That you’ve trained to be lazy
When you stay at a hotel, do you clean your room? Do you make your bed? Do you hang your towels up after using them? I don’t, and why would I, the hotel has someone who cleans the room for me. Now, do you do that at home? I don’t, because my wife would very much not like it and also I don’t like to live in squalor. We act this way at a hotel because we’ve been trained to do that. We’ve been trained to know that someone is coming to pick up after us, and that’s the social contract that we have at a hotel. There is nothing wrong with it — it is accepted and normal.
What is your social contract with your employees? What is your normal with them? How have you trained THEM to treat YOU? Do they work in an environment where no matter what they do, unless it’s incredibly egregious, you’ll cover for them or pick up their slack? Or do you expect great things from them with a high standard of quality and responsibility? Not just on the food, or even service, which are paramount to your success, but even just taking out the trash at night. Does your staff think, “Well, the trash can is only half full, so I’m not doing that tonight?” Are they lazy and more importantly, are you OK with that?
A staff that views you as their catch all safety net and not their authority figure is a dangerous situation. It leads to weak performance, weak attitude, and weak sales. Doing things half way leads to the broken window effect. Where, like a broken window in a bad neighborhood that never gets replaced, and leads to more broken windows, anything is allowed to slide. What broken windows exist at your restaurant? Weeds growing out of the sidewalk near the entrance to your restaurant, or a dirty dumpster. Maybe a few lights are out because it doesn’t matter; someone else, i.e., you, the authority figure, will take care of it. With broken windows and a weak social contract any restaurant staff can deteriorate into a “that’s-not-my-job” workforce.
Ownership of every task, asking why it wasn’t done, not angrily, but in a Socratic method of using questions to have staff come to the answer themselves is how you empower your staff to handle the restaurant like it is their own. They must be fully aware that that is the expectation, that they actually do it and take ownership of every task. Even just showing up for work, if YOU find their cover, you will always be in a free fall looking for staff to work shifts.
If you ever have heard this phrase…
Employee: “Oh, I can’t make my Saturday night shift this week.”
You must respond with…
Owner/Manager: “Okay, who are you going to get to cover your shift?”
Employee: “I don’t know. I can’t.”
Owner/Manager: “Okay. Well, if you can’t get a cover, then I’m going to assume that you don’t want this job, and we will part ways.”
Employee: “Oh, okay. Well, hold on. I’ll find someone.”
That’s the world you need to live in — where they pick up after themselves, and make their own bed, … because the social contract binds them to do so.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma.