Last week in Kill Your Brand Quickly by Losing Your Standards I told a story about how a restaurant’s standards and, in essence, its brand declined considerably, practically overnight. At the end of the article I posed the following question: Who is to blame for the change in the experience and the damage to the brand?
Usually the responses put the blame on the owner. To a certain extent I agree. Leaders are always responsible for setting the tone themselves and through other people. In this case, the owner certainly deserves the blame for the loss of standards after the dismissal of the general manager, especially for erasing the “My pleasure” standard.
However, and this may surprise some, I put almost equal blame on the general manager. This is primarily due to the way he introduced and enforced the standards. If he had led his staff and taught them the value of exceeding expectations — taught the “why” high performance is important and the “how” they would benefit by performing at a high level — it wouldn’t have mattered whether he was there or not. Even after the general manager left, staff would still say “My pleasure” in response to “Thank you” because they would have bought into the idea — the idea that exceeding expectations leads to better job satisfaction and better profits.
Instead the general manager dictated the standards and enforced them through fear creating virtually no buy-in. Staff followed them because it was the easiest way to get him off their backs and not because they believed it was the right way to perform their jobs. As soon as he was gone it was a “party” for staff.
Ironically, I had planned to interview the GM for one of these articles because I had been so impressed with the consistency of service, food quality, and atmosphere. Finding that level of consistency anywhere whether it be a restaurant, bank, fitness center, or a clown-for-rent store is very rare. I once asked the GM how he created an environment where the standards were almost always followed. After receiving his answer, I decided that a story on his methods was not the one to write. That answer:
“Every once and a while I fire someone I catch not saying ‘My pleasure.’ Then they all get the picture.”
While one can argue that his method worked while he was there, it obviously didn’t last. As we discussed in Service Standards: The Key to Branding the Experience, creating buy-in among the entire team can have lasting effects.