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The S.W.A.R.M Manager

I usually define that as the (Smart, Welcoming, Attainable, Resilient, Maneuverable), this is a good rule for managers who want to improve guest service within their team or restaurant. If you want your operations to thrive in a competitive environment, you need to make sure things are improving on the go in-and-out. I learned throughout my career that you can never only improve things by yourself, but you can move bigger objects if you spread the positive behavior and intentions to everyone in your team. Pause for a while and imagine what a great service you could be delivering if everyone in your clan was in the habit of gathering and spreading good ideas to improve productivity and performance.

For those who want to continually improve the service their team deliver, it is an ongoing responsibility. This requires daily commitment, stamina, pace and intensity. The longer I spent in top positions, the more I came to think that my main duty was to connect with as many employees as I could and offer up as many ideas as possible about how to things from good to better and best. Sometimes my suggestions were spot-on; other times they were way off the mark. But either way, the conversation stimulated fresh thinking, promoted questioning, and inspired everyone around me to come up with better ways to do things.

As you ping around, don’t just tell people what’s wrong with the status quo. Faultfinding is unhelpful if your aim is to spread the habit of creative thinking. Instead, focus on how things might be better. But don’t just flat-out tell people how to improve things. Instead, ask. Those on the front lines delivering service will come up with better ideas than you can if you give them the freedom to think and express themselves without fear. This is a useful strategy for any manager to adopt, no matter how much experience you have and no matter how much know-how you’ve acquired over the course of your career. Expertise is a great and valuable thing, but it can also smother innovative thinking. Because it’s always been done that way is about the worst answer possible to the question “Why do we do it that way?”

I confess that not everyone appreciated having me buzzing around their areas, asking how we could improve things. But I was persistent, and eventually I wore down the resistance with my enthusiasm and my sincere respect for the employees’ expertise. Here are some of the questions I would ask people when I dropped by their work areas. I highly recommend that you adapt them as appropriate to your business and job responsibilities.

  1. If you could change two or three things about the way we currently serve our guests, what would they be?

  2. How would you do that?

  3. Do you think there is a better way?

  4. Why do you do it this way?

  5. Have you ever thought of doing it this way instead?

  6. What items do you mostly sell?

  7. What makes you sell them?

  8. What is your average per guest during weekdays?

  9. How can you slightly increase it?

  10. How many guests do we have on a regular day?

  11. What is our weekly guest footfall average?

  12. Is there any way we can increase footfall frequency?

  13. What do you do when business is slow?

  14. How can we be productive in slow peek?

  15. How can we be better on overall and in specific?

Questions like these may never get asked unless you ask them, and every one of them and countless others can lead to creative ways to make things better. The more you learn, the more ideas you’ll have. And this kind of inquiry costs nothing but time, and it will pay off in employee confidence and initiative. You might also consolidate time by bringing the team together from time to time to reload their imaginations. Schedule regular idea-sharing sessions, perhaps weekly or monthly. Some of the ideas you generate might not be relevant at that time or not yet fleshed out enough to be practical. Write down anything that might be remotely useful and put the collection of ideas in a file. You never know what will prove valuable later on. Sometimes the best solutions arise when seemingly unrelated ideas come together in unexpected ways. No matter your role or title, if you want to provide better guest experience, start roaming around looking for better ways to do things. Remember, it is never too late to get better.

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