What You Get Paid For: An Open Letter from the Owner to the Crew
By Jim Sullivan Copyright Sullivision.com
I believe in people and think they are more effective when given principles rather than procedures, strategies rather than tactics, whys rather than wants. –Harvey Golub
Dear Team Member: I’ve been thinking. In the last decade the customer has been really good to us despite the fact that we may not have always been at our best for them. Americans dined out as much as five times weekly in the previous decade, and we saw higher comparable same store sales quarter after quarter. Traffic was good and even when we screwed up, the customer seemed to forgive us. Even if they didn’t come back, another customer seemed to take their place at the counter or the table or the drive-through. This got us all believing after awhile that maybe we were running this thing for ourselves and not the customer.
But the swift kick-in-the-butt that the recent Great Recession has given our industry over the last few years woke me up to a sad reality: I think we became complacent, unfocused, and lost sight of what we get paid for.
Shame on me for not pointing this out earlier and often with each of you, but we were just too busy. Or maybe I just didn’t make the time. (I guess it’s true that volume can hide a multitude of sins.) Either way, we unfortunately have thetime now, because our business is down and no one seems to know exactly what to do. We can certainly blame the economy for the dip, but why are some places still doing well and we’re not as good as we were? Maybe we all took our eye off the ball. So I hope you don’t mind me taking a moment to remind you that the CUSTOMER is “why” and here’s What You Get Paid For…
Be nice to the people with the money. Everything that you or I will ever have is currently in the hands of someone else: the Customer. Our business is run first for their enjoyment and satisfaction, then yours. This I swear: I will never forget that again when the upturn comes. Service has always been our invisible product. It can’t be stored but it can be given away. It can’t be discounted or prepared, but it can be super-sized and delivered. It’s most genuine when spontaneous and at its worst when it’s discretionary. It makes a good meal taste better and customers come back. It makes our food and beverage taste better. It costs us nothing. So heap it on. And it’s as simple as beginning every transaction with a smile.
Minimize costs. Do you know what the average pre-tax profit is in our business? Less than a nickel on the dollar. That’s right. I spend 95% of my revenue to pay for food, beverage, utilities, napkins, rent, labor, franchise fees and waste. Then I pay taxes out of the remaining five cents gross profit. Please follow our recipes, suggestively sell, and don’t over-portion, overheat or break, twist, bend or snap things that aren’t meant to bend, snap, twist or break.
Maximize sales. I do not pay you. The customer does. When a customer buys a beverage, sandwich, entrée, appetizer or dessert, that purchase barely covers the cost of our sourcing, buying, storing, prepping, plating and serving it. When you suggest and sell a beverage, soup, appetizer, side, or dessert, we stand a chance of making that nickel on the dollar. Chances are that if you don’t, we won’t. The future of your job hangs in the balance. To sell is to serve.
Tell the truth. Teams must trust one another. “Lying makes a problem part of the future,” said basketball coach John Wooden, “Truth makes a problem part of the past.” Nuff said.
Be on time. Excuses are like…well, let’s say bellybuttons. Everyone has one. Next time please just leave the house ten minutes earlier. A short staff delivers poor service.
Build repeat business. A new customer will visit a restaurant once by either chance or by choice. A coupon for or proximity to our restaurant may foster a chance visit. A good or great experience on the part of our cooks, servers and managers converts “chance” to choice next time the customer thinks about where to eat. Repeat business is our lifeblood, and it means that the customer has driven past twenty or thirty or forty other places to choose ours. Let’s give them something memorable every time.
Save the drama for your mama. Don’t act like the south end of a northbound horse. The truth is it’s not about you. Or me. It’s about the customer. If your mindset tends toward complaining and whining and being sarcastic, well, that’s pure poison to the team and the customer. If you insist on endlessly railing to your fellow crew and managers about how this is a bad place to work, and it’s not like your old job, or that everything’s unfair, and that you would rather be somewhere else other than here, then it’s my responsibility to help relieve your misery by giving you a job at the competition. Things that matter most should never suffer because of things that matter least. Just saying.
Continuous improvement. If you see, sense, or know a better way to improve our people, process or procedures please let me know. I promise to listen to your ideas before you have to listen to mine. None of us is as smart as all of us, so please bring your brain to work every shift and help us all move the business forward for our customers and colleagues. We must all have a bias for action to make things better all ways and always.
Have Fun. Bottom line, we all get to work in the restaurant industry. It’s the best business in the world, and it’s a free circus and a free university everyday. Yes, you get paid to have fun too! So have fun with what you do, who you serve and who you work with. And if you see somebody without a smile, give them one of yours.
I’m pretty sure we’ll continue get through these challenging times together if you and I are habitually consistent in our execution of these fundamentals.
And if you can’t do what I pay you for, then I’m obligated to find someone who can. One thing for sure: the restaurant business is never going “back to normal.” In these times, being pretty good at everything is not enough. We have to be great at a good many things.
So there it is; you’re either on the bus or off the bus. Now is the time. This is the place. You are the person. Together, we can do this and be stronger than ever. This is our rocket; let’s ride.
“What You Get Paid For” is now a best-selling DVD and poster available exclusively at the Sullivision.com store. Order it today for all your units!
Jim Sullivan is the CEO and Founder of Sullivision.com. You can get his free monthly leadership e-newsletter, free articles and product catalog exclusively here at www.sullivision.com.