Beyond Buzzwords: Making “best practices” a reality – Nation’s Restaurant News

Beyond Buzzwords: Making “best practices” a realityView Source Article
Nation’s Restaurant News  5/8/12
By: Matthew Mabel

Recently the term “best practices” proudly took its place among’s list of “the most annoying, pretentious and useless business jargon.” “Best practice” was deemed “the most pompous confection the consulting industry has ever dreamed up.”

In the past generation, our industry has become professionalized, reflecting both the sophistication of global multiconcept corporations and the knowledge of independent operators. Lexicon aside, restaurateurs have a true desire to get better.

America’s highest honor for achieving that kind of business performance excellence is the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  The award is named for President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of commerce. He was a champion of quality – and also of best practices, long before the term was invented.  For Baldrige, this was the key to economic security in the face of international competition.

Two restaurant companies – K&N Management of Austin, Texas, and Pal’s Sudden Service of Kingsport, Tenn. – are among the winners of the 91 Baldrige Awards given out during the program’s 24-year history.

Pursuing improved practices can have a huge positive impact on both unit-level and corporate results.  So why aren’t all organizations following a proven path?
Most people know what they should be doing; they don’t know why they are not doing it.  Companies often treat symptoms instead of causes; focusing on hot-button issues without first putting energy, time and resources into building a process that works every time to produce the desired goal.

When improving business practices, the best restaurant companies look at four factors:
1. They choose people who have the desire to break new ground and improve – and take pride in doing things in a superlative way.  Some management teams are innovative; others follow orders.  It is a lot easier to improve business practices when everyone on the team is capable of being inventive.

2. They pick a focus.  As tempting as it may be to try, it is impossible for a management team to improve everything at once.  The most effective management teams learn to spot a problem, identify a solution, keep that solution going and then stack another initiative on top of that without abandoning the victory they just achieved.

3. They measure progress to determine whether these changes are worthwhile and ensure they do not fade away. Most measurements are through metrics, but others in our industry can be anecdotal.  Without measurement no one really knows whether the solution continues to exist.

4. They reinforce the expectations that people stick with these practices – every day on every shift – through systems, training and sharing of anecdotes.  Experience tells us that people vastly underestimate the value they get from having their memories refreshed. The good news is most companies have pre-shift meetings and weekly operations meetings to use as vehicles for this.

Through the process of focusing, measuring and reinforcing through committed people, and then rinsing and repeating, management teams can conquer any challenges they encounter.  That is true whether the challenge is building revenue and profit, cost management and service levels, or improving vendor and investor relationships.

The Baldrige process is a challenging one and clearly not for everyone.  But the idea of focus, measurement and reinforcement driven by people who care can be successfully applied to every restaurant in the country.

Matthew Mabel is president of Surrender, Inc., a Dallas-based restaurant consulting and organizational development firm he founded in 1991.

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