Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category



Employee Engagement and Your Culture

The article How Engagement Can Screw Up Your Culture provided a great perspective on assessing employee engagement, and how if done incorrectly, can truly backfire.

The article reinforced the coaching and guidance CRS gives our clients when we embark on creating a customized employee engagement survey and the advice we share:

1.)  Tailor it to your team – talk to the team in their language, and ask them only about things which you are willing to adapt or adopt.

2.)  React to the results without overreacting – you need to implement change based on what the data indicates.  Don’t overreact by changing everything at once.

3.)  Be cautious about who sees the entire data set – The appropriate level is different for each survey, so make sure to think about the potential repercussions.

And as the article suggests, provide training for those who will be sharing and receiving the results.


Thoughtful touches set concepts – and servers – apart

We’ve just returned from attending a preview lunch at Seasons 52 in King of Prussia, PA, officially opening its doors on 3/29.  Although we oohed over the beautiful decor and aahed over the taste of every item(especially since each plate was 475 calories or less), the real highlights were the service and the presentation.  Our hostess exchanged each of our white napkins with black to accommodate the dark-colored clothes each of us were wearing.  Nice touch!  Our server Jaclyn was attentive without being intrusive, and definitely rolled with the punches doled out by our group.  She asked if we had any time constraints and allowed us to set the pace for our meal.  The presentation of each item was exquisite, including the selected service piece, the color, and the attention to details.   After a meal of silent service (no fewer than 6 servers brought food or cleared plates, all without disrupting our heated conversation), the final highlight was when Jaclyn pulled out a flashlight and spotlighted (literally!) each of the mini dessert choices.

It’s clear these thoughtful touches are what make the difference and set not only concepts, but servers, apart.  Here’s wishing a very successful opening to Seasons 52.  They’re off to a great start!

Working out work-life balance

Work-life balance is a topic that comes up in almost every exit interview and survey we complete here at CRS.  In How to Make Shift Work Family Friendly Jennifer Ludden talks about a study conducted by NIH (National Institutes of Health) found that employees with the most accommodating managers “had better physical health reports, better sleep quality, higher job satisfaction, and less stress over work-life conflicts.”  She also says it’s not that hard to be accommodating, perhaps through posting schedules farther in advance, making it easier for workers to trade shifts or cross-training more people for the same job – or simply easing rules on cell-phone use.  Read the whole article for more details on the study and the benefits to everyone when managers are more accommodating, and consider what small changes your operators could make that might make a very big difference!

Welcome Back!!

The New Year is well underway and the team at CRS wants to help you “march” toward the end of the first quarter with a great read.

Our goal with The Real Scoop blog is to provide you with inspiring posts, relevant content, and at times something just for the fun of it!

Check out this article we found on  Waiter, Bring Me a Fresh Idea.  All the tips are relevant and impactful, and we really thought #10 was a hit!

Let us know your thoughts!

Deanna Sharp

A Fresh Perspective on EFCA

I recently heard an amazing speaker attorney Jonathan Segal, now of Duane Morris, offer a fresh perspective on EFCA.  The main takeaway for me was remembering that often union campaigns and membership are about emotion, not logic.

I was a begrudging member of the teacher’s union when taught high school English right out of college.  I was fortunate they settled a contract dispute right before the start of the school year so I didn’t have to start my professional career on strike.  But I remember talk of meetings with not only fist-pounding but a teacher actually standing on the table pleading the case of the union.  That’s emotion!

In his presentation Jonathan encouraged us to recognize that almost every component of the union process and fight against it are emotional, rather than logical.  He reminded us that as the union process now stands, people often sign their cards just to get people out of their faces, and then they vote against forming the union.  With the pending change, with the lack of a private ballot, these people may bow to the emotional pressure and vote for the union.

