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Are your managers betraying you?

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In the April issue, editor Michael Sanson wrote about a brunch experience where two managers in a restaurant were abusive to employees and customers. He asked readers how they prevent managers from damaging their restaurants while they’re away. The following are excerpts from those who responded.

First: After the manager berated the bartender for his error I would have had immediate second thoughts about staying at that restaurant—period.

Second: Even in my absence, I never had a manager or staff member who would ever talk to a customer in that tone/language. Even if I did, word would have filtered down from another staff member and that person would have been immediate history.

Third: The owner of the restaurant must be a complete moron to not be aware that his trusted employees were idiots.

Fourth:  I hope you informed the restaurant owner as to the incident and identified yourself.  Also, I would have identified the restaurant involved in the article because they deserve it, but you’re too polite.

Michael Duke
Andrew’s Gourmet
Darien, CT  

Hi Mike, All our managers come up thru the ranks and know how we operate to please the customers. But, as a precaution, we send in spotters from time to time to check on everything and everyone, including a report and pictures of the bathrooms. Our servers’, bartenders’, and managers’, newest answer to special requests is no longer, “No problem.” It is now, “Of course, our pleasure!”

Frank Coniglio
E.R. Bradley’s Saloon
Cucina Dell Art Restaurant
Nick & Johnnies
Cha Cha’s
Palm Beach, CA

At my restaurant, we employ monthly mystery shoppers, an extensive guest comment card program and a part- time staff that does nothing but monitor online feedback. If monitored and used as intended, these tools can paint an accurate picture of what’s  going on while an owner is gone.

Kevin Healy
The Boathouse at Sunday Park
The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing
Casa del Barco
Midlothian, VA

The only way you can know what happens in your restaurant for sure is to be in the house as much as possible and encourage your customers to tell you everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. Employees tell on themselves, too.

I had a bartender who told me that he had my back and proceeded to relate the following story: A regular couple came in and ordered dinner and drinks. When dessert time came they were discussing that they didn’t like one of our desserts, but prefer a similar one at a competitor. The bartender interjected himself into the conversation and basically told them not to trash our desserts. This idiot actually told me this story with pride. At that point I realized he was dangerous and I encouraged him to find another job.

I live in a small town in a remote area and it’s hard to find hot bodies, much less ones with actual brains. We’re damned if we hire a moron and we’re damned if we don’t have servers to serve. I bet these managers you wrote about are stealing from the owner as well.

Mary Stanley
The Turtle Restaurant
Brownwood, TX

The issue you encountered was first of all shocking. The question you posed has quite a simple answer. Gather guest feedback and interpret it from an objective standpoint. We are very lucky to have a guest feedback service like Mindshare that allows us an instantly updated portrait of how we are performing as managers. Although most smaller operations do not have the money to invest in such a service, it’s easy enough to print up comment cards and present them with the check.

On the other side of things, I have what I like to call my “Minister of Information” at every location I have ever worked at. Listening to gossip sometimes has its advantages in that you can get the meat and potatoes of how people operate if you are willing to listen to a couple of people’s different perspectives. Once again, interpreting information is paramount to prevent you from making rash decisions and disciplining someone for personality flaws.

Either way, the point is to gather as much information as possible to gauge how you as an owner or general manager have injected your beliefs and personality into your operation. If you are a negative person then your people will probably adopt the same mindset. If you are aware of how your wellbeing affects the people around you, it’s much easier to get people to buy into your ways of thinking.

Chris Banaszynski
Assistant Manager
Clarksville, IN

Growing to trust my management team has proven to be difficult. As always, choosing the right person is number one, but what about after that? Like sales growth, trusting that your business is being conducted the same with or without you takes a lot of effort. A few links in the chain of trust that I have found helpful:

1. No matter how high the pile of office work, let managers observe you with guests, directly setting the standard that you expect from them in your absence. Let them know that nothing takes precedent over guests leaving happy, no matter how many mistakes are made during a visit.

2. Have a relationship with your guests. Make sure that your guests know your face, name and contact info. More importantly, make sure to genuinely convince them that you want their feedback, especially when you are away.

3. Impress upon your management team the expectation you have of them building a relationship with guests. Follow up with regular guests to ensure that managers are doing as you asked. Let managers know that you are watching what is going on, even when you are not there!

4. Trust your guest survey program. Real-time programs (we use Qore Analytics) give me the ability to break down, shift by shift, which managers are having the greatest impact (positive or negative) on my business.

Bob Deislinger
General Manager
Texas Steakhouse and Saloon
Martinsville, VA

Reading about your experience was heartbreaking. as an owner, as a mother, as a guest, every aspect of it was a big-time bummer. Made me think of the importance of the old saying, “You’ve gotta check the checker that checks the checker!” I’ve already shared your article within my team. I hope you mailed a copy of the magazine with your article highlighted to the owner of the restaurant.

Misty Young
Squeeze In
Truckee, CA
Reno, NV
Sparks, NV

We all hope to have great managers and be great managers. But we are human. I have had some bad managers and some great ones. Even the great ones pissed me off sometimes. I believe we have to trust, train and understand they are still employees, which means guidelines and monitoring.

Jason E. Clark
Executive Chef/Owner
BIN112 on Trade Street
The Strip Club 104, a steak house
Greer, SC

If one of my assistant managers behaved in such a way, they would be gone in less than a heartbeat.  

You are not doing the owner of this establishment any favors by not informing him of this incident. If it were me, I would go out of my way by finding out who’s the owner and send that person a note along with a copy of the magazine and ask that he read your editorial. Mark the envelope personal & confidential. For all you know, the manager opens the mail.

Daniel J. Francisco
Le Bar de Fromage et de Vin
Upper Montclair, NJ

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