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Lack of Team Accountability is Stealing your Profits

If you’re not holding your team accountable for running the restaurant your way, then your employees are running it their way.  SHOCKER, they are doing what they think is best (or sometimes easiest for them) and not necessarily what is best for the restaurant. They are typically less experienced so what can you expect?

Over the last couple of weeks, we have done some deep dives, through our blog, on employee productivity and shift readiness. This week we are going to talk about how holding your teams accountable for following your standards, drives consistency in your operations, increases customer satisfaction, and organically drives sales and profitability.

Every day in every restaurant there is a set-up period where we bring in our staff to start getting the restaurant ready for your first meal period.  It can be the most expensive part of our day from a labor cost perspective because, in most restaurants, you have the most staff working without any sales being generated.

It has always been a juggling act, as a manager, to get your duties completed, deal with any fires that inevitably crop up, and make sure the employees got all of their tasks done correctly before the doors open.

This gets complicated today because so many restaurants operate on a model, where employees are expected to set-up their stations without truly being held accountable for following the restaurant’s system. In most restaurants, checklists are on the wall and not being filled out or marked to show they were followed or completed by an employee.

A checklist in the beverage station that looks like this:

  • Iced Tea
  • Coffee
  • Creamers
  • Lemons
  • Soda Station
  • Glasses

The problem with a list like this is that it is too generic, too unspecific. It puts the responsibility and the burden, on the employee to make decisions on what specifically needs to happen. Also, it is so vague that it is hard to hold someone accountable for meeting a standard.

What does Iced tea really mean?

  • Does it mean to make one or two pots of iced tea? If two, two of the same kind or different kinds?
  • Do you need back up tea bags ready to go? If yes, how many?
  • Does it mean you have to assemble the iced tea buckets?
  • When do you make the iced tea?
  • If I make iced tea but don’t have backups can I say that I’m done?

Also, this assumes that the employee remembers how to do this stuff correctly. The one giant lesson from Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto is don’t rely on anyone’s memory because we as humans aren’t great at remembering details.  Add record levels of employee turnover, relative experience of the average employee, ESL, generation z, and any other host of factors to the list and relying on your employee’s memory and decision-making ability can be a risky proposition when you are trying to run consistently great restaurant operations.

If the manager doesn’t get a chance or doesn’t catch that an employee didn’t get something done to standard then we end up finding out about it after the fact.

The problem is after the fact generally comes to light when something has negatively affected a guest. By not holding the team accountable for following the procedures that we have in place, we hurt our customer satisfaction, sales, and profits.

Here is the deal:

  1. We have to spell out our procedures specifically:
    1. To help our employees know exactly what we want to have done and when.
    2. To make them more efficient at setting up the restaurant increasing employee productivity while continuously retraining employees.
  2. We have to hold our employees accountable for executing exactly what we expect.
    1. There is no half following a procedure you either do it 100% or you may as well not have done it at all.

Processes that need to be completed 100%, are called all or nothing processes. If a pilot does everything they need to do to land the plane except put the wheels down, does it count? If you do everything you are supposed to do to set-up the beverage station and except grab glasses, does it count?

No!!!! Obviously, the plane example is more severe than the glass example but in both cases, someone is inconvenienced.  Don’t be fooled, in a lot of ways the restaurant industry has just as many life and death decisions being made every day as a pilot.  Look at the Dickie’s BBQ where the guy put cleaning chemicals in the sweet tea, and that woman took one sip and felt her insides being eaten away by the acid. If a cook grabs expired food and gets an old, recovering, or young person sick, it could be as catastrophic as a pilot forgetting to do something. 5 people died from the latest romaine lettuce E-Coli outbreak in the summer of 2018.

We need our employees to do things a certain way and we need them to do it that way every time. The only way that is going to happen is if the manager Inspects what they Expect and holds the team accountable for following their procedures.

Some signs that your team isn’t following your procedures.  80% of what is supposed to be done by any team member gets completed every day and 20% doesn’t. Regularly during meal periods things that should have been done during set-up weren’t done and you as the manager are running around trying to fix someone’s mess up.

