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It’s the little things

I’ve been very blessed in all aspects of my life, one of the biggest blessings I’ve received is that I’ve traveled and I’ve stayed at some of the best hotels, resorts, and sailed on the nicest cruise ships in the world.

This last weekend, my wife got us a room at the new Gaylord of the Rockies resort. It is brand new Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center located near the Denver International Airport.

I was sitting at the pool on Memorial Day before checking out and I noticed that the music wasn’t on. The pool just didn’t feel as bubbley, if that is the right way to describe it. Then I looked down and saw a straw under my chair.

It’s the little things.

I started thinking about all the things that you have to get right to go from good to great.

There are a million quotes about the little things. About how the last 5% is what really matters in everything.

Let me be clear here, The Gaylord did an amazing job. I’m not trying to knit pick them to death. The music being on or off didn’t take away from the room, or the service, or the amazing food. It just sparked this idea.

The music not being on just made the pool feel less complete. They had music on the whole day before and had pool parties, etc.. The pool area was alive and jumping and the music added to the happy and relaxing feeling.

When you have a complete experience, it feels better, it feels right, it is memorable, it is great.

Here is the thing, we are all capable of providing a complete experience in every guest interaction. Whether you are at a McDonalds or Harrod’s in London for Tea.

We all have a brand, we have set those brand expectations through our marketing, previous guest interactions, and through our continuous operations.

People always say that the greatest thing McDonald’s has done is that you can get the same Big Mac and Fries anywhere in the world. Same is true for Coca Cola and many other brands. They have perfected consistency. I’ve never opened a brand new Coke that was flat; have you?

What is frustrating about the little things in the hospitality industry, especially for brands, is that corporate has already thought about all the little things, that is their job. They have created exhaustive training and checklists to help the locations not miss the little things. Yet they get missed constantly.

Why?

Because know one uses the checklists as they were meant to be used. Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto lays this out in his book.

Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all. A” 
 Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

I get it, checklists aren’t fun or exciting. They feel beneath us in a lot of ways. Senior managers think checklists are just for training and not meant to be used at the start of every shift in every location.

In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily over-looked under the strain of more pressing events.Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

This is where we as an industry have to grow up. Pilots, know matter how many hours of flight time they have still use checklists for everything. There are 3 checklists to turn the plane on.

The reason why? It’s exactly what Atul Gawande stated above. The fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane routine matters. That is operations management in the hospitality industry. You are getting the restaurant ready for business, you’ve done it 1000’s of times, people are constantly distracting you with questions and pulling your attention away from the task at hand. Little fires keep popping up.

Then you forget to check things because you are too distracted. Some days it’s the music and other days it’s the holding or reheat temperature on some food. Some days it’s the open sign and other days your dish machine isn’t sterilizing the dishes and you are getting people sick.

The problem is when we don’t use checklists the way they are meant to be used, we don’t know which side of the spectrum we are going to land on. We just know or should accept that we are missing things.

You are kidding yourself if you think you aren’t getting people sick. You are. Any time a person goes into a restaurant and then within minutes they are not feeling well, your food had something to do with that. Even if it didn’t really, that the person got sick from their lunch and not your dinner, in their minds it was your dinner.

We have to change how we train and operate our locations. It is imperative that we move away from the reliance on memory and experience and work on systematizing every aspect of running our restaurants to counteract the other forces that are working against us. We have to use checklists diligently as they were meant to be used in every department, every shift, by every member of the team from the GM to the server.

The whole point of this blog is this. Had the pool manager followed a readiness checklist, I’m sure, that turn the music on is on that list. I’m sure having a member of the custodial team confirm that there was no trash under the pool chairs was on that list.

Senior managers and all team members should embrace checklists as the cheat sheets, the short cuts, the work smarter not harder tools that they are. We should reward people for high levels of checklist compliance. Completing checklists diligently and on-time and coach train people who pencil whip and have low compliance. Our research has shown that high checklist compliance restaurants are better restaurants from a customer satisfaction and profitability standpoint. They are better.

We have to control what we can control. Because when we do we provide our guests with a complete experience, they will rave about us and tell their friends and that should lead them to come back again sooner. We owe this to our guests, employees, and owners.

One of the main reasons that checklists don’t get done today is because they are paper based tools. In the world of multi-unit restaurant management paper checklists are pencil whipped because management cannot hold their teams accountable in real-time to getting them done.

To really run great restaurants, you need a digital checklist platform that will give you the tools to hold your managers and employees accountable to following your procedures every shift in every location.

To learn more about how OpsAnalitica is helping restaurant operators run better restaurants, visit OpsAnalitica.com

Remember, it’s the little things. Oh, and they turned the music on later in the morning.

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.

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