So many of us in the Food & Beverage industry have talked within and amongst ourselves for years if not decades about the reasons and excuses for the endless turnover rate in FOH positions, now to the tune of hundreds of thousands annually throughout all positions in the hospitality business.
A percentage of this is understandable, as many college students work in the business, while others just choose to move on out of the field and into some other occupation, where they prefer to get away from the crazy night hours of submitting to the vampire lifestyle.
There is one area, however, that has always been in neglect of address – Management issues.
Most of us in our F & B careers, if you can even call it a career, have had run-ins and countless misunderstandings with either newbie, just-transferred or experienced suits that come in and fill a vacant position, at times in certain establishments happening more often than the rate of staff turnover. This makes the staff have to constantly get used to the influx of new managers and their own ways and means of doing things, along with changing procedure or otherwise.
Many managers come in with very little to no actual previous experience on the floor with what bartenders and waiters have thousands of hours of function-over-form duty at. They dive in making an unnecessary splash upon a team, at times blindly throwing a wrench into a well-oiled machine just to make themselves be known. Recently, a long-time bartender friend of mine who works in Las Vegas emailed me and said “We have a new FB director for a month and a new Bar Mgr. for a week! Tonight is inventory night and neither one is here to help! Isn't that special!”
And don’t get me started on their hiring and firing failures. Chains where corporate is king usually corral the types of managers where they think cleaning house is going to solve all their woes and somehow make them look good to the executive onlookers above, meaning all they really want to do is move up and out, regardless who gets terminated in their way. Most of the time, new blood does just the opposite. The bad habit of youth and image being favored over experience and knowledge is rampant, much due to managers being fearfully intimidated by those of us with journeymen know-how. And we wonder why professionalism in the industry never really matures to where it should be!
Some of the changes managers make that are pertinent to operation and flow, are not even discussed with the staff beforehand. It just happens, than you walk in to start your shift, eventually realizing that something is not where it’s supposed to be. An equipment position shift behind the bar, for example implemented by a manager who only looks at or sees form over function, can screw up sales or drink preparation pace, or potentially cause a safety hazard of some sort, from not knowing or recognizing all the different physical moves that a bartender makes every night within station.
Just one wrong move like that without an initial inquiry and/or consult could result in an annual loss of thousands of dollars. Managers can come across as quite the different breed. They must be brainwashed in some training center at an underground facility in the middle of the desert to believe that corporate has all the right answers. It would be great if they did, but umm . . . they don’t! Nor do they take heed from ground floor experience.
Suits think with a different agenda in mind, at times far off the path from us expendable hourly personnel. If that’s the case, fine, than stay out of the cockpits, because we know our mise en place more than they even know what it means.
First off, and this goes for owners too (that have a lot of money, but usually zero experience in the business), this is not the place and position for the arrogance and bravado of the American ego, including an overkill of wine snobbery, to be put into regular practice with an open gate. Humility would be much more appreciated by all others concerned and in the direct vicinity of, from a standpoint of working condition and overall getting-along.
Out of respect, this is why managers don’t spend too much time behind the galley of a kitchen. They don’t want the chef to get fed up to the point where he/she pulls out a carving knife. They need to show the same respect with other positions of production as well, especially if they’ve never put the hours in the trenches like the rest of us.
Bartenders, waiters and chefs infuse the humble approach of communications as a means to smoothen the energy over the long, stressful ride of a busy night-after-night, to avoid blowing out in any given moment or burning out somewhere down the road, if proper, efficient work methods aren’t in place. We have to have it this way in order to survive the loads of pressure. Managers should adhere to the same considerations by understanding all that we go through.
I am not putting the responsibilities that managers have as secondary to our own. Most of us who work in the business in our positions are very aware of their job description, as we may have held similar positions in the past. Non-creative manager types are sometimes cooler and easier to work with, as they usually stay out of the way and avoid screwing something up. If there’s a problem, issue or improvement possibility with operations, we’ll let you know. Our positions are like the engine room of a cruise ship, but on top for all to see, not below deck. In other words, don’t raise the steam! The job and all its endless attention to detail can be difficult enough as is.
The manager position is unfortunately caught in the middle with long hours and inadequate salary. If there’s profit-sharing or bonus involved with their accepted package of hire, this can consequentially cause motivations to cut here and there when it comes to anything that has to do with the numbers, which is almost everything.
If ever there was a carrot linchpin in the wrong place, this is it. Nobody wants quality and service to be compromised, but this dangling-for-more can cause a crossfire separation of us vs. them. This is where wrongful terminations can occur, and whatever else along the way, even a loss of business. That’s a negative for everyone!
It’s too bad there isn’t enough incentive for more of us drink and food slingers to move up into management capacities, but it just doesn’t pay to do so, to make the permanent shift over. The hours are longer, so it defeats the efficient ways in which we’re accustomed to operating in our roles behind the bar and at the table. Personally, I’ve tried it out several times over three decades of service, and I always go back to the life that frees me up the most.
But the individuals who are strictly management type personalities should make the work and flow of their own positions in the restaurant and bar world as easy-going as possible. Like anything involving chaos, keep it simple. After all, this isn’t a top security job at the Pentagon. You’re just a manager in one of the thousands of eatery and drinkery establishments across the country, so benefit yourself by limiting your role to only what’s necessary, listen and understand your staff, have their backs and be a part of their team as much as you want them to be a part of yours.
It is extremely important to win the respect of your employees to gain a more loyal and consistent staff, instead of them chasing the customers away with a bad attitude. They have the power to raise your revenues or to steal and waste you into the hole.
Managing a bar/restaurant is like directing a movie. The owner/managers are the producers, and the employees are the stars. You could have a small budget, but if you have great actors, people will still want to see the movie. To get the best performance out of your actors/your staff, find ways to inspire them and support them as they work.