From the front line: The team comes first

From the front line: The team comes first

A fellow café owner once remarked to me, ‘I spend my whole working week dealing with problems! Problems, problems, problems!’

It is one of the joys of being self-employed that one has the ability to sort out problems that really make a difference to ones personal, family and financial life. But it is important to acknowledge that the key people who help us resolve these problems are our employees.

When trying to get their staff to provide excellent customer service, some hospitality business owners repeat the mantra ‘the customer comes first’. Yet many are dismayed when, the more they repeat it, the less their staff seem to implement it!

What I have learned over the years, working with a wide range of employees both front of house and in the kitchen, is that to be an effective leader (and this goes for your managers too), you must first be a good servant. Lead by example. Walk the talk. By treating your team members the way you want them to treat your guests, you will motivate them to provide excellent service.

We human beings crave recognition, respect, courtesy, kindness, dignity and appreciation. How many loyal guests would you have now in your business if this was how they were treated each and every time they visited your establishment? Now, be honest, how much respect, appreciation and recognition do you give to your staff? Do you praise them for a job well done? If you discover them doing something wrong, do you pull them aside privately? Or do you confront them in front of others? How often do you remind them of their importance to your business? To you personally? Does your team feel dignified in their jobs, or do are they just going through the motions for the paycheque?

As an owner, you have a lot of influence over the working environment in your business. As a starting point, here are some simple tips for making your staff feel appreciated and respected:

  • Smile – Smiles are infectious. Wipe that frown off your face and greet your team with a smile. You’ll get one back!
  • Listen, listen, listen – Ask your team frequently how you can help them to do their jobs better. Listen carefully to their responses, take notes, implement what you can. Explain what you can’t.
  • Use their name – There is no sweeter sound than hearing your own name. You feel it. Your team feels it. Your guests feel it.
  • Respect time – You don’t like your guests being kept waiting, you don’t like waiting, so make it a priority to serve your employees by not keeping them waiting for your help, advice and tools they need for the job.
  • Pay attention – Don’t allow interruptions or distractions to take your eyes or attention away from team members you are talking with. Most importantly, ban phones and mobile devices from the workplace during shift.
  • Say hello, goodbye, please and thank you – It’s good manners and ensures everyone feels valued.
  • Sorry is not the hardest word – When you make a mistake with an employee, admit it, say sorry and put it right. Humility equals respect and sincerity.
  • Keep it private – Managing employees often means you have to have tough chats and make difficult decisions. When it is necessary to discipline a team member, make sure you do it in private. This makes it clear to your entire team that above all we treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Build your team culture around these principles. Make them feel valued and important and they will treat your valued and important guest the same way.