Preventing Accidents in the Food Service Industry

The food service industry is one that uses varying techniques from the most careful, handmade produce to the heaviest of factory machinery. With such different production techniques, it is important that food service workplaces comply with health and safety regulations in order to reduce the number of accidents that employees are likely to have whilst at work. In the UK, the food service industry alone loses almost £2 million every year on accidents in the workplace caused by slips, trips and falls, injuries which cost businesses as a whole over £800 million every year. This is a massive amount to have to spend on accident s that can be easily avoided.

The issue has been recognised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has recently launched a hard-hitting campaign named Shattered Lives. It aims to raise awareness of the human and financial suffering that these minor accidents can cause and gives guidance and help on how to prevent injuries from falls at work.

The programme has been supported by small and national businesses who want to reduce the amount of money they spend on employee’s injuries each year. Practical and low-cost improvements to the workplace are suggested so that the number of preventable slips trips and falls decrease. The food service industry is just one sector backing this campaign in the hope that employees will be safer at work. Although slips, trips and falls may sound minor, the consequences for those injured can be devastating. That is particularly the reason why the campaign has been names ‘Shattered Lives’. Having to stay of work for weeks, needing medical help, losing your earnings, all of these factors can devastate the lives of ordinary people. But it is ordinary people that these incidents are most likely to happen to.

The food service industry is taking action against preventable accidents in the workplace and this will have a quality effect on their produce.

The Service Industry Entrepreneur Employee

My definition of a Service Industry Entrepreneur Employee is very simple: “An individual who, rather than working as an employee, takes ownership of their work, just as much as an individual who owns and runs a business.” Why is having such an individual on your team important? Well, if you feel like you are “doing all the work around here”, you need to keep reading.

Have you ever been frustrated by an employee who could perform better? But they aren’t. Perhaps they could become your best employee, best server, best bartender, best cook. But they aren’t. They could be a manager someday, and a great one, but they aren’t ready to make the jump? You see more in them than they see in themselves. Sound familiar? I’ve been in that same situation. So, why aren’t they? Because they don’t believe they can. They do not have an entrepreneurial mindset. There are various reasons for this. As managers, we can eliminate some and replace them with entrepreneurial empowerment.

Many people, employees, mid-level managers, and even top executives could accomplish something more, something great. But they don’t. Why? Because they are too attached to being comfortable. They’re comfortable where they are, and performing how they are performing. They are so attached to their current job level that it becomes a part of their identity, and it’s not always a good one: “I’m just a cook”, “I just wait tables”, “I’m only an assistant manager, not the real boss”. These employees allow themselves to be defined by their job, their income, their status in the workplace. And it hurts them. They’re comfortable doing what they are doing and it might be easy for them to do their job, but they’re not happy. And they work for you. Congratulations. Over 73% of your younger employees, when asked about their strengths and weaknesses, will focus on their weaknesses. This is higher than any previous employee group surveyed. (Time, September 28, 2012, “Note to Gen Y Workers”, Jane and Marcus Buckingham)

Odds are that if you are reading this, you are “the boss”, the manager, the person with the accountability and the responsibility for the performance of these types of people. And society reinforces the perception these employees have of themselves at almost every turn. Here is a simple example. What’s the most common question that people ask when they strike up a conversation with someone they’ve just met: “So, what do you do?” I have managed tens of thousands of employees and worked one on one with hundreds of managers. And I still sometimes find myself asking that question too. Oops. Worse yet, I have heard guests and customers ask my employees “So, what else do you do?”, like their current job is not good enough. Wow. Now there’s a self-esteem booster for your full time, key employees. I’ve seen the faces of some of them as they walk away from the table or guest after hearing that. Have you ever slowed down enough in your busy day Mr. or Ms. Manager to notice, or to care?

So, how do you help employees with this emotional aspect of the business? You don’t help fix it for them. They help themselves. You allow them the freedom to have, what I once heard coined, the “Entrepreneurial Mindset”. This is the freedom to think and act like an owner in their workplace. Most employees in the service industry never have this freedom. Ever.