Jonathan also told us that the videos unions shown to recruit members are all about emotion.  One union’s video was titled, “You’ll never walk alone again.”  It showed how the union will always be there for you and really played on emotions and fears.  Management at that particular company countered with their own video also aimed at the emotions, showing how with a union you truly won’t ever be alone; you’ll never able to have a private conversation with a supervisor, for example.

Union campaigns can be particularly brutal because you can’t turn it off.  If, as a member of management, you respond to attacks, you’ve dignified the attack and employees think what the union is saying about management is true.  If you don’t respond, they think it must be true.  So as a member of management, you’re stuck either way.  Jonathan recommends keeping the emotional temperature high enough so people vote no just to get peace.  It may seem counterintuitive since the emotions are what makes this process so uncomfortable, but his point is to not back down from a management perspective so people realize the union is not worth the hassle.  He recommends telling employees what customers or business could be lost because of the fight.

So where does all this leave us?  If we want to prevent the near-disastrous effects that EFCA could have, of course we need to send a loud message to our Representatives and Senators, as many in the restaurant industry are already doing.  But I’d urge you to be careful with letters you send to Representatives and Senators.  Jonathan had some great suggestions here:

  1. Don’t say things like, “If a union comes in, our business will shut down.”  Letters are discoverable and you don’t want to have to defend these statements further down the road.
  2. Anti-union letters will be discarded or tossed aside.  It’s not about whether unions are good or bad.  It’s solely a process issue.
  3. He recommends something like this, “Dear Senator XXX.  I voted for you in a private voting booth and believe my employees deserve the same opportunity.  When you and your counterparts on the Senate floor can’t agree, you don’t bring in a third party to solve the dispute.  You think about it and come back to the drawing board.  I voted for you before and I’d like to vote again.  This is not a good bill for the employees we support and care about.  This is not about pro-union or anti-union; this is about a law that changes the process by which employees have a voice for their preferences.”

Finally, Jonathan reminded us unions aren’t the problem; they’re symptoms of what’s happening in the workplace.  If we remember to focus on recognition and appreciation, we will be better suited to prevent union action in the first place.  Another way of looking at it?  Pay attention to employees’ emotions now, and avoid having to worry about the emotions stirred up by a union campaign later.

Christin Myers

Afraid To Survey? Be Afraid Not To!

I recently read a scary Associated Press article regarding a decrease in the number of companies conducting employee surveys. Sure, it scares me since I’m employed by a company conducting employee surveys as a core of our business, but I’m more scared on behalf of the employees of these companies who aren’t doing anything to listen to what their employees are thinking, feeling, and fearing.
One reason companies are cutting surveys? To save money. Others cut surveys because they don’t want to know what employees are thinking, in some cases because they may not be able to deal with or respond to some of the issues. The authors state this lack of feedback could hurt morale and productivity. Max Stier, President of the Partnership for Public service, says, “You are better off knowing a problem than not knowing it. In bad times you actually want to engage your employees even more.”

