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Second-hand learning

There never seems to be enough time in the day. The dynamics of foodservice are accelerating. It's impossible to keep up with all the changes in the competition, training methods, technology, inventory, pricing, and customer needs...

We should learn from the mistakes of others. We don't have time to make them all ourselves. ~ Groucho Marx

There never seems to be enough time in the day. The pace of the world is quickening. The dynamics of foodservice are accelerating. It's impossible to keep up with all the changes in the competition, training methods, technology, inventory, pricing, and customer needs. Even though you may not have the time to do it all yourself, you can master the art of hospitality...if you start learning from the successes and failures of others.

Accountability from managers comes down to one simple element — measurement. Peter Drucker said it best — "What gets measured, gets done."Whether it concerns increasing average checks, successful budgeting, reducing labor costs, or monitoring safety to lower insurance premiums, systems are necessary to benchmark and measure performance. The critical element that makes these systems effective is the periodic progress report.

I use a tool adapted from one created by James Belasco, author of "The Flight of the Buffalo." It's called the Weekly 5-15. It should take no longer than fifteen minutes to hand-write and five minutes to read. On a simple form you record two occurrences from the prior week: a Success Story and a Big Bomb. We've provided our ready-to-use 5-15 form for you to download.

There are several ways a 5-15 can be used:

  • If you're a single unit operation, supervisors and managers can submit the 5-15 forms to the General Manager, Executive Chef or owner.
  • If you have multiple units, 5-15s are an efficient way for managers from each unit to communicate with each other about operational and management issues. Forms can be sent to a central office for compilation and then distributed to all managers and the owner in a weekly flash communication. They can also be shared during a monthly management meeting.
  • 5-15s aren't just limited to management use. Service and kitchen staff members can learn new "tools of the trade" or how to avoid mistakes on the job. The Pre-shift Briefing is a good time to share these stories, and some can be used to introduce a new or refresher training module.

5-15s should not be viewed as just one more thing to fill out on a weekly basis. They are a valuable way to communicate, share, learn, and grow as a professional. It's also an effective and efficient way to spend your time. And remember, in the words of Malcolm Forbes, "Unless you're serving time, there's never enough of it."

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