It’s a Leadership Issue
By Mario Ponce

Photo Courtesy of Fairmont Turnberry Isle

How do we get it right? Food is critical, ambiance is paramount, and service can be a deal breaker; but attitude makes the difference. The ‘right attitude’ is embedded in each of these components. The ‘right attitude’ rule has existed as long as restaurants have. Yet, it is often the part that too many operators fail. What is certain is that attitude is all about the people; in particular, those that you hire, and eventually serve.

You’ve heard it time after time; hire people with the ‘right attitude.’ How do you get that in the course of an interview? You don’t. People don’t reveal themselves in the course of a twenty-minute interview. Thus, the importance of reference checking is paramount. However, if you’re like most restaurant operators you don’t have the resources or time to conduct thorough reference checks. So, you’ll base your decision on the way the candidate answers various questions, experience, appearance, etc. Once you make the hire the candidate’s abilities, or lack of, begin to unveil. While you can teach technique, methods and tactics on how to fill expectations, it’s the attitude of the candidate that will affect the guest experience.

Just yesterday I had brunch at a popular restaurant (in Chicago). The server approached the table and asked if he could start us off with a glass of wine or cocktail. We opted for iced tea. As the server walked away he rolled his eyes as to say, “Oh Brother, cheap people; low check amount.” While he may not have meant that at all, his posture clearly conveyed a disrespectful attitude. Frankly, I wanted to take him in the back and share a piece of my mind. It really got to me, as I believe it would to most people.

So how do we, as operators, contribute to the adjustment of a person’s attitude?

– Be the role model; enter the business with the right attitude
o If you can’t do that, you’re likely in the wrong business
– Avoid confusion
o Ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them
– Be organized; disorganization on your part shouldn’t amount to an emergency for everyone else
– Have an effective “pre-shift” meeting
o Know what you’re going to cover
o Make the information relevant/useful
– Don’t gossip
o Be proactive; stop the gossip before it spreads
– Be there and listen
o Be available; and when the employee is talking – LISTEN; really listen
 Let them know that you’re really there for them
– Reward good behavior
o You don’t to give anything away; a simple “thank you” goes a long way
– Have fun
o We belong to one of the few business’ where we are privileged to enjoy people, and they can enjoy
us back

The ‘right attitude’ – and the leadership required to achieve it – isn’t restricted to the front-of-the-house staff. The way you treat your back-of-the-house staff can affect how dishes are washed and the food is prepped and served.

We all recognize the importance of the ‘right attitude’ and know that the beauty of achieving has no “cash” cost to it. Notice that none of the ideas above cost anything.

Care enough to make a difference, and enjoy the results.