Here at CRS, where we focus on getting the real scoop from current and ex-employees, we couldn’t agree more! Here are ways of getting around the objections when presenting survey options to senior leadership.
Not all surveys have to be expensive. Companies can design and implement their own surveys through some of the inexpensive survey options available online. Outsourcing is a smarter choice for many companies who want to guarantee anonymity, who don’t have the time/resources to sift through the data, or who want to leave data collection up to the experts. Even with third-party vendors there are definitely ways to implement a high-quality survey at a relatively low cost.
  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of online surveys vs. telephone surveys.
  2. Consider interviewing just those employees in the position or tenure category about which you are most concerned.
  3. Advertise the survey to everyone but don’t chase down those who don’t choose to participate.
  4. Target your questions so you’re only asking about that which you really want to gather feedback (and about which you are willing to make a change as a result). The fewer the questions, the less the survey should cost.
Work with your vendor to get exactly what you want, at a price you can afford. It can be done!
Regardless of what the cost for a survey might be, consider the cost of not conducting one. If companies aren’t taking the time to listen to what employees have to say, those employees will be much less likely to stick around when the economy picks up and other jobs become available. Also, they may have great recommendations to help reduce operating costs – but won’t share them if they’re not given the chance to do so.
Don’t want to know
If your company used to do surveys and have stopped them, what message does that send to employees? They may feel as if the company doesn’t care whether they stay or go, so when a recruiter from a competitor calls, they’ll be more likely to listen to what that recruiter has to say.
If you’ve never surveyed your employees, this is a great time to show them how much you care about what they’re going through. Use surveys to send messages to your employees and to highlight areas of focus. For example, consider the impact of questions such as, “Benefit costs increased another 13% in 2008, but ABC Company absorbed 8%. We are considering the following options to reduce the costs incurred by the company and our employees. Which of these would most interest you?”
Show you want to partner with your employees, you’re all in it together, and that you care what they’re going through. Or bury your head in the sand and don’t ask for their opinions, but don’t be surprised when they leave the company to go elsewhere.
Can’t change anything anyway
When you initiate a survey, let employees know how you’ll use the information or what they can expect. “At the conclusion of our survey, we’ll let you know the results and discuss what to do with them…”
A statistic shared in the article demonstrates the importance of acting on the results of a survey. Of the companies that acted on survey results, 84% of the employees felt changes made were positive. So imagine the positive traction you could get even just from reacting to a few of the recommendations and results appearing as strong trends.
And why not ask employees what they think should change – and then ask them how? Perhaps you ask, “What recommendations do you have that would cost less than $XXX and have a big impact on Y?” Demonstrate to employees that you view them as partners rather than adversaries who just want to spend more money. And if there’s something you can’t or won’t change, don’t ask about it. Avoid questions about salary/compensation but focus more on controllables like teamwork, communication, and development, which are often key opportunity areas for clients, and fortunately, also areas that can be impacted positively without a lot of additional cost. And then ask for their recommendations. There’s a reason you hired each of the professionals working for you. Why not put their talent and input to good use?
Getting issues out on the table allows for more frank discussions and inclusion of people at all levels. Let employees know what challenges you’re facing and ask what their thoughts and feelings are; then move into the solutions. Listening to and engaging employees now will make them more likely to listen to you and stay engaged in the months and years to come. Don’t be fearful of conducting surveys and reviewing the results; instead, embrace the many positive outcomes of taking the time to listen to employees’ thoughts, feelings, fears, and most importantly, their creative suggestions.

Random Acts of Kindness

I recently facilitated a new CRS course called Making Cents of your P&L to help various levels of restaurant operators (sessions included multi-unit managers, general managers, service managers, bar managers, kitchen managers, and corporate trainers) gain a better understanding of how to zero in and focus on impacting different aspects of the P&L.  We felt confident we had valuable information, tools, and tips to share with the group to really drive sales up and costs down – both ultimately impacting the bottom line in a positive manner.  Attendees confirmed we accomplished our goal with the positive feedback they shared at the conclusion of the sessions.

Aside from the content and tools we shared, the groups did a great job sharing ideas amongst themselves.  Out of all the suggestions discussed, I feel compelled to share the following one as it is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time.

Melanie McSparron from Corner Bakery Cafe told us about the organization’s random acts of kindness.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear “random acts of kindness” I get a warm and fuzzy feeling and after I heard about the program from Melanie, I can only imagine the way the recipients feel.

See, what Corner Bakery Cafés do is on a random day, in a random week, each restaurant chooses their lucky recipients of a random act.  Their act may show up in a surprise delivery to the local fire house to say thank you for keeping the community safe, or delivery of coffee to moms dropping off their children at a daycare center.  There were many more examples shared, but I challenge everyone to think of their own random acts to brighten another’s day.

The beauty of this idea is you never know where their random acts of kindness will show up.  People in the communities where they operate wonder where it will be.  People in the communities talk about when it happens and what a nice surprise it was.  Locals remember Corner Bakery Café when it comes time to decide where to go eat.  Why?  Because they’ve made a difference in the lives of so many people by simply being kind.

