Firehouse Subs and the Fire-Roasted Barbacoa Chicken at BJ’s. The service provided at the different CHART businesses was also some of the best I have ever had, especially from the employees at the Wienerschnitzel up in Everett, WA and the Northgate Mall Cinnabon in Seattle, WA. Finally, I picked up quite a few ideas for possible new products and processes while visiting these different restaurants (which I passed on to Ivar’s operations team), and I was extremely grateful to sponsor reps like Peter Kirwan at Wisetail, whose tips on creating training videos with a cell phone were definitely put to good use during the month.
But the most significant #CHARTMonth experience was definitely at my local Little Caesar’s, where I stopped early in the month to pick up a Hot-N-Ready pepperoni pizza with my nephew. The restaurant was very busy when we arrived, but we were able to place an order quickly and had our dinner ready to go only a few minutes later. On our way out the door I thanked the cashier for the speed at which we got our pizza, and she smiled and responded with, “Well, I’d like to take all the credit, but it was all of us working together that made it happen.”
She was 100% correct, of course. In other industries you can have employees work independently on different projects and not see or talk to one another for days or weeks at a time, but that’s simply not the case in a restaurant. On a busy Friday night when you’re packed to the rafters, or on a Saturday lunch when three tour busses pull up outside, everyone on the team has to pitch in and cooperate to get through that meal period successfully and take care of all those hungry diners.
As we ate the pizza back at my house, the cashier’s words about teamwork kept coming back to me. I thought about Ivar’s Restaurants, the company where I’m employed, and I began wondering, “Is everyone at the different locations really working together?” I wanted to respond with a simple “I’m sure they are,” but the analytical part of brain wouldn’t let me – and instead of an answer on the strength of our teams, I just came up with more questions. It was like that first one opened the floodgates:
- What employee behaviors should I be seeing (or not seeing) in a restaurant setting where strong teamwork exists? And even if I could observe all the limited staff on-duty at one of our quick-service locations, how could I possibly observe the team interactions at our full-service restaurants (which can accommodate up to 700 guests), especially since the teams will be made up of constantly changing line-ups of a large number of employees?
- What should the goal of restaurant teamwork actually be? Is it just something short-term like being able to stay out of the weeds on a busy shift, or is it something more long-term?
- Given all the different elements that can affect teamwork (everything from employee personalities to company incentives to the design of the building), what’s the best way to measure how strong it is at Ivar’s? And what specific actions (that will fit into a restaurant team’s budget, space, and schedule) can be taken to improve these measurements if they aren’t where they should be?
- And even if we figure all of the above and discover that we have really strong teamwork in a few of our locations, how can we replicate that cultural strength across all the different restaurants?
It was a lot to consider while eating pizza, and scribbling out a quick checklist was not going to be enough to conquer this challenge! The answers would be need to be multifaceted and wide-ranging, especially for a company with over 1,000 employees working ever-changing shifts at full-service, quick-service, and seasonal stadium restaurants.
So where am I going to begin? At CHART, of course, where I go for all the important answers about our industry. I’m going to connect with my colleagues online and in-person at regional forums and the upcoming hospitality training conference in Charleston, South Carolina, and I’m going to ask them questions and find out what they are doing to observe, measure, improve, and adapt teamwork in their restaurants. Then I’m going to shamelessly steal and implement any ideas that will work for us at Ivar’s, and of course will share that information with anyone who needs assistance on this topic later on.
It’s not going to be an easy process, but I’m confident about a successful outcome with “all of us working together.”