Forget Rules, Develop a Code!

Rules, rules, and more rules. Do this. Don’t do that. Does it seem like you spend most of your day like a babysitter at work telling the team more of what not to do? Welcome to management by numbers.

You’ve probably seen that list of rules in your restaurant, and each one has a number next to it.

Rule number one: be here 15 ministers before your shift.

Rule number two: be dressed and ready for your shift.

And so on down the list, they go — each one just a declaration of the proper etiquette we want from the team. No explanation, just the expectation. Well, a very vague explanation and expectation.

Rules tell people the minimum standard for what you tolerate. They lack empathy and motivation. Getting people to follow the rules is a lot like herding cats, and if you have been in leadership for any time (or read my previous post), you know that is one tough job. Motivating other with rules doesn’t work. Sure, a few will comply out of fear. Which leads us to talk about a classic scenario most restaurant and bars face...

The Compliance - Commitment Conundrum

When you manage by fear and intimidation, you get compliance. In the hierarchy of restaurant needs, compliance is just above rules, and both are near the bottom. Here’s the problem with compliance; they do the minimum to get by. When this mindset has infested your culture, you have allowed mediocrity to move in. Believe me when I say that once mediocrity has made your restaurant home, it’s going to be very hard to get it evicted!

On the other end of the spectrum is commitment. When you are committed, how far will you go to get it done? All the way! You don’t let setbacks or hurdles stop you. They may slow you down; however they don’t stop you from getting the outcome you set your sights on. When you are committed, you are connected to your reason why you want it.

The big difference (and game changer) is when you understand what drives each one within your team. When people are acting in compliance, they do it for your reasons. When they act in commitment, they do it for their reasons. Which one has an impact on the culture in your restaurant? If you said compliance, I’ll give you a second to rethink that.

Now, some like to use fear and intimidation to rule their restaurant. Those people don’t last long in this business with today’s workforce. Respect needs to be a core value if you want to keep your turnover to a manageable level. What’s a manageable turnover level? You should be aiming for under 25%. Anything higher than that, and you need to take a hard look at your culture.

People Buy Emotions

That list of rules you have is not much more than the same monotone crap that every other restaurant has in place. Things have changed in the workplace, and we must change with them. Adaptation is the superpower of the human race. It has served our species well since we no longer live in a cave and grunt at each other around a primitive fire (okay, some people still grunt). The evolution of humans came from our ability to communicate. To move people with communication, we must tap into emotions.

Look back on all the great motivational speeches of our time, and they all play hard into emotions. Martin Luther King Jr said, “I have a dream.” He didn’t say, “I have a good idea.” John F Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?” He did not say, “Stop whining and be part of the solution.” Properly applied emotions move people to take action. They inspire people to take a stand. They can get your team actually to act like a team!

We The Restaurant

For years I have employed a simple, yet powerful code of conduct in any restaurant I owned, managed or coached. The concept came from when I was a member of the USAF Pararescue Teams. Upon graduation from this elite special operations school, we accepted out coveted maroon berets, and we swore an oath. That oath still runs through my head and is a part of my DNA. When you live by a code, you have only one objective, and that is to live it!

The Samurai warriors had the Bushido code. Seven core tenants, they swore to live by or die. Yes, a code of conduct can be bonded into our very core of who we are. Never underestimate the power of identity.

Here is the code that I have used for the past 25 years. Feel free to use as much of it as you like or use it to inspire you to create your own.

The Code

  • Respect is everything! Respect the product, the equipment, your teammates, and most importantly, …yourself.
  • We are a team! First, last and till the end! Never compromise the team by putting your agenda before the team. We succeed as a team, and we fail as a team. No finger pointing! Accept responsibility for your actions while a member of the team.
  • The “Golden Days” of big staffs is gone….the new word is “productivity,” which is producing more with less. It’s a fact of business that we must accept.
  • Pursue excellence every day, all day. Ask questions, keep notes, read all you can, explore & learn.
  • Never compromise on quality or the standards. If you have to ask yourself a question of whether you should or not….then, you have already answered the question. Hold yourself to higher standards.
  • Clean as you go is how we operate. Keep your station clean and organized at all times; it reflects your state of mind. Everyone is expected to maintain clean & organized work areas.
  • Aim high, think big, and do whatever it takes to exceed expectations. Special requests for guests are never a problem if we can… we will.
  • Good enough never is. There is no room for mediocrity. Surpass what was accomplished yesterday.
  • Our guests pay their hard earned money (just like you do) for a dining experience that goes beyond all expectations. To give them anything less than our best work is a real insult.
  • We don’t just serve food and beverage….we create memories that people hold onto for a lifetime.
  • Push each other beyond perceived limits. Team members help each other improve their skills (when it’s slow work other stations or tap into different team members experience). When you think you know it all, that’s it...game over.
  • Talk daily about what we do right and what we didn’t. Our strength is in our ability to communicate with each other without fear. Be clear, be concise, and be respectful.
  • Take action. If you see something is wrong, correct it then. You always have the power to make things right at that moment. Proper action beats good intentions.
  • If you want better results….ask yourself better questions. Focus on questions that promote personal responsibility. We don’t whine or complain about situations, and we discuss only solutions.
  • Remember that every task, every job is of equal importance: every person on this team contributes. Every little detail adds to our “magic.” We share an attitude of gratitude for each member of our team, our guests, and our community.
  • It is our honor to provide the gift of hospitality to the world. We believe in the essence of hospitality and at all time, remember that we are the host to everyone who enters our restaurant.
  • Extraordinary people have come together to make an extraordinary team. We will continue to surround ourselves with exceptional team members.
  • All life is about change, and those who can adapt to it quickly are most often the most successful...“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” - Winston Churchill
  • My favorite quote...”I saw the angel in the marble, and I chiseled until I set it free.” – Michelangelo. Your life is the marble, and you are the artist. Chisel and work at creating your masterpiece each day.

Only put it on your code that you would go to hell and back to defend. A code only works when the team knows you believe in it 100%! Words without the actions to back them up make you a hypocrite. The industry is full of hypocrite managers. Don’t be one of them.

When you can express your values through a code of conduct within your restaurant or bar, you will have team buy-in at a level you never thought possible. Will, everyone on your team, take the oath you create? Of course not.

Then again, not everyone is a good match for your team. Far better to send someone down the road to work at another restaurant later try to get someone to believe in your set of values. When you know exactly who you are (core values) and what you believe in (your code of conduct) you will have the one thing many miss...a culture that stands out.

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