Great job and kudos to Melanie and the entire team at Corner Bakery Café!  Keep up the good work!  I’m thinking about moving closer to one of your restaurants so I can experience one of your tremendous random acts of kindness!  Then again, maybe as the recipient of this great idea, I already have.

Morreen Rukin Bayles

Leading During Turbulence

I was recently fortunate enough to attend the Greater Valley Forge Human Resource Association’s seminar entitled Leading During Turbulence.  After discussing how the country got into its current financial state, the facilitator, Tricia Steege, talked about the implications for organizations.  There weren’t a lot of surprises on the list: reduced cash, budgeting and re-budgeting (in some cases weekly), short-term/reactionary thinking, new technologies, fewer people to do more work, non-traditional forms of competition, cutting corners/fraud, and really stringent hiring.  We also discussed how leaders have more responsibilities than ever: they need to make tough decisions, tend to survivors, and deal with decreased engagement, fear, increased demands, and reprioritization of goals.

For the second portion of the session, we shared our own experiences with extraordinary leaders who portrayed greatness in difficult times.  As a group, we decided extraordinary leaders typically possess some combination of the following: optimism, good communication skills, teamwork, determination, fun, openness to opposing viewpoints, willingness to roll sleeves up, passion, heartfelt relationships, and follow-through.  Leaders have to be credible and humble, inspiring with compelling visions, realistic yet optimistic, and involved.

The central theme of communication ran throughout the day’s discussions.  The anecdotes people shared (both positive and negative) mirrored what we’ve heard through the thousands of exit interviews we’ve conducted over the last several years.  Here are a few pointers to help leaders remember how to maintain open and positive communication even when things are tough:

1.  Give team members a hearty handshake and a thank you.  When possible, send a heartfelt note.  This little effort goes a long way, and is often even more impactful than rewards that cost a lot more.

2.  Require multi-unit managers and executives to find the good happening within each restaurant.  How powerful for a manager to hear their boss or an executive say, “I understand your breakfast sales are up four weeks consecutively.  Great job!”

3.  Conduct “Caught you doing something GREAT” visits wherein multi-unit managers focus only on the positive.  Share the positive findings across the company.  What an inexpensive way to boost morale!

4.  Stay optimistic, but most importantly, be honest.  We’ve heard of executives saying there won’t be any layoffs, and only days or weeks later, people are cleaning out their drawers.  This deteriorates the trust level within the organization for those employees that remain.

5.  Regardless of what you have to cut, keep the personal touches, like the birthday card from the CEO, or the anniversary recognition for a long-term employee.

6.  Create informal learning opportunities.  Development is extremely important to managers and by identifying subject matter experts within your own organization, you can provide supplemental development for free.

These are challenging times for leaders and their teams alike.  However, leaders bear a great amount of responsibility in keeping their teams confident and engaged.  It’s important not to overlook how little things can add up to have a great big impact.

Christin Myers

What message are guests getting?

You might have heard about the “Making Cents of Your P&L” course Morreen is presenting next month.  A few of us on the CRS team have been out visiting local independent and chain restaurants, casual-themed to fine dining, handing out flyers and gauging interest.  It is fascinating to see how the experiences vary from one restaurant to the next.  I am sad to say that frequently, the experience is poor.

Each time I walk in, I say hello and ask to speak with a manager.  Occasionally, the response I get is a quick and friendly, “Sure, I’ll go get him”, sometimes followed by, “Who may I say is here to see him?” which seems like a smart thing to ask.  In those cases, I give them my card and often the manager is out quickly and talks with me kindly.  If I have to wait a while, a few hosts have been kind enough to offer me a seat in the waiting area, and one even offered me a drink.  I’ve received a particularly warm welcome at Legal Sea Foods, California Pizza Kitchen, and Mesa Fresh Mexican Grill.  Thank you!

