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You are working hard to build your restaurant's team, and maybe things just don’t seem right. The team just doesn't gel together, there are some conflicts, and turnover is sky high. You read the blog posts and the books, and you feel like you are doing and saying the right things.
So what's happening? What's going wrong?
Well, I can think of at least 5 things.
The Prelude to the Problem: How to Fix a Broken Restaurant Team
Let's start off with a bit of hard truth - the best intentions are nothing without the right execution, no matter how good they may be. Knowing what to do is very different than doing what you know, especially if you are not aware of some of the problems in your restaurant that could be sabotaging your team building efforts.
Remember this:“Awareness precedes choice and choice precedes change.”
You have to be aware of the real problem before you can address it. This involves looking into the abyss of yourself as the leader of your restaurant to figure that problem out. After all, the truth will set you free...after it will first piss you off.
The 5 Causes of a Poor Restaurant Team
Restaurant team building is complex. It involves bringing a group of people with different dynamics and backgrounds together for the mutual benefit of your business.
Here are some of the problems that restaurant owners face when trying to make their restaurant team work.
1) Mixed Messages
Communication errors account for most restaurant issues, either in the form of miscommunication or through a lack of communication. Mixed messages are a covert form of sabotage that can lead to mass hysteria and inconsistency in your restaurant..
Let’s use an example of a restaurant with two owners. Say the owner of a restaurant wants beer to be poured for the guest at the table. The other owner does not like that, so they tell some of the team that it’s optional. The result? When you send out mixed messages, you get mixed standards.
That brings inconsistency, which welcomes mediocrity.
Once mediocrity sets up residence in your restaurant, you will need an eviction order to get it out!
Mixed messages also contribute to team turnover. The last thing your team wants to be is bounced back and forth about what the standards are. People want to work for professionals, and not having a clear and consistent message just tells them that you don’t have your act together.
2) No Plan
If you were dropped off in the wilderness, how would you get back to civilization? You would pull out your map and compass and plot a course to get back to town. Your map and course help your formulate a plan. Without them, you’d just wander around aimlessly until they send out a search and rescue team to come find you (if a wild animal does not eat you).
Your market can be just like being dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Without a solid plan (your map) and consistent action making adjustments (your compass), you’ll just wander day-to-day hoping that your business stays in the black. Once again, this does not instill confidence in the leader of the team. Even the Bible mentioned that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Moral of the story: You need a plan and you need to share that plan with your team.
Get them excited about your vision and how you will get there with their assistance. Most people like to feel a part of something bigger than themselves.
3) Hidden Agendas
While we are social creatures, humans also tend to be focused on self-preservation. Everyone has a hidden agenda - some bigger than others. This is not to imply that your team is evil, it’s just that survival is hard-wired into our DNA.
Look how we form cliques in the restaurant industry:
- FOH versus BOH.
- Day team versus the night crew.
- Your restaurant versus the one across the street.
One huge human flaw is that we need an adversary to fight or form a team against.
Unfortunately, teams don’t work that well when they have hidden agendas.
This could be internal conflict in yourself or maybe within a team member, and can be derived from a lack of transparency and honesty. Honesty and transparency builds teams. Without those two elements, your team will never develop trust, and that is the foundation of all great teams. You don’t have to like all of the people on your team. However, you must respect them and trust them that they will do their job to the best they can.
4) No Defined Roles
It's shocking to discover that a lot of restaurant staff do not clearly know what their job is. Even worse, they think their job is one thing when it's actually quite different. Talk about having an identity crisis!
If you have not sat down with people on your team to have a clear discussion about expectations and exactly what their job is as you see it, then you are missing the key to building a winning team.
On military Special Operation Teams, everyone knows precisely what the role of everyone on the team is and who will take care of what as it occurs. They have to know. The cost is too great not to be prepared and to practice their roles.
While people might not have life and death facing them like Special Operations Teams do, there still is a heavy cost to pay for restaurants that do not build an effective team…they close.
Jobs lost, dreams crushed, and lives changed for the worse.
5) Team Chemistry
Understanding behavioral dynamics is key to a well-running restaurant team. There are personalities that work well together and some that are like oil and water. Knowing how to assemble a team that can work together is like creating a delicate recipe - you need the right balance of ingredients to make it work.
There are four basic behavioral traits that everyone has, with one usually being your primary driver. Understanding these traits and which of your restaurant's employees posses them will open the door to better team development when you understand how people are wired.
Dominance: The Take Charge Trait
These people are the stand-out-of-my way people. They are rooted in the present and they love to make things happen. Their biggest strength is that they get results. They can be rough around the edges and are not much into small talk. Given too much power without proper guidance, they can become tyrants. When you need a project to get done, you get a high-dominance person to lead the charge.
Extroverts: The People Trait
These are the big-picture thinkers. They love people and actually get energy from being around them. They can be extremely creative and they like to talk about their ideas. These people are natural “sales people”. They make other feel very comfortable and are concerned about personal appearance. They are sometimes so caught up in the dream that following through with a task can be difficult. If you need a host for the party, you get a high extrovert.
Pace: The Patience Trait
These people are the team protectors. They like harmony and a peaceful work environment. “Why can’t we all get along?” is their mantra, and so they hold the team together like social glue. They want harmony so badly that they will shut down when confronted and it’ll be a challenge to get them to open back up. If you need someone to bring people together for a common goal, you get someone who is high pace.
Conformity: The Systems Trait
These people love facts, data, and systems. Nothing makes these people happy like rules and spreadsheets! Now they can tend to be more analytical and not as people-friendly as extroverts and pace traits. They will ask for more information or statistics until they feel they have enough information, which can slow down the team as they wait until they get what they need. If you need someone with attention to detail and who loves numbers for a task like inventory tracking, get a person with high conformity.
Perfecting Your Restaurant Team
As you can see, building a great team is very much a balancing act. Too much of one trait and not enough of another and your team will be out of sync. In the end, teams are about people, and having the right people on your team is the best thing you can do to pull together a winning team that will work together to help you build the restaurant you have envisioned.