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Lean and mean

During a holiday or busy peak season, sometimes the best we can do is get through the day with our guests happy and our employees still working for us. Extra sales volume adds an element of stress and we often lose sight of one of the most important things we should be doing...even when we are "in the weeds"...

Communicate with our employees!

And this includes the important one-on-one type of communication that really lets us get to the heart of things. This no time for in-depth surveys that require compilation and analysis, so we thought we'd share a technique from our friend Stuart Davis of City Wok in Palm Desert, CA.

Similar to our one-on-one protocol, Stuart takes a few minutes to meet with each of his employees for a few moments following a pre-shift briefing over the course of a week. He asks two simple questions:

  1. What can I do to make your life easier here at City Wok?
  2. What can you do to make my life easier here at City Wok?

The beauty of the first question is that the answers are often unexpected, and always enlightening. When restaurant employees are given the chance to speak up and contribute, they usually do so honestly and willingly. And while you might get the occasional "You could double my wages" comment, more often you'll hear tangible and manageable things that you can do to make your company a better place to work. Such as...

  • A better place to put my things when I come into work.
  • New light bulbs in the storage area.
  • The chance to sample more menu items so I can better answer customer questions.
  • Another uniform shirt so I don't have to do laundry every night.

The second question turns the tables, and reminds your team members that a positive work environment is a two-way street, and they contribute to both your successes and your failures. Some answers we've heard include...

  • Volunteer for additional shifts.
  • Make sure the side work is done early and completely.
  • Keep an eye out for new employees.
  • Help out in other sections without being asked.
  • Arrive a little early for your shift.

It's not the big stuff that will undermine the success of your business, it's the hundreds of little things that never show up on the radar screen, whether it's your business plan or a management meeting agenda. Collectively these myriad details can make a huge difference in employee attitude, company culture, and customer satisfaction. Go ahead. Give it a try. It'll make both our jobs easier!

If you like this idea, download a Lean & Mean form to help you keep track of the great feedback your bound to get. Remember to thank employees for their time and consideration. You may want to bring all these comments to your management meetings to share with your team.

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