In your specific region, you may have a very difficult time finding quality employees, and many of my clients report that this has again become one of their biggest challenges. If you are able to find enthusiastic and experienced help, count your blessings! In either case, taking care of those that work for you is often time reciprocated.
Not Being Negative
First, I will stress that I’m not being cynical, although you as a business owner know that this is an easy place to go. The fact is, however, that most people have their own best interests at heart. Remember what Fredo said when Michael asked why Fredo had betrayed him:
“Because there was something in it for me, Mike!”
Why Do We Work?
The majority of employees work to make money so that they can pay their bills and buy material things, and the more money they can make the better they feel about their jobs. Working can be provide the means to self-preservation and affect our of quality of life.
A musician friend of mine started a band and kept it going for almost 10 years. As a serial entrepreneur, my friend booked the gigs, did the promo work, drove the van, paid for gas, and carried a lot of the equipment. As the band leader, he had to collect the money and divide it among band members. The music business has the distinction of being even tougher than the food business, and while some gigs paid OK, some did not. My friend would often divide the money among the other members before he would take a smaller share for himself. He never told anyone about this since his main goal was to keep the other musicians happy so that they would show up to all the gigs.
Occasionally, a good-paying job appeared and my friend would attempt to take a little extra for himself to make up for many times he made little or no money; he still paid the band members very well, but sometimes he could pocket an extra $100. Somehow, after a very good gig, one of the musicians found out that my friend had taken extra money for himself, and my friend never heard the end of it. No one remembered the times that my friend had paid for car repairs, bought meals, paid for equipment repair, or, more importantly, took less money on a nightly basis. They only thought that he was now cheating them out of their fair share.
You all have average days. For some it may be 5 – 15 orders, for others it may be 35; regardless, your day will have a certain rhythm. If your 15 order load jumps to 25, however, everyone is going to have hustle to get the food out. Maybe you’ll have a planning meeting the day before so everyone knows what they are going to have to do to get the job done but the end of the day, the staff undoubtedly will have to work harder, but you will be the beneficiary. And everyone knows it.
How Was Your Day, Honey?
“Well, I got to work at the usual time, had to take a short break because we were really busy, worked twice as hard, am very tired, and guess what, I didn’t make any more money—but my boss looked really happy.”
If this happens on a regular basis, your employees may react in a variety of ways:
1) They may complain to each other that working conditions have deteriorated.
2) They may actually seek other employment.
3) They may find other ways to compensate themselves.
It’s number three that should concern you. Complaining at the workplace happens regularly, and finding another job can be a pain, but discovering ways to self-compensate, can be surprisingly easy for your employees and significantly costly for you. So, let’s not waste time with that. Instead, let’s figure out how to head off these issues.
1) If you’re going to have a highly profitable day, share the wealth. I’ve mentioned before that on super-busy days I walked around the kitchen and handed out $20 bills.
2) Reviews with each of your employees. Don’t just assume that everyone is happy; regular face-to-face meetings may be a revelation to you.
3) Communicate, communicate and communicate. Let everyone know with plenty of notice what the future schedule looks like as soon as you can. That way, everyone will be better prepared to work through a busy period.
4) If you must round up staff for last-minute orders, don’t just say, “Aracelli, you need to be at work at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow.” When this situation occurred and I had to call in help early I would say, “Aracelli, really sorry to bother you after work. Two more orders just came in and I have to ask you to come in at 6 to get them out.” Aracelli never disappointed me and always came in when asked.
5) Happily pay overtime. Don’t spend time scheming to manipulate employee classifications from non-exempt to exempt. You should make your money from your customers – not your employees.
A client of mine recently sold his catering business and became a chef at a major university. He was successful there, but ultimately unhappy, especially with the way management treated employees. One day he met with the V.P of Foodservice and asked, “What do you think are the two main daily goals of each food service employee?
The V.P. answered, “Serve great food and take care of the customers?”
My friend said, “No, most people here want to ‘make it to their next break and find a way to stay out of trouble.’”
The V.P was taken aback and thought about that response for a long time.
Don’t be out of touch with your staff. Without satisfied employees, you simply will not be able to run your business.