Hospitality employees are usually younger, the “generation y”, the “millenials”, the “teacup employees”. They are thought of as delicate and pampered and easily shattered. They always “got the trophy for finishing the soccer season”, not for winning the championship. You and I have probably heard the same stories and the same analogies. The topic has been beaten to death in management-oriented writing. I cannot claim to be anywhere near an expert on the topic. But I do know one thing: people like to feel good about themselves. And I have worked with many younger employees. They’ve told me many things. The most recurring item is also the most emotional: they want what they do to mean something, and they want to feel important. That trophy, which was the same as every other kid’s, didn’t make them feel good. The “helicopter parents” who hovered over their every move, and told them how good they were for taking that test, “C-” score and all, didn’t make them feel good. How do I know? I talk with them.

I once heard one of my best employees, Steve, answered that guest question “what else do you do” with “Oh, I’m just a waiter.” I winced as I walked past. I hoped the guests didn’t notice. My coaching piece with Steve later was as simple as it was true. I said “Steve, seriously ‘Just a waiter’? In my restaurant, each server brings in over $31,000 a year in revenue. You are a full time employee, and a valued one, your contribution is probably about double that figure. This is a multi-million dollar restaurant. And you help make it run every single day.” Steve was important to my business.

So, yes. Your employees certainly mean something to somebody. They are certainly important to somebody: you. Do you tell them how important they are? Do you say “Thanks” to each employee for one small thing every day, hopefully some behavior you are trying to encourage? Be honest with yourself, and no crossing your fingers under the desk.

Let’s examine a common service industry scenario and apply the entrepreneurial mindset to it: the “problem table”. Don’t pretend that you never get them. We all do. So, pretend Steve works for you. He is 21 years old. He comes to you with a long list of complaints from one of his tables: “The food came out cold, the bartender made their drinks wrong, they say it is too cold in here, and they’re really mad”. Then Steve stops. He stops speaking. He also stops thinking, and moving. So, what do you do? Oh: you fix it. You get tell the cooks to get fresh hot food working. You turn the air conditioner warmer. You tell the bartender to remake those drinks. Then you get right out there to the dining room and visit that table and grovel for a while. What exactly does Steve do? He does what he was trained to do by almost every restaurant I know of: tell the manager. This is followed by doing absolutely nothing, except perhaps to complain about the table to his coworkers. At what point does Steve have freedom to act? Is he allowed to fix these problems himself? Do you let him? Do you trust him? And if that answer is no by the way, why do you let him continue to be the face of your business to the public?

Okay. I do admit that, yes, someone else other than Steve has to fix the A/C issue. But Steve’s freedom to act on everything else is up to you. Is the culture in your workplace “I got it”? “I” meaning you in this example. Or, is it “What have you done to fix things so far, Steve?” Do you let him ring up the new food first to expedite time, and to offer the guests some soup or a salad “on me” so they do not sit hungry and unhappy at an empty table? Can Steve ring in another round of drinks without checking with you first? If not, why not? If it’s a theft issue, remember what I just said: Steve “rings up” everything. He just doesn’t “ask” the bartender or cook for it. There is an accounting control there. You must remove it from the bill later, before it’s presented. Financial risk: minimized. Steve: empowered. He is in control, like an owner of his table and all that happens with it. Steve is then an entrepreneur in a most basic description of the word: “Entrepreneurs take initiative, accept risk of failure and have an internal focus of control”-Albert Shapero, 1975. Steve has been trained and allowed to take care of the guest first, then inform the manager, and worry about the rest later. So when Steve goes back to the table he doesn’t say “I’m sorry. A manager will be over shortly.” Instead, Steve says “I’m sorry. This is what I’ve done to make things right for you… “

Answer these simple questions. In which situation does Steve feel important, needed and successful? In which case is Steve given the ability and flexibility to use an entrepreneurial mindset? More importantly, in which situation would you like to be that guest?

You might be saying “But that wouldn’t work in my restaurant.” Really? Why not? Truths are timeless. Here is one you have probably already heard: You’re either growing or dying. It’s true of people. It’s true of plants. Managers need to allow people to grow. Yet, you can’t nurture people to grow, develop, and become better if you do not have a system and culture in place that permits it. You’re either growing or dying. There is no staying the same. People who say “I want things to stay as they are” just don’t get it. They’re too comfortable. The only time people are comfortable is when they are not doing anything new.

