That New Math

T.J. Schier

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A recent ad for a consulting company read, “To accomplish more, sometimes you need to see less. " Even if your definition of a consultant goes something like this: Someone who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, and charges $150 per hour, there is definitely good advice in this ad. And you don't need to hire a consultant to help refine your focus. Read on. . .

Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Taking a step back often helps you move two forward. Less is more. A list of colloquialisms related to this theme could go on and on forever. So I'll offer a relatively original real world example of this tenet: athletics.

Though it happens all the time at the amateur level, rarely do you see top athletes excel in multiple sports. The intense focus required to become an elite athlete demands a lot from the athlete's mind and body. This might explain why Deion Sanders was a phenom on the gridiron, but a role player at best in the outfield. Jim Thorpe and Bo Jackson (pre-hip surgery Jackson, that is) were rarities.

Check out the biography of your favorite pro player. Chances are he/she played another sport or excelled at another skill before giving it up to reach that next level—real-life examples of adding (glory) by subtracting (a distraction). Relate that wisdom back to your restaurants. How can adding by subtracting help you enhance learning and retention and the guest experience? Try…

  • Letting go below-average performers
    The best these employees will ever be is average. If average is what you want your guests to experience, keep these employees. If not, let them work elsewhere.

  • Employee eliminations
    What policies, procedures, and processes would your employees eliminate to make their jobs easier and more effective? What suggestions do they have about improving the work environment or building sales and lower costs? The answers are within your restaurant. Ask!

  • Simplifying training materials
    Don't overload employees. Narrow their focus. Allow them to learn small bits, become experts, and move onto the next item. If it doesn't matter to the guest, allow flexibility and spend minimal time on that topic. Spend the majority of your training focus on the items which add value to the guest experience

  • Shortening the training program
    Make that the initial training program. Reallocate those resources and labor dollars toward on-going development and refresher training. Overall, the training program will be enhanced and lengthened and be far more effective.

  • Cutting the fat out of evaluations
    If it doesn't matter to the guest, sales, or profitability, why measure it? It takes people's attention away from what really matters. Long, lengthy evaluation forms are too broad. Boil them down to the most important business builders. The long-standing management tenet of “Don't work on more than five goals at a time” should be applied here.

  • Re-evaluating the menu
    If it doesn't sell, get rid of it! The more we ask of our employees (e. g. , making 50 different items), the less effective they become. It stresses the kitchen, slows ordering times, and makes it difficult for cashiers to learn. A large menu can also make it tough on the guest who has to wade through it. Trying to be everything to everyone can backfire.

  • Simplifying the menu
    Offer a set sandwich/entrée price and, if you sell value meals, a simple price to upgrade (e. g. , $2 extra for a side salad and soda or fries/chips and a soda). Many of you are leaving money on the table by charging different prices for your value meals compared to the sandwich price.
  • Rounding prices to the nearest quarter Rounding prices to the nearest quarter, tax included (ala the movie theaters) can mean faster service. Speed of service becomes greatly enhanced; it's easier to make change for the guest, and after a few visits, they'll know the total before you ring it up.

  • Using tiered pricing
    Create three to six pricing levels. Blend it so you still make your margins, but it simplifies the look of the menu, the ease of learning for the cashiers, and increases speed. For example, sell your burgers for $1.99. If they have one specialty topping (e. g. , cheese or bacon), it's $2.29. Two toppings cost $2.49. Pizza chains don't charge for their toppings based on product costs. One topping pizzas cost $X and additional toppings can be added for $Y each. Eliminate menu clutter by simplifying the pricing structure—the guests and cashiers will appreciate it.

    It's hard to be absolutely outstanding at a wide number of things. At the end of his baseball career, Deion Sanders was struggling with a .252 batting average on a Toronto Blue Jays farm team. Take what you will from that.

    T. J. Schier is service professional, consultant and speaker with over 20 years experience in operations and training. Founder and president of Incentivize Solutions and podTraining, T. J. has helped numerous clients enhance their service and training programs and spoken to tens of thousands of managers, franchisees and operators in various fields. Visit for more info motivating today's employees, training today's generation and delivering outstanding guest service; or , a unique new system and the foundation of ‘i-learning’ - using the device of today's generation, the iPod - to train your workforce.

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