Posts Tagged ‘Top Chef’

Beyond Making Rules: Engage Employees and Find Real Solutions

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

tom_colicchio on employee screening blogTom Colicchio is a celebrity chef and host of TV’s popular reality show, Top Chef. He’s also a successful, multiple restaurant owner. Tom is not what you’d call Mr. Nice Guy on Top Chef; he’s tough, but fair. We imagine he’s like that in his restaurants, too.

And as in all businesses large and small, the economy has given restaurant owners even more challenges. Maintaining high quality in product and service levels is always difficult, but when people are not spending as much on eating out, restaurants have to find ways to control and cut costs wherever they can.

Tom offered some advice in a recent interview that applies to every business owner: instead of issuing new rules and orders to your employees, engage them in finding real solutions. Tom finds employees are more willing to help and work with you when the economy is down—after all, they’re afraid of losing their jobs, too.

An example: in one of his restaurants, the monthly bill for replacing china and glassware is typically $3,000. Wow! That sounds like a lot of wasted pottery, glass, and money!

Instead of just telling his staff to be more careful, Tom asked the question: Why are we breaking so many dishes and glasses?  It turned out the dishwashing area (the dishpit) was stainless steel—not the most forgiving material for hurried bussers and dishwashers. So they created a new system, padding the area with rubber. The result? Dishes can now hit the floor or the counter without breaking. A simple, lasting solution to a very expensive problem.

Every business owner has felt frustrated at the seemingly endless ways money gets sucked out of their bank account. And most employees have felt the wrath of their boss issuing loud orders to stop wasting supplies, making mistakes, and filling garbage cans instead of the cash register.

There is a better way. If you need to cut expenses, don’t just issue orders and institute new rules; engage your staff to help find solutions that will prevent the problem in the first place.  It’s not enough to say “We have a problem.” Ask “Why do we have this problem?” And ask it of everyone involved in the process you want to fix.

As Tom Colicchio put it, “(If) you talk to a dishwasher, they’ll tell you why things are breaking.”

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