Operations

The business of people

Last month’s MenuDirections 2015 conference in Memphis, Tenn., had a lot of meat to it—if you’ll pardon the pun. The culinary focus of our conference always gives operators much to take back with them in terms of menu development and enhancement.

As the editor of FoodService Director, I pay attention to what’s being discussed so I can bring back valuable topics. However, my personal takeaways are sometimes quite different from other attendees. Because food is not my daily focus, I am drawn to the non-food tips that some of our speakers offer.

I suppose that’s why one of Michael Donahue’s messages during his talk on social responsibility resonated with me. Donahue, the co-founder and chief brand officer for LYFE Kitchen, discussed what he calls anticipatory issues management. For Donahue, it’s about proactively anticipating potential problems before they arise. 

“There is no such thing as a crisis in your business,” Donahue says. “You should know everything that goes on with your business. Why would you ever get caught by surprises?”

Still, companies and institutions find themselves in crisis mode because they failed to anticipate. As Donahue describes it, every problem goes through as many as four stages: the emergence of a problem, a tipping event, crisis management and resolution. He says most companies and institutions go through all four stages because they don’t recognize problems until a tipping event occurs. Then, while one team within a company manages the ensuing crisis, a second group tries to solve the problem.

By contrast, organizations that foresee problems as they materialize and quickly address them avoid the two middle steps—along with the headaches of crisis management.

“The best opportunity to save resources, save costs and reduce risks is to deal with issues as they emerge,” Donahue says. “It is no longer that the big eat the small. It’s the fast eat the slow.”

A couple of weeks later, I was reminded of this anticipatory management approach while reviewing the results of an informal survey I had conducted, which asked readers for their thoughts about FSD and the topics with which they are most concerned. One issue that kept cropping up was the challenge of finding, retaining and motivating employees.

A few months back, when we released the results of the 2014 Big Picture survey, we learned that a growing number of foodservice professionals are worried about the work ethic of their current employees. We also reported that operators are worried about where the next generation of foodservice workers is going to come from, and what habits and expectations they are going to bring with them.

These human resource issues need to be explored. On the one hand, because they are such a widespread concern, are they the kinds of problems that can be managed proactively? Or, because the situation does not seem to be universal, are there companies and institutions that are managing it better than others? Are there organizations that have ways to deal with these issues before they become crises?

As the readers’ advocate, we should find out. So, over the next few months, we will reach out to educators, consultants, sociologists and efficiency experts for their takes on this frustrating challenge.

You can help us by telling us what you are doing short-term and long-term to try to solve your recruitment and retention challenges.

Take a moment to drop me a note at pking@cspnet.com, and we’ll track your comments and suggestions as we do our own research to uncover solutions you can use.

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