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By: Dr. John T. Self

Consistent Management

Have you ever heard through the grapevine that some of your employees call in to see who is managing on their shift? Or maybe you've been standing near one of the hostesses or bartenders when a call comes in, and it is obvious that someone is asking who the manager will be. Believe it or not, this means something significant. It could be that they simply want to know if their favorite manager is working. But chances are they want to know whether they can get away with things or not.

Your employees are sending signals that your management is inconsistent. At least one of your managers is either tougher or easier than the other managers.

Should you do anything about it? The answer is a definite yes. Your managers don't have to be jerks to be good, but they must be demanding. Some managers may not be well-liked, but can make the place hum like a well-oiled machine. Others may be "friendlier" with the employees, but run a bumpier shift: the kitchen slows down, tables don't get bussed immediately, and the bathrooms stay littered.

The bottom line is that all managers need to have the same standards. When each manager is setting their own standards during their own shift, it makes the employees ask a lot of very embarrassing questions, like, "What standards are really important? Do they even know what standards they want? Does the general manager know what is really going on? Who is really in charge?"

"Shifting standards" also make the more demanding managers come across as jerks compared to the lax managers. That is the one thing that has destroyed many potentially great assistant managers. Few assistant managers can keep up their standards when they are the only one. There are too many hassles to keep fighting the good fight, so they slowly start relaxing their standards, until they have sunk to the lowest. How long can someone put up with employees who ask them why they are the only one who inspects this or makes them do that? It is just not worth it.

To get your managers on the same page, you need to take your checklist and go around with the managers to establish what your standards are for each point. Chances are you'll be surprised at how much ambiguity, and how many different interpretations there are to many of your points. Make notes and revise the checklists immediately; they probably haven't been changed in quite a while.

One very important point to make to your managers is that consistent standards are good for their own development. The general manager must trust the assistant managers to keep the same standards as the general manager. It will be the way they will want their restaurants to run when they are general managers.

With each procedure, discuss each point. Make decisions. Decide what each standard is for each point. Get agreement for each point. Remember, you're making a strong case for what your personal standards are. Your standards will stay with your assistants throughout their entire careers.

Once you've established your standards, you must stick to them. Follow up. Praise the assistant managers who do a good job and reprimand those that do not. And make sure that if your assistants notice you not following your standards, that they let you know.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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