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Step up to the mike

The questions below were asked by foodservice operators at a recent conference. We thought you might find them relevant to your own operation.

My staff ranges in age from 25 to 50 years old. How can scripted interactions with guests allow for individuality?

Individuality is important. Nothing sounds cornier than a canned speech. Scripts don't have to be the same for everyone. As a matter of fact, they should be different for everyone. Scripts are meant to be models, or suggested ways of conveying information. Once you've conveyed what they're supposed to say, scripts give employees an idea of how they can say it. Let them tweak the script so that it sounds more natural to them. Role playing during a training session or pre-shift briefing allows employees to hear wording and phrases from other employees that they can incorporate into their own personalized version. It's important to practice out loud and in front of people until it sounds natural. For a couple of examples, take a look at Suggestive selling in restaurants and Bye-bye baby.

How do I continue to promote my staff if I have little or no turnover in higher positions?

If there's no room to move up on the ladder, you can provide incentives that encourage better job performance and reward the achievement of goals. For managers, I recommend a Management Incentive Bonus Plan. A Piece of the Action outlines the details of such a plan. There are many options for employees at all levels within your company. Check out The Art of Giving for ways to set up an employee benefit program that's right for your employees. You may also consider raising your standards and job requirements for lower level positions, which will elevate the status of the job.

What do I do when employees have ideas they want to share, but I'm too busy to respond or might not implement their suggestion?

You need to decide whether you want to adhere to the old command-control style of management or make employee communication a top priority. If you value the ideas of others — I encourage you to take it a step further and ask for them — set up a system to gather and reward them. For ways to do this, read A Dollar for your Thoughts, Priceless and How Smart Is Your Business. Explain to your team that you welcome ideas and suggestions for implementing them, but that not everything will be done or done right away. If you don't have the time to do that, turn the tables. Ask the employee to be responsible to conduct a pre-shift briefing and present their idea to the group. It gives the employee a sense of importance and you may have just delegated a job and made some time for yourself.

What do you do about adults ordering off the child's menu?

Unless you want to risk losing a customer, I don't think you have much choice. Let 'em order. If you'd rather not violate your own policy, there are two options. #1) If the menu says that items are for children 10 and under, are you prepared to (jokingly) ask to see an ID as you would when a guest orders an alcoholic beverage? #2) "Sell up" to the adult menu. Point out that the child's portions are smaller, but that a similar item on the adult menu comes with the fixin's. One of these might work, but I'd pick your battles carefully. The lifetime value of a guest, and the guests they dine with, is worth serving from the child's menu.

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