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Messed Up Orders: Two Views

26 Nov

Helium has two essays on messed up orders in fast food restaurants. One says that the employee and the customer are to blame. This one says that only the employees are to blame.

You’d expect that since I’m a fast food employee, that I would side with the first article.  Frankly, I think the first article was written from the perspective of a fast food employee that I’d prefer not to employ. Giving rules the way that the author does is a little bit ridiculous.  These customers choose to spend money in our restaurants and they will not frequent a place that would purport to issue rules for its paying customers.

The place down the road doesn’t have rules.  The customer will go there.

By contrast, the author of the second piece challenges managers to think about how their business is conducted.  First, he talks about training, an issue near and dear to my own heart.  Every word is true: fast food managers often do not train people correctly.  They put the person into a position and let them go.  This is a wrong that I am fighting to right.

Staff attitude is a very big deal.  If employees are rude to customers, or if they act like the customers are less important than what happened last night at the club, customers pick up on that and are far less likely to come back to an establishment.

Conditions within the restaurant, both of equipment and cleanliness, are an indication of whether or not the staff actually cares.  People who take pride in their jobs don’t work in filthy operating conditions.

Finally, leadership plays a role in all of the author’s points.  Most of the managers that I’ve worked with are interested in passing the buck–“He was supposed to do it,” “I called for the fries, why didn’t you drop them?” or “He knows what his job is!”  None of that matters.  When you are the leader, the buck stops with you.  When a breakdown occurs, accept responsibility and fix the problem.  A former U.S. President had a plaque on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.”  Managers should get that tattooed on their forehead.

There may well be some problems that the customer creates.  But we can’t do anything about that.  We can only solve what is under our control: training, attitude, environment, and providing the best leadership we can.  When you think about it, there really is quite a bit under your control.  Solve what you can, and try not to sweat the rest of it.  And pray for the wisdom to know the difference.


10 Steps to Empowerment 4: Training

23 Nov

In my previous posts on the topic of empowerment, I discussed clear definition of responsibility, authority, and the importance of high standards.  Nothing can bring these steps together as powerfully as a good training program.  Training, however, is the most neglected management duty in all of fast food.  More often than not, trainees are placed in a position and told to run it the best way that they can.  The trainee is then yelled at when he screws up–which he will screw up, and with good reason.  If he doesn’t know what he’s doing, how can he possibly do it right?

There are many more wrong ways to do something than there are right ones.  Therefore, the odds are in favor of an untrained someone picking the wrong way to do something.  This costs time, money, and could cost you a customer if the mistake is big and noticeable.

With proper training, a lot of this can be avoided.

Training must impart the appropriate skills to the trainees.  To do that, you must employ the right method.  Diane Tracy suggests five methods of training: 1) Classroom, 2) on-the-job, 3) Meetings, 4) one-on-one, 5) setting a good example.   Formalized classroom training is not an option for a crew member, but is indispensable for management personnel.  On-the-job is the best option for crew members.  Staff meetings aren’t always possible across the entire store.  One-on-one training is the best way to do on the job training: pairing a trainee either with yourself or with a trusted crew member is the time-honored fast food tradition.  Finally, setting a good example is important beyond my ability to express it in words.  All eyes, at all times–employee eyes and customer eyes–are on the manager.  Living up to your own expectations is the best way to teach others to do the same.

One additional benefit of training, often overlooked, is that it builds the employee’s self-esteem.  Consider an employee who is told to run the front register, but not trained on how to do that.  What happens when the first really complex order comes up, or what will he do when someone asks him for a Big Mac at Burger King?  He’s likely going to screw it up.

That’s not his fault!  He is doing it the best way that he can think of, on the spot, on the first day that he is employed!  Then, when he messes it up, the manager corrects him and has to fix the mistake.  Depending on how far the mistake got, it is probably going to cost at least time and money to fix, and it may cost the customer.  At the very least, that customer is going to tell his friends about the mistake, and his friends may avoid that place with the “dumb employee and the rude manager.”  Of course, the employee isn’t dumb, and the manager may well have been courteous and professional the entire time, but I doubt that the customer is going to tell it that way.

Had the employee been trained, the mistake may have been avoided and none of that needed to have happened.  The employee does it right the first time, he handles his first situation appropriately, and the manager congratulates him on a job well done.  Since much self-esteem is tied to job satisfaction, this second result works much better for everyone involved–especially the customer, who now generates positive word-of-mouth about the store.