The Restaurant Doctor
People, particularly people under pressure, have a tendency to resist anything that is at
odds with their pre-determined idea (PDI) of how things "should be."
For example, let's say your restaurant offers a sandwich that includes french fries. In the middle of the rush, an elderly guest asks the server to substitute a small salad for the fries.
The server's first reaction may be to say "no" under any or all of the following conditions:
- if they take the request as an imposition (PDI: guests should not deliberately try to make
a server's day more complicated)
- if the substitution will mean more work to place the order (PDI: guests should
understand that I don't have time for this right now)
- if they don't know how to enter the substitution in the POS system (PDI: guests should
not try to confuse me when I am busy)
- if they think that the guest is just being contrary (PDI: guests should be happy with what
is offered on the menu).
- if they think that everyone must be treated the same way (PDI: if I let one person do it, I
will have to let everyone do it)
If you had a staff member who behaved in this manner - who habitually said "no" as a
knee-jerk reaction - you might conclude that they "had an attitude" or were not service-oriented. After all, if they cannot easily see what would be required to accommodate the
guest's request, or if they are not willing to consider the idea and try to handle it, they
should not be working in a service industry, right?
Where did they ever get such a negative outlook? You would certainly never do anything
like that . . . would you?
In the interests of introspection, let's say you are in the middle of the managerial juggling
act (trying to keep sales up, keep costs down, find good staff, put out fires, have a life and
the like) and one of your staff makes a last-minute request for a schedule change.
Your first reaction might well be to say "no" under any or all of the following conditions:
- if you take the request as an imposition (PDI: employees should not deliberately try to
make a manager's day more complicated)
- if the substitution will mean more work to rearrange the schedule (PDI: employees
should understand that I don't have time for this right now)
- if you don't know how you are going to be able to accommodate the change (PDI:
employees should not try to confuse me when I am busy)
- if you think that the staff member is being contrary (PDI: employees should be happy
with the schedule the way it was originally written)
- if you think that everyone must be treated the same way (PDI: if I let one person do it, I
will have to let everyone do it)
Do you see what I mean?
How it "should be"
In both these examples, the problem grows out of a pre-determined idea - something that
one person has decided in advance SHOULD go a certain way. We all do this and there is
no fault in merely having the thought. The difficulty comes when someone become
attached to their idea of how things SHOULD be.
Your idea of how things should be - your PDI - is only a thought that you had at some point
in your life. Somebody told you something and you believed them. Who said that the
information was true? A PDI is essentially something that you made up in the first place
and when you give it more legitimacy than it deserves, you can get yourself in a lot of
So what does all this have to do with life in the real world of foodservice?
As a start, it may help you make course corrections with your staff. If your crew seems
focused on what they cannot do for your guests (as opposed to thinking about what they
can do), you could get upset that their behavior is not what it "should be" . . . or you could
work on it from where they are.
Interestingly, getting the staff to say "yes" starts with the attitude and actions of
management. Write this down: Your staff will treat your guests the same way you
treat your staff. Repeat as necessary
What they see is what you will get. Your behavior toward your crew in the daily course of
business provides the model for how your staff will behave when a guest makes a "weird
request" or does something they were not "supposed to" have done.
Start to notice
Start to notice your own tendency to resist anything that is at odds with your pre-determined idea of how things are "supposed to be." This means not over-reacting when a
staff member asks for something outside the normal routine of things (like a last-minute
schedule change) or when one of the crew shows a little initiative and does something in a
different manner than the way you would have done it. Lighten up!
Start to notice your reaction when a staff member asks you for something outside the
normal routine of things, like a last-minute schedule change. You are the role model
whether you want the job or not. Watch yourself!
Start to notice any thought that contains a "should" or a "supposed to" and be wary of it.
Your safest course of action when your brain bubbles up a "should" idea is to just let it pass.
Do not allow yourself to take it seriously or get attached to it. It is only a thought -
something you made up - and it has no importance other than what you arbitrarily assign to
Start to notice what happens when you are not listening to what other people mean by what
they say. You (and they) can tell when you are not listening because you will have an
answer in your mind before they even stop talking. Do not presume that your experiences
have any relevance to another person. Listen!
Start to notice that other people's actions and requests make sense to them. The fact that
they may or may not make sense to you is not required. Learn!
Start to notice what happens if you allow yourself more than a passing thought that things
"should not" be happening the way they are happening. Notice how that thought can
paralyze you and how judgmental that is and how disrespectful, indifferent and impersonal
you seem to others. Open up!
Start to notice when your own agenda seems more important than that of the people you
are delaing with, be they guests or staff. Notice how unserved those people feel when it
happens. Wake up!
In short, notice your pre-determined ideas and don't let them run your life. We all have our
personal preferences. But to impose your view of the world - your pre-determined ideas -
on others is disrespectful and will only keep you from seeing fresh possibilities.
for further information, contact:
Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor
PO Box 280
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
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