Here is a reply I once posted to an assistant manager’s inquiry from a foodservice operation. It deals with a common situation in the food service industry. One that I have not been asked for advice on before, but one that I do have a strong opinion about, especially considering the initial response of other advisors. I think it was an important piece of advice.
“I have quick question…For the past 3 weeks have been the acting GM and have not been compensated for it. I am a team player, but was told that it will be another 12 weeks before they can get another GM trained and ready and that I have to continue in the same role until they find one. Is this right?”
Initial responses directed the person to quit and look for a job that paid what the person thought they were worth. I have a much different take on this situation and thought I would share it. I tend to be pretty straight forward with my opinions and apologize if it doesn’t sound sugar coated.
3 weeks filling in at a GM position doesn’t qualify you to be a GM. Every employee honestly believes they can outperform their boss, whether it’s the restaurant business or any other. That’s human nature. The truth of the matter is that most employees understand no more of their bosses job than what they know how to do themselves. This creates the picture that their boss is not working as hard as them because their boss is not accomplishing the volume of the same activities that the employee does. Thus creating the appearance to the employee that they can do their bosses job better.
An interim position as a GM does not require you to perform all of the duties required of a GM. As GM, what steps have you taken toward the restaurants long term planning goals? What are you doing as GM to increase the revenue of your store? Are you planning the stores marketing strategy? As GM in the last three weeks, what have you done to broaden your restaurants role in the community? Have you been attending Chamber meetings and networking with other area business people to help develop a plan to further your business community’s role in your local area government? What are you doing as interim GM to safeguard your owners against liabilities such as worker’s comp, unemployment insurance costs, lawsuits. Are you performing the restaurants safety plan audits to ensure compliance and reporting the results to the owners? Are you maintaining accurate day to day employee records and answering Department of Labor inquiries as to the status of terminated employees to reduce unnecessary payment of unemployment benefits? Have you started on next year’s financial budget? It’s September now, time to start planning. Do you know what percentages your restaurant has for goals on labor, COG’s? Do you know what COG’s are? Can you read a P&L, really? Can you look at last year’s P&L and know which expenses were out of line and where you can save? Do you know what is acceptable to your owners to plan for as an acceptable increase in sales? Do you know what market prices are acceptable for every item you buy in the restaurant? Do you know if you’re getting ripped off or getting a good deal? What do you do if you are getting ripped off? Are you capable of negotiating a contract with a new purveyor? Do you know how prices for your food items or other expenses are calculated with the companies you do business with? Have you familiarized yourself with pricing structures and payment terms with every company your restaurant has a contract with? Are you familiar with every report required of you as a GM? Are you completing the restaurants Accounts Payable logs, coding invoices for payment, auditing payroll to ensure accurate employee compensation? This is only a short, short list of the GM’s actual responsibilities.
The point here is this, as an assistant, you don’t yet understand what it takes to be a GM. That is why the owners are searching for someone else to fill this position rather than just promoting you. They’re not just idiots who are oblivious to your presence. Believe me, it’s been discussed whether or not they could just promote you. Day to day operations are the responsibility of the staff. They’re only 1/3 of the real responsibilities involved in running a restaurant. A GM who spends all their time concentrating on daily operations is an ineffective GM and most likely overworking themselves. So don’t expect it from the position.
You are in a position of opportunity right now. You have two choices:
1) Let your ignorance lead your actions and assume a negative position. Get mad because you think you are doing a GM’s job and not getting paid for it. Approach the owners from this negative position and create a negative image of yourself to them. Most likely you will quit or get fired when things don’t go your way. You will create a red flag on your resume. “Didn’t see eye to eye with owner” is not something you want to list as your reason for leaving.
2) Look for favorable outcomes that could happen and take a positive position to attack your situation. Ask the owners for a detailed GM’s job description so you can do the best job possible until they find a permanent replacement. Learn everything you can about job tasks you have never had to perform. Take on the tasks you know the most about and demonstrate your ability to the owners to do more than just day to day operations. Gain experience. Your positive actions will show the owners how valuable you are. They could possibly even decide you have enough potential and the right attitude to train into a GM position at that location. Maybe you’ll be the first consideration for GM at their next venture after you have more experience. Maybe they are ignorant fools and you can use this experience to pad your resume in the search for a GM position elsewhere. “Offered a better position” is something acceptable to list as a reason for leaving.
There are many positive outcomes possible here. Think about your future and your reputation and take the positive approach. Negative people are doomed to a life of being unappreciated, overworked, underpaid, and generally miserable whether it’s only imagined or a self fulfilling prophecy.
Opportunities in any occupation are created through adversity, a negative situation. The best outcome is not created with another negative but rather a larger positive. Be the larger positive.
Effective problem solving is not a skill that comes to most people naturally. It is a taught skill that must be practiced to become effective, a structure in the way you approach every problem you tackle. The following problem solving system is derived from a version of the scientific method I was taught at a very young age. One factor that classic versions of the scientific method do not take into account is perceived problems. A few of the problems facing the foodservice industry today are problems not derived from ineffective systems or procedures. They are derived from incorrect perceptions from our target audience.
