I have been catching up with old episodes of Friday Night Lights on Netflix. Last night, I watched an episode where the team’s home field was ruined, and the coaches were forced to find a remote site where they could practice. They had to literally build a field from the ground up. This got me thinking about something that managers need to do every day in the business world: lay out the playing field for their employees. It’s important to set boundaries so that the people under you can perform the way you want them to perform.
In the restaurant world, this means making sure your entire sales team (in this case, your servers) is on the same page with not only what is expected of them, but also what tools they can use to accomplish those goals. Maybe it’s a special offer on a drink from the bar, or maybe it’s having two kitchen runners for the night to help clear tables and increase table turnover. By giving your team boundaries, you will help things run smoothly and it will be easier for you to not only monitor performance, but also optimize behavior for the future. As I have talked about before, I believe that “if it can be measured, it can be improved.” Once you establish the metrics for success, and you make your employees accountable for hitting those metrics, you can monitor behavior to ensure you are putting yourself in the best position to succeed.
An important first step in making sure your team is on the path to success is standardization. In other words, you need to confirm that all of your servers understand your restaurant’s value proposition. Everyone on your team needs to be pitching the sale (taking care of their tables) the same way, and everyone needs to be promoting the same menu items and specials that the manager is asking them to promote. You also need to ensure that all of your servers are given the same tools. In this case, all of your servers should have the opportunity to pitch the same specials, and tables need to be assigned evenly throughout the night. This will allow you to effectively determine how to improve. If you build an even playing field, then you can truly compare what is working and what isn’t. If everyone has the same assets to offer your guests, you can easily evaluate each guest’s reaction along with the overall impact of whatever you are promoting. It might be a new menu item, a special offer on drinks or something else altogether. If possible, I would recommend having a quick five-minute meeting at the end of the shift so that the team can discuss what went right and what went wrong. Then, make any necessary changes.
In sports, there are objective metrics of performance: 10 yards for a first down, three strikes and you’re out, a goal in soccer is worth one point. Because of these objective measures, the coaches can evaluate the performance of each of their players evenly. Imagine what would happen if two players on the same team were given different tools. It would be very difficult to determine where the disconnect was. Back to Friday Night Lights, if the coach let one of his running backs wear cleats and had another running back wear sneakers, how could he accurately determine the impact of the “tool” (footwear) on performance?
As a manager, you need to set the playing field for your employees. Make sure that you bring the group together as a team and that everyone understands not only the boundaries and the rules, but also your expectations of their performance and the tools that you are giving them to get there. You will quickly find the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, as the new team mentality and unified focus will exponentially increase your revenue.