No place for control freaks
25 October, 2011
by Peter Martin
You spend thousands, if not millions, on creating your brand or new concept. You fret over every last detail of the design, the menu, the marketing – its positioning and personality. Then you have no option but to hand it over into the care of others – your staff and your customers, says Peter Martin.
You spend thousands, if not millions, on creating your brand or new concept. You fret over every last detail of the design, the menu, the marketing – its positioning and personality. Then you have no option but to hand it over into the care of others – your staff and your customers.
You can guide, you can encourage, you might even try barking orders, but ultimately the fate of all your hard work relies on the enthusiasm (or indifference) of others. You have no alternative but to trust them – and hope they share your passion.
That’s the stark reality of this business. It’s all about “other people”.
Arguably, the most vital of these two groups is not your customers, but your own team. They are the front-line. Look after them and they will look then look after the paying public. The simple truth is that your reputation, not to say your prosperity, rests with the people you employ – particularly those out in your restaurants, pubs and cafes.
The good news is that this is a message that businesses increasingly get, witnessed by the full-house of 300 largely line-mangers who paid to be at Jim Sullivan’s Fundamentals Masterclass in London in September. It was the biggest and most successful workshop we have yet staged in the UK by the US restaurant guru.
The core messages remain: hire tough, manage easy; groom them or broom them; invest time in pre-shift meetings. Jim’s thrust is about hiring the right people first, motivating them, not tolerating under-performers (as they bring the rest down), helping them make the right decisions, doing simple things, like running pre-shift briefings to set daily targets.
Everyone understands it. No matter how good the food, the drink, the décor or the promotions in getting custom- ers through the door, their experience (and whether they come back) is more likely than not down to how they are greeted and treated.
But putting priority on this area is now even more important – and it is not just because of ever increasing competition, but just as much the nature of today’s consumers. It’s not only your staff that “own” your brand, so do your customers. Well they increasingly think they do.
The advent of social media has changed everything. As Douglas Rushkoff, American media expert and author of Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, said at the recent European Foodservice Summit: “People want to be a part of what’s going on.”
The Internet is doing the opposite of what media has done before, he says. Consumers are taking control, particularly of brands, getting involved online, and telling others what they think. Owners can no longer create an elaborate myth, an image that your advertising and PR agencies can control and spin. Today it’s all about reality, says Rushkoff.
The message for business is that you have to be involved with your public not only when they are with you but when they are not as well - making your team, the people that you rely on and need to trust, even more important, in delivering the service, the experience, interacting with consumers and being cheer leaders round the clock.
“Social media is allowing people into your company,” says Rushkoff. “Digital age businesses go on without you.” Business just got harder.