Give your employees the freedom to act beyond the boundaries of “normal”. Allow them to be uncomfortable with the “new normal”. And they will grow. Will Steve be uncomfortable taking ownership of “problem tables”? Yes. Will he feel empowered after a few successes at it? Definitely. And if he fails, will you support him, coach him, and retrain if necessary, or will you just say “You tried really hard, Steve. Nice job.” Then give him the same trophy as all the other kids got at the end of soccer season?

There are many of you reading this that will be saying this is too simple to work, or it can’t be done, or blah, blah, blah… ” Apparently, you might just be too comfortable with the status quo yourself. People are always comfortable setting repeats, not records. You have to take a leap of faith.

Managers manage in the moment. Leaders develop, learn, teach, and grow for long term impact. They take risks. I challenge you to find it in yourself to be that leader, to get out of your comfort zone. Become an agent of change, and improvement, for your employees. Become an entrepreneur yourself. “Entrepreneurs are innovators who use a process of shattering the status quo… “-Joseph Schumpeter, 1934. Truths are timeless: If you don’t exhibit leadership and do it, your employees won’t exhibit leadership and do it. Then, someone else, perhaps your boss, might just be looking at you someday, thinking “This business needs to grow and to perform at a higher level. And that manager is just too attached to being comfortable to try anything new. He could be such an impactful leader, but he’s not. I see more in him than he sees in himself.”

Let that not be you.

7 Tips For Selecting the Best Small Business Brokers to Sell Your Business

Are you thinking about selling your business? Have you ever gone through the process before? Are you confidant that you can do it yourself? Where would your time be better spent, running your business at peak performance while trying to sell it, or focused on the advertising campaign, networking, negotiating, and coordinating the closure of the sale of your business? Maybe you should consider doing what you do best, running the business, and search out small business brokers and let them do what they do best, sell businesses. If you go that route, here are 7 tips to choosing a business broker that makes sense for you.

1. Don’t get lost in the shuffle

You want your broker to have a proven record and a great reputation but you don’t want the organization to be so big that your deal is passed off to a junior staffer. You want the active involvement of the principals.

2. Do your due diligence

You’re about to engage the services of someone that is going to have a big impact on your financial life. Make sure you are comfortable with the relationship. Check with the International Business Brokers Association and see if your broker is a member in good standing. Follow up on the references provided and determine just how satisfied past clients are. Check with your local better business bureau and see if there are any unresolved complaints.

3. Use a specialist

Real estate agents and other professionals sometimes hold themselves out as business brokers on a part time basis. You want someone who makes their entire living selling businesses full time. Preferably somebody who has experience in your particular industry and someone who can point to successful sales they have made for your competitors.

4. Avoid heavy up front fee structures

Typically a business broker will charge between 10% and 15% of the sale price as a fee. While it is customary for them to ask for some up front fees to initiate the process, avoid those brokers who are looking for greater than a third. Also make sure that the up front fee is deductible from the sales fee when the business sells. Following this advice will save you from having to invest a ton of cash before you actually sell the business.

5. Only contract for the business selling services

Smaller business brokers will offer accounting and legal services that you will need during closing for an additional fee and these services are typically outsourced by the broker. It may be to your advantage to contract for those services directly leaving the broker with only the requirement to focus on the selling process and not generating add on fees.

6. Share your expectations

Before you select a broker you should have at least a general idea of what you want to accomplish by selling your business. You should have a rough valuation number and you should know if you want a cash sale or stock. Share this with the broker and see if he agrees with your plan. While there probably will be differences in valuation, your broker should be in tune with the rest of your objectives. If he’s reluctant or believes that it will be difficult to achieve your goals, find another broker.

7. Keep the whole process confidential

The last thing you want to do is let the word that you are seeking a business broker or that you are in negotiations with a buyer leak out. Once it becomes common knowledge that you are selling, your relationships with your employees, customers, vendors and bankers could be adversely affected. Have an exit plan for after the sale that includes sharing the news with all those listed above.

Using business brokers to help sell a business is usually the smart route to take for any business of substance. You want your organization to have as much “curb appeal” as possible during the process and that means you should be focusing your time on optimizing the business not chasing down buyers.