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The Art of the "Power" Shift
Lead, don't "run" profitable shifts everyday.
JS Mug Shot By Jim Sullivan Copyright 2009 Sullivision.com

A great year is not the result of a "great year"; it's the result of hundreds of profitable, consecutive great shifts. Owners and operators assess progress by reviewing the monthly P&L but the fact is that your P&L is a history document; it measures revenue and costs in the past.. A P&L is like a box score in tomorrow's paper, but The Shift is where the game is played. No matter what your benchmarks-same store sales, turnover, retention, customer count-it happens (or fails to happen) by the shift, not by the "report."
Many restaurant operators put a lot of time and energy into the next advertising campaign, marketing program, menu design, or two-year-plan, but lack similar enthusiasm for the finesse and strategies necessary to execute the successful shift. The fact is that the Battle for the Future is determined shift by shift, two or three times a day, in the unit level trenches, not in the office. How well your managers direct-or fail to the direct-the experience of both the customer and the crew determines how well we succeed.
Shift management is arguably the act of managing chaos. A team of 20 to 50 servers and kitchen crew supervised by one or two managers serving up to 600 diverse and demanding guests in as little as 4 hours isn't pretty, but it is an art. And there's no training manual been written yet that can realistically describe or prescribe the right and wrong way to manage a successful shift. In fact, most training manuals portray the art of shift management about as accurately as Roadrunner cartoons portray the Laws of Physics. Experience is the only guide, but the worst teacher. It gives the test before presenting the lesson. Since nearly 200,000 of us are expected to successfully manage a shift every day, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my experience and the collective wisdom of other industry leaders on the Art of the Shift:
Bring energy, enthusiasm and excitement to every shift. Be positive, focused and jazzed about the business and what you do. Passion persuades. After all, if you're not in love with your business, why should your employees be?
Never practice on the customer. Pre-shift meetings are your daily opportunity to pep rally the staff around a common goal: guest satisfaction and fun. To be successful, pre-shifts should be interactive, brief, and to-the-point dialogues, not monologues. Share customer service kudos, product knowledge, current promotions, and team sales goals during these sessions. Focus on enthusiasm and the little things that add up to a positive guest experience, like pre-bussing, food running, prompt and friendly greetings, suggestive selling, speed and accuracy. (To get a FREE pre-shift meeting planning template you can use daily, visit our home page at www.sullivision.com)
Every shift is different. Be upbeat in style, conversation and behavior. What you talk about and how you talk about it is what the shift will be. There's a rhythm unique to every restaurant shift and it's the manager's role to control the beat and keep their people balanced.
Pay attention to how you spend your time. Before, during and after the shift, do you spend most of your time working on paperwork, or your people? Emphasize time with people over time spent on tasks. As a manager your job is to help develop the expertise of others. Coach every team member into position, through the position, and out of the position.
The more you know the faster you go. Teach everyone something new each shift. Show a waitress who asks you to open new silverware where to find the bustub of silverware waiting to be washed. Coach the hostess on remembering people's names "What's the guest's name on table 5, do you recall?" Be someone your team looks forward to seeing everyday. (Self-evaluation: when your employees see you coming do they say "here comes help" or "here comes trouble"?) Every employee should have a mentor as well as a boss.
Be a go-giver as well as a go-getter. A manager's individual energy and drive are important, but remember that setting the pace for your team is just as critical. Concern, compassion, and patience for your employees are key tactics for a successful shift. This creates more confidence in the team and a better experience for the customer. The best managers being energy to every shift.
Learn the Lessons each Shift Teaches. After the Shift from Heaven-or the Shift from Hell--be sure to debrief the crew on what they learned and how we can get better at systems and execution. None of us is a smart as all of us. Some people say: "You win some and you lose some." I say: "you win some and you learn some." Continually ask "How can we improve this?" Challenging the process is the key to continuous improvement in your restaurant, shift by shift.
Use the "Rules of Two" when problems arise. A customer should not have to talk to more than two people to have their problem resolved, and if a customer has one genuine grievance do two things to solve it. In other words, if the entrée is not what they expected, fix it. Then buy them a dessert.
There are a thousand little things done well that define a great shift, and this was but a short list. It starts with the manager continually guiding and coaching their team throughout each meal period. Think of it as a thousand conversations with twenty people. Everyday, keep it fresh, keep it focused, keep it fun, and remember to say "thank you!"

Jim Sullivan always has some pearls of wisdom: Click here to learn more about his best-selling DVD called The Shift: How to Plan It, Lead It, Make it Pay