What is a perceived problem? A perceived problem is a conclusion that some or many of your target audience have come to that may or may not be correct. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Ever wondered why you can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but never all of the people all of the time? Every person that comes in contact with you or your business will take away a different perception of you no matter how identical you act to everyone who walks in the front door. Every person will have their own perception of you.
Is perception important? Your friends or customers perception is actually more important than the facts. If the service in your restaurant is fantastic, but 2 percent of your clients believe your service is horrible, who’s correct? In the case of that 2 percent, they are. Will you sway their opinion by simply stating that they are incorrect because 98% of your clientele believes you give great service? Probably not. Is there really an actual problem with your service if 98% of the people are satisfied? Once again, probably not. Most lump this hypothetical 2% of customers into the category of people that you cannot please. I say it’s not true. In this case, the 2%’s perception of bad service in your restaurant is their reality, which makes it your reality in relation to them. Perception is always more important than reality.
Can you change people’s perception of you or your restaurant? Absolutely. Rather than ignoring the opinions of a minority of people who think a different way than everyone else, try to form a different solution of how to please them in comparison with everyone else. Most often the conflicting perception of the minority in relation to the majority is caused by a different set of values they have in relation to a certain subject. While the majority of people may consider great service to mean they receive every item they need to make their meal complete without having to ask for it, other people may simply judge service by how friendly the server was despite a few mistakes here and there. Others still may judge service exclusively on speed while some judge it on formality. The differences in perceptions are infinite, but the reality is; you can change people’s perception of your restaurant if you can identify the cause of their perception. This is where an effective problem solving technique comes in to play.
Studying and repeating this technique could help you become a more efficient problem solver. You may also find you are able to solve some problems you previously thought unsolvable. These seven steps can be related to personal, professional and scientific problems alike. Keep an open mind.
The Seven Steps to Effective Problem Solving
- Evaluate – Identify your problem first. A problem is an effect resulting from an unidentified cause in a particular scenario.
There are two types of problems
a. actual – an actual problem is identified by observing a direct and provable correlation between a cause and an effect without variation; the cause always produces the same effect in a given scenario. Perceived problems can always be broken down into one or more actual problems.
b. perceived – this is a problem identified by witnessing an effect that cannot be created by repeating a cause; a repeated cause creates a different effect in identical scenarios. A perceived problem can be identified but cannot be solved until one or more actual problems are identified that create the perceived problem.To form a correct solution we have to identify the actual problem/s.
- Investigate – Ask questions. Who, what, when where, why, how. Ask every one of these questions for each problem identified. Do not assume.
- Hypothesize – Form an educated guess based on questions asked. What do you think the cause is?
- Analyze – Take apart a problem into base components. What are the most basic parts of the problem? If a problem is too complex to understand, it should be broken into smaller problems that make up the whole problem. Solve all the smaller problems separately to solve the whole problem. Gather information by experimenting with controls and variables using your hypothesis.
a. controls – perform different tests in an identical scenario to attempt to recreate the same cause and effect; record the results
b. variables – perform one test in different scenarios to attempt to recreate the same cause and effect; record the resultsThe cause of the problem will be identified when a common cause and corresponding effect is discovered to repeat itself in a particular scenario.
- Reevaluate – Identify the problem again to make sure it was correctly evaluated. If it is determined that the problem is perceived, analyze it until the actual problems that make it up are identified and restate the problem. Repeat from step 1 with the restated actual problem. If multiple restated actual problems are identified, the process must be repeated with each actual problem to solve the perceived problem.
- Synthesize – Put all information back together in a logical order.
Cause + Scenario = Effect.
- Conclude – Test the information. If the problem was correctly identified, and the correct cause of the problem found, the same effect should result from the same cause in the same scenario every time. Include in your conclusion any perceived problems and incorrect causes that were identified before they were broken down into actual problems. Restate the actual problem by identifying the cause and effect in the particular scenario. Identify a solution by changing the cause of the problem in the particular scenario to create a desired effect. Use a formula that you know already works for you or someone else.
Problem – an effect resulting from an unidentified cause in a particular scenario
Cause – the catalyst that begins a problem Scenario – the conditions necessary to make a particular cause create a particular effect
Effect – the result of a problem
Actual problem – an actual problem is identified by observing a direct and provable correlation between a cause and an effect without variation; the cause always produces the same effect in a given scenario. Perceived problems can always be broken down into one or more actual problems.
Perceived problem – this is a problem identified by witnessing an effect that cannot be created by repeating a cause; a repeated cause creates a different effect in identical scenarios. A perceived problem can be identified but cannot be solved until one or more actual problems are identified that create the perceived problem.
Control – particular scenario used to prove or disprove a hypothesis with different causes and effects
Variables – different scenarios used to prove or disprove a hypothesis with the same cause and effect Memorize these steps in order until they are a natural thought process when confronted with a problem. You will become a more efficient problem solver.