More often, the host/ess I speak with appears to be completely annoyed I’ve pulled him/her away from, well, leaning on the host stand.  Mind you, we’re stopping in during the middle of the week between lunch and dinner.  Not a lot of busy tables or other guests waiting to be helped at 2:30 on a Wednesday.  I’ve been in about 60 restaurants over the last few days, and in at least 35 or 40 the response has been complete disinterest.  It goes something like this: I ask for the manager, and then get a big sigh, sometimes followed by an eye roll, and then they slump to the back to find the manager or they pick up the phone and say something like, “Chris, some lady is here to see you.”  No kidding.  I’ve heard that exact phrase at least 5 times.  Then they just kind of look at me or chat with their co-workers until the manager comes out.

Yes, I’m there to present a training seminar.  But they don’t know that, and anyone who knows me knows I’m not exactly a hard-core salesperson.  For all they know, I could be a reporter, an inspector, a secret shopper, someone wanting to book the banquet room for 30 people or more, or the person interviewing for the open manager position.  I could even be a recruiter from somewhere they would love to work (not that I’d ever offer a position to someone who treated me so rudely).  And regardless of which of these categories, I’m definitely a potential guest and someone who will talk to other potential guests.  Knowing these options, why would you treat someone that way?  Here are my thoughts:

1. They don’t care.  Maybe they’ve been trained on how to greet guests but are so disengaged they don’t care to take the effort to follow the procedure.  Or maybe they think they are going to be laid off due to declining sales so why make the effort?  I’m not making them any money that very moment, so what do they care how I’m treated?  And perhaps that’s not the way they feel, but it’s certainly what they’re projecting with their behavior.

2.  They haven’t been trained.  There’s no protocol for how to respond when someone asks to see a manager, so it just depends on the personality of the person you encounter at the front.  I have a feeling if I went back to some of these restaurants on a different day, I might have had a great experience.  Unfortunately, most guests won’t try twice.

3.  They’ve seen how their managers treat guests and they follow in their footsteps.  After waiting at one restaurant for about 10 minutes (during which the hostesses talked about what time they would be leaving that day), the GM came out and dismissed me almost before I started talking.  His message was, “We get all this from corporate, and I’ve been doing it a long time.”  Maybe so, but his restaurant was empty, while the competitor across the parking lot had a decent crowd.  And as another GM told Nena, “I’m never going to say I know it all; I’m open to new information.”

4.  They don’t recognize the impact of treating every visitor to their restaurant as though they were a guest.  I’m going to guess a “win every guest, every time” philosophy was not included in their training materials and therefore they don’t understand the long-term positive (or negative) consequences of guest treatment today.

As a result of my experiences, I recommend that restaurants focus on the following:

1.  In a market where there are more candidates available than positions, be really selective about the people being hired.  Screen for the most important personality traits, and if an employee falls short of expectations, provide coaching, and if improvements aren’t sufficient, find a replacement.

2.  Train front desk personnel on how to greet guests who aren’t there to dine.  Should they ask for a business card?  Should they offer a seat in the waiting area and say it will be a few minutes?  Should they get the manager right away, regardless of who it is?  Or should they vary their response depending on the nature of the visit?

3.  Ensure managers are modeling the behavior they expect from their employees.  Provide examples during training of how actions speak louder than words, and how employee engagement suffers in times of uncertainty.

4.  Incorporate training on how to take a bigger view of the restaurant and guest service.  Provide examples of how an individual experience can have long-term positive or negative repercussions (through repeat visits, word of mouth, bad publicity, etc.).

When restaurants improve the initial impressions they give to visitors and guests, they are much more likely to have repeat business.  I took my restaurant visits as a time to decide where I’ll be taking my mother and mother-in-law for a Mother’s Day celebration, and not surprisingly, we’ll be dining at one of the locations where the hostess seemed happy to see me.  It may be easier to get a seat at one of the other locations, but I’d prefer the positive atmosphere.

Christin Myers