If you are VP of Ops, go read your Yelp reviews, try to trace back the comments to your readiness procedures.  With a little reading between the lines, you will be able to trace back a lot of non-employee complaints to exactly where the restaurant fell down in getting ready for the shift.

What is interesting is that when we leave it up to the employee, sometimes their personality and how they work aligns with the goals of the restaurant and sometimes it doesn’t.

They are so good at stocking their station but they don’t do XYZ no matter how many times you ask them.  Sound familiar?

Here is what is really happening, they aren’t following any of your procedures as you have them designed.  They are setting up their station based on what they can remember or what is easiest and most comfortable for them and it is just a coincidence that on some of the items they like to do align with your procedures.

Let’s use an example of a grill cook. You have 10 things that the grill cook has to do before each shift to be ready for the meal period. One of those items is stocking their station. This grill cook stocks their station every time.  One of the other things that your grill cook doesn’t do consistently is check for expiration dates.  This grill cook is consistently grabbing whatever item is closest and easiest to reach on the shelf and that is causing FIFO and freshness issues.

If your grill cook was following your procedure then they would stock their station and check for expiration dates. What is really happening is that the grill cook hates running out of stuff because getting in the weeds is super stressful for them, so they stock correctly to avoid that personal pain. They don’t like looking for things, don’t understand the why behind FIFO or freshness, so they don’t check the labels.

Once again, they aren’t following your procedure, they are doing what they think is best based on their experience, and it may not be what is good for the business.  In this example, your business suffers higher food costs because the manager isn’t holding the cook accountable for following the procedures on using oldest food first.

The only way to get employees to do what you need them to do, to put the business and shift-readiness first, is to hold them accountable to follow your systems. To make it more painful to not follow procedures, because you are delivering timely feedback and holding them accountable for their decisions in real-time. Also you are now continuously retraining on the workings of your operations which is important.

We know we need to hold our teams accountable, how do we make it easy for restaurant managers to do this on a daily, shift-by-shift basis.

Management by Exception

We need to use software, the OpsAnalitica Platform, to give employees what they need, measurable standards and to spell out exactly what they need to do. At the same time a system that alerts managers when people haven’t done what they are supposed to or found an issue.

Management by exception assumes everything is happening as planned and has a built-in process to tell you when there are issues. This frees up mental space and time, instead of checking everything it allows the manager to go about their duties and then tells them when there is an issue that they need to check.

What is great about implementing a management by exception system is that the system takes on the task of holding your employees accountable for following your procedures.  The OpsAnalitica software is that extra person on your team who has nothing else going on but making sure people are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

The reason you would choose the OpsAnalitica platform to hold your team accountable is because we have one of the easiest platforms to use and our managed service, we will administrate the platform for you ongoing, means that you have an extra team member taking the management of this new software off of your plate freeing you up to run your restaurants.

Accountability = Consistency 

Every guest that comes to your restaurant has an expectation of what to expect based off of the brand you have created.  When they get what they expect in a timely manner from friendly people, they leave happy.  The experience reaffirms what they believe they know about your location and your brand

When they don’t get what they expect they leave unhappy.  When guests are happy they return at their normal interval or even sooner, which keeps sales the same or can increase them.  When guests are unhappy the take longer to return or may not return at all, that lowers sales.

One of the biggest factors on whether a guest is happy or unhappy comes from their last dining experience, which is completely under the control of the restaurant management team.  Shift readiness plays a huge part in servicing guests and meeting expectations.  Holding your team accountable for following your procedures so your restaurant operates as designed is how you accomplish that.

If you want to be successful you have to spell out exactly what you want your employees to do, and hold them accountable for doing it your way every shift.  Those are the first steps to driving customer satisfaction, which leads to increases in sales and profitability.

Written by

I've been in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life. I have a BSBA from University of Denver Hotel Restaurant school and an MBA from the same. When I wasn't working in restaurants I was either doing stand-up comedy, for 10 years, or large enterprise software consulting. I'm currently the Managing Director of OpsAnalitica and our Inspector platform was originally conceived when I worked for one of the largest sandwich franchisors in the country. You can reach out to me through LinkedIn.

2 Comments Published

by Gregory Ritmire , post on 22 June 2018 | Reply

Awesome

by Thomas Yionoulis , post on 22 June 2018 | Reply

Thank you