10 Steps to Empowerment 3: High Standards of Excellence

19 Nov

All too often fast food becomes an environment that tolerates mediocrity.  Most places I’ve worked at were filled with apathetic workers and managers that sat in the office all day and night.  Shortcuts were the norm.  The old-time employees knew the procedures, but no one actually followed them.  The new people never even learned procedures.

Does this sound like your restaurant?  If so, it is just crying out for higher standards of excellence.  Ideally, the standards should be high, but not out of reach.  For example, if your restaurant has been running a 3:15 average service time all day, then saying that service time will be under 3 minutes  for this week is not unrealistic.  I know that district managers still won’t like that time, but at least it is lower.

If your team beats that goal, say they manage 2:50 average for the week, then give everyone high praise.  Celebrate that number, because beating 2:50 will become next week’s goal.  And so on, and so on.

In this process, enforcing company standards of sandwich build, labor, and food cost are still very important.  Sandwich build procedures take look of final product and food safety regulations into consideration, which is why they may seem strange or too slow to some people.  But they are, nonetheless, very important to follow.

Labor and food cost are the two line accounts that impact the bottom line the most.  Each represent nearly 30% of sales!  Holding food cost to a minimum, both by enforcing proper sandwich building techniques and making sure that they don’t automatically throw each mistake away, will save untold amounts of money.

Now if a mistake is served to a customer, then that mistake must be thrown away.  But, if an employee puts mayo on a sandwich that was requested to be prepared without, that sandwich can be held in case the next customer orders it.  Food cost is important, but not at the expense of food safety.

The only other note on company standards is that they must be communicated to all employees on a regular basis.  They must also be consistently enforced by all managers.

The best way to achieve the required buy-in from employees on these standards is to regularly model them yourself.  As their manager, they will do as you do, not as you say.  So if you have the standards set and communicated but people aren’t following or achieving them, it is time to watch what you are modeling for them.  This is the toughest part of being a manager, I think.

The worst part of fast food is when a few people are achieving the standards and effectively carrying the rest of the staff.  That really hurts morale.  Diane Tracy has some hints on pp. 59-60 of 10 Steps to Empowerment for dealing with this common situation:

Encourage people to keep the communication open with the people in other departments, no matter how incompetent they are.  Discourage them from developing a we-they attitude.

Constantly remind your people of the benefits they will receive from meeting high standards, regardless of what others may be doing.

Explain to them that it takes time for people to change.  (Hopefully,  management is taking steps to correct the problem.)

Encourage them to be role models for others.

If your people are being hindered by the incompetence of others, try to work the problems out with your peer in the other department.  If that doesn’t work, communicate the problem to your boss.

One of the greatest books to help alleviate this situation would be The 360-degree Leader by John C. Maxwell.


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