Dec 6, 2010, 8:28 AM
Post #1 of 1
By Cindy Heilman, MS, DTR
Julie is my kind of administrator.
She’s a go-getter. And on Fridays, you’ll find her in the dining room of the senior living community she oversees, serving dinner.
I love that she does that. It shows the depth of her caring.
When I arrived at her community I spent some time in her office, learning the issues that were preventing higher customer satisfaction ratings. Basically, it was a conversation about why she had brought me in to present my Kind Dining workshop.
She was discouraged that her staff wasn’t performing better.
When I asked whether she would be attending my training, she gave me a funny look.
“If I am sitting there, I’m not sure anyone’s going to speak up and be honest,” she said.
I understood where she was coming from, but I disagreed.
“The reason you should be there is so that you can hear what’s going on when they do speak up. And they will,” I assured her.
My mission is to help servers be smarter about their jobs and to find solutions to their communication problems. It takes cooperative teamwork to deliver top-notch service.
I know Julie was glad she came to each training session and saw what it was all about. She heard from employees, found out where the lines of communication were broken, and discovered a few things about serving food and customer service that she didn’t know.
Kind Dining training isn’t simply a talk. It’s full of hands-on practice, interactive group discussion and thinking about how to apply it.
Afterward, Julie told me she was ready to make changes.
“There are things we can do right away,” she said. “We’re going to have a meeting next Wednesday to talk about what steps to take next.”
Julie is committed to providing her customers improved service through server education and training.
I know Julie is going to see improvement. She leads by example every Friday night.
This story leads me to my fifth Best Practice for Dining Success.
Number Five: Be visible in your dining rooms and grow your community’s team culture around meal service.
Communities that excel in customer care and service train their servers to become company assets. They teach kindness, courtesy, and serving skills that develop camaraderie, community spirit and high standards of quality service.
Masterful leaders emerge after first gaining experience as role players. They are passionate. They take ownership. And they work with a sense of urgency, which catapults their team beyond the fear of change and into the heights of success.
Nancy Fox, in her book “The Journey of a Lifetime; Leadership Pathways to Culture Change in Long-term Care” writes: “Good leaders understand their power does not come from being in control and making all decisions. It comes from inspiring a shared vision, empowering others to act, and giving credit to others for success. If we are going to lead our organizations to a better place we must break out of old paradigms of control, and replace it with respect, trust and empowerment.”
Charlie Trotter, owner of Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant – named America’s Best Restaurant by Wine Spectator – is deeply admired by this staff and demonstrates daily that no task is beneath him, whether that means taking out the trash or conducting tours for guests.
Serving meals may not be every administrator’s strong suit, but good leaders know where to spend their time – in the places where staff and customers interact. Your customers spend 60 percent of their day thinking about, getting ready for, traveling to and from, and sharing, meals.
In the restaurant marketplace, the highest respect paid a customer is to have the owner come personally to say thank you for dining in his restaurant.
Paying residents the same respect reinforces to servers that they are valuable assets in the company. Interacting with your staff this way helps break down communication barriers, immediately improves service performance, promotes ideas for positive change, and improves relationships.
Now more than ever, it is time to grow your community’s team culture around meal service. Choosing to prioritize dining may feel uncomfortable at first. However, as you keep the focus on dining service improvement, your managers and staff will change the systems, confront non-performers, and pull together for better results.
Quint Studer, author of “Hardwiring Excellence,” writes:
“Leaders are comfortable with not being comfortable.”
Improving dining service as a means to improve residents’ quality of life is an extremely hot topic currently. If you have any doubt about it, refer to the Practicing Promises for Dining Success found on the Pioneer Network website (www.PioneerNetwork.org).
There is a plethora of information available that justifies the need to change and improve dining service.
Your focus to develop and train your staff will secure your competitive advantage. You will attract and create loyal employees, attract more customers, reduce overall expenses in areas from reduction in food waste, reduce turnover, and improve customer retention rates.
I challenge you to serve a minimum of one meal a week in your community, just like Julie. You’ll be glad you did.
Cindy Heilman, MS, DTR, is the CEO of Higher Standards, an Oregon based company whose mission is to turn community food servers into company assets through education and training. She has created her experiential training program Kind Dining ® as a tool for providers to improve their organization's current dining program and raise the quality of the mealtime experience for seniors and servers.
(This post was edited by CindyHeilman on Dec 6, 2010, 1:56 PM)