There’s always something new to learn as a manager, no matter how long you’ve been on the job. Here are some best practices to inspire and engage you. Try putting one or more of these tips to work in your operation.
Tip #1: Let go and empower
In the beginning, we baked every brownie and washed every pan. But you need to trust people, give them parameters, let them learn on their own, give them feedback and be there as their mentor, not over their shoulder,” says Eileen Spitalny, co-founder of Fairytale Brownies, a $10 million a year mail-order baking company. “
Both Spitalny and co-founder David Kravetz acknowledge that letting go did not come easily to them, “Looking back, we waited too long to let go, and now we realize our team members are going to grow with the more responsibility we give them.”
One way to start is by empowering your employees and give them decision-making authority. Determining the specifics can be more challenging. After reading a how-to book on management skills, Fairytime Brownies’ leaders were inspired to launch a “$100 Empowerment Policy.” This gave any team member (employee) the authority to spend up to $100 of company money to solve a customer problem without having to ask.
“Interestingly, it’s hard for them to give up the money, and a lot of times we’ll have to remind them,” David Kravetz explains. “95 percent of the problems can be solved with $100, whether it’s re shipping a gift or refunding – and they don’t have to come to us to ask. It’s money well spent.”
Tip #2: Hire for values and attitude
For Steve Bell, owner of Pacific Cabinets, a multimillion-dollar cabinet business, alignment of values and the right attitude is more important than experience. “If people have the same core values we have, the right attitude and the capacity and willingness to learn, then we can hire them and teach them anything they need to know about the business.” In the world of catering, this philosophy can be applied to positions such as delivery staff, prep-people and customer service representatives.
Tip #3: Never stop training
A thorough, systemized training program is necessary for all your staff, and it’s something I always stress when consulting with food service operators. Truth be told, the vast majority of caterers don’t invest the time to put effective training programs in place. “Trial-by-fire” is more common, and it is not an effective methodology for growth and long-term success.
Next time you are on the receiving end of consistently great service, make note. It could be a restaurant, hotel or vacation experience when you say to yourself, “Everyone with whom I come in contact – bussers, hosts, bartenders, servers and management -- is courteous and professional.” I guarantee you that consistent behavior is the result of a well-executed training program. Those same standards and levels of hospitality are possible in any business, including yours, if you invest in, or get help implementing, a training program.
Tip #4: Trial period for new hires
A new-hire trial period is an effective option to incorporate. Marie R., Director of Corporate Catering of Via Lago Café and Catering, a $5 million a year restaurant and catering company in suburban Boston, uses a four-week trial period to assess new hourly employees. “You can only learn so much during a 45-minute interview,” Marie says. “For non-management new-hires, four weeks is generally long enough to gauge whether someone is the right fit.”
Alan J. aka “Crazy Al,” the visionary founder of Via Lago Café and Catering, also has a trial period, but his is shorter. “If it becomes clear early on that you made a bad hire, cut bait right away. Over the years, I have seen managers spend way too much time, energy and valuable resources trying to fit the wrong person into the position they were (wrongly) hired for.”
He adds: “You can teach certain skill sets but you can’t change someone’s personality. If there’s another position for them in your organization that’s a better fit, that’s an option you can explore. But if your gut is telling you that someone is not working out, letting them go sooner rather than later is acting in best interest of your business.”
Tip #5 Hire wisely
Developing a strong staff starts with the hiring process. Some positions may require years of prior, direct experience, while other may require little, or even none. Well-written recruitment ads will assist in the process. If your current ads aren’t bringing in the right people, you need to change the descriptions that provide general and specific requirements to potential job applicants. This will help limit the number of non-qualified candidates who apply.
You may be surprised how often someone will apply for a position they are not capable of fulfilling. Collect resumes by email and filter through them. Before you begin scheduling interviews with potential candidates, conduct a mini-interview with them on the phone. This allows you to confirm they meet all minimum criteria, so you don’t need to spend 20 minutes interviewing them before you learn they are not a fit.
See Michael Rosman at Catersource 2018. Click here for his session schedule.