Keep up with the competition by focusing on the moment-by-moment details of daily operations

Keep up with the competition by focusing on the moment-by-moment details of daily operations – Column

Loret Carbone

You work hard to build sales.

You struggle to keep labor

and other controllable costs

low. You constantly are

thinking of creative ways to

recruit good people. All

restaurant owners and managers face

the same tough issues. Those common

challenges create an interesting spirit

of competition in our industry.

But competition will improve results

only as long as attention is focused

primarily on the activity itself.

When competition becomes a distraction,

rather than an incentive, you

will not achieve the results you want.

Competition in its best form forces us

to focus consciously on what is happening

in our operation. It can lead

us to manage our operations moment

by moment.

Focus consciously on what happens

within the four walls of your

restaurant. It can make the difference

between being successful or not. To

focus consciously, you must understand

what to focus on, the details of

that task and the time when you

should focus on it. Here are a few examples

of moment-by-moment management.

Opening checklist: Every employee,

from manager to service staff

to cook to dishwasher, must have a

list of duties to perform from the time

the shift starts to the time the first

guest arrives. The list must be sequential

and detailed. It must include

every task to be completed before service

begins. The purpose of the checklist

is to ensure that the entire

restaurant is completely prepared for

business and to prevent any predictable

midshift panic. Some situations

will be unavoidable, such as loss

of electricity, crash of the POS system

and so on. But when each employee

focuses on completing the opening

checklist, he or she is preparing

consciously for a successful shift. The

same type of checklist should be developed

for closing duties. That positions

the next shift for success.

The flow of the shift: Managers

must remain conscious of the flow of

the activities during the shift. First

the host desk must answer phone

calls and greet and seat guests. Next

the bus staff will bring water, and

servers must process drink orders.

Then the kitchen will receive its orders.

Finally, checks will be presented

and paid. The flow then returns to the

host desk, and guests are thanked for

their business and bid goodbye. The

tables are reset, and the wave starts

over again. With that knowledge the

manager will realize where potential

problems might occur at any given

moment. He can move through the

restaurant, knowing when to be at

the host stand to help with seating

and when to be at the kitchen window

to help run food. Without that awareness

the manager will be completely

unfocused and unconsciously run

around the restaurant like a chicken

with its head cut off.

The numbers: Focusing on the

sales and labor goals also will bring

consciousness and direction to the

manager’s behavior. If the manager

knows what the monthly sales goals

are and what the month-to-date sales

are, he might decide to develop a special

local marketing plan or start a

server sales contest. If the manager is

aware that the prep cook labor is running

over budget, he might decide to

do a time/motion study either to redefine

the prep position or distribute

that position’s labor to three other

workers and eliminate the position

completely. The manager may act in

any number of different ways if he is

conscious of the reality of the numbers.

If he allows himself to be ignorant

of them, he will be destined to

fail. Managers must educate themselves

about the numbers and stay


Cleanliness and sanitation: If

you are a manager and haven’t yet

completed a sanitation course, do so

immediately. Unless you educate

yourself about the proper handling

of food, you will not be able to teach

your staff the importance of following

correct food-handling procedures.

Once you understand that

critically important part of the business

and focus on it, you reduce the

possibility of food-borne illnesses in

your operation.

Recruitment of great employees:

Nothing is more frustrating

these days than finding good employees.

Unemployment is low, recruiters

are expensive and classified ads are

pricey. Focusing on that challenge — that

is, directing your full attention to

the issue — will improve your success.

Good employees don’t appear by

magic. You must work very hard at

finding them. You must interview

constantly, whether you need people

or not. It will help you keep your

skills sharp and increase the likelihood

of stumbling across a great potential


Loret Carbone is senior vice president of

human resources and chief people officer

at Left At Albuquerque, Palo Alto, Calif.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group