Superlative Leadership

There is an old saying that a manager lights a fire under people, but a leader lights a fire in people.
I’ve learned a long time ago that there are three traits of a great leader.

The first is passion.  A great leader has passion for what they do. They have excitement every day they come to work, and that excitement is infectious with their team.

The next is hard work.  A great leader will always work as hard as their teammate, and never ask a team member to do anything that they wouldn’t do, themselves.

Lastly, expertise.  A great leader is a student of their craft, and certainly always understands the challenges that their team goes through.

Always remember that leaders are not rewarded for what they do.  They are rewarded for what their

people do.

The Only Thing Consistent in the World is Change


Change is inevitable yet we innately, as humans, hate and push back to it whenever possible. The reason we do this is because change typically takes us out of our comfort zone.
I learned this first hand when I was 19 years old and I was a fry cook at a restaurant called Chan’s Saloon and Eatery in Pensacola, FL.  I had been working at this restaurant as the fry cook and the restaurant was certainly a freezer to fryer type restaurant, where half the menu came right out of the freezer and went right into the fryer.  I had been working there for three months and thought I was pretty good at what I was doing.
About three months after I started the restaurant wasn’t doing well because they had hired a consultant to come in and evaluate the operation and give ideas on how to make the restaurant better.  After about a week being on site, the consultant started to make changes to the restaurant operation, including me.
He came to me and he said, Kelley, you work great at your station and I really appreciate what you’re doing but I want you keep your baskets into the fry oil.  After every order I would dump the baskets out of the items I was frying and then hang the baskets up on the hooks.  He gave me all kinds of reasons about why it was a better way to do it his way including that the baskets in the oil keeps the oil hot so you don’t drop cold basket into the oil.  We did a lot of batter fish frying, so you could swim the fish into the oil without it sticking to the baskets, and it’s more efficient to be able to dump things right into the oil versus the basket.
He gave this advice, and every time he walked

off the line I would hang the baskets back up. Every time he would walk on the line, he would drop the baskets back into the oil. He’d walk off the line and I’d hang the baskets back up. He’d walk on the line and he’d drop them back into the oil. This went back and forth for a couple of days until one day he pulls me aside and he says, “Kelley I really appreciate your job you do here but the next time I come into the kitchen and the baskets are hanging up, you no longer work here.”  Sometimes the stick is truly mightier than the carrot and I couldn’t lose my job so I started to do it his way.

To this day, every time I walk into one of my restaurants’ kitchens, instinctively the first thing I do is drop the fry baskets into the oil.  Why?  Because he was right, it was a better way to do it, it’s more efficient, and the only reason I challenged him was it took me out of my comfort zone, and was different from what I was used to.
Change is inevitable.  It is the only thing consistent in the world.  Change is fine.  It’s good to be out of your comfort zone.  If you change something and it doesn’t work, change it again, and if that doesn’t work, change it again, and if that doesn’t work, change it again.  I’m a big fan of one axiom, “If it ain’t broke, break it.”  How do you make it better all the time?  Continuous improvement can only come through change.


A Customers Lifetime Value

When I do training, I tell all of my audience that when you’re in the service industry and whenever you have a team member that is face forwarding a guest they have an unbelievable effect on that guest’s lifetime value.

If you think about it, any consumer that comes into a place of business, whether it’s a restaurant, bar, retail establishment, entertainment venue, or a concession, the team members working at that place of business have a huge impact on that guest experience.  In fact, they are the business to that guest. If the guest has a good experience, odds are that they might tell somebody and come back.  If the guest has a bad experience, they will definitely tell everybody and never come back.

To me, it is never about the immediate sale but the relationship my team develops with my guest. Mya Angelo said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel” I believe this is so very true in business and in life.

Is your staff aware of their impact on your guests’ or customers’ lifetime value and how important they are to the success of your business?


The One Commonality of a Bad Service Experience

As a restaurant and bar owner, I have discovered that there is one commonality between a bad service experience; whether it be that I have the poor experience myself,  I receive a complaint letter from a guest for one of my restaurants or I receive a bad mystery shop. That one commonality of all three is the fact that there’s no manager presence on the floor interacting with staff and the guests.

I always say that a manager’s job is simply this, to make things happen or let things happen. If a manager is not on the floor with the guests, then they are not able to influence the guest experience.  I ask my team all the time, what is more important while you’re working than the guests in your restaurant?  The only answer acceptable is nothing!

The guest is not an interruption of our work they are the purpose of our work.  If floor managers aren’t  present to oversee the experience their team is giving the guest and a guest receives a poor experience, then who is ultimately at fault for that bad experience?

The Best Marketing is Word of Mouth

Quite often when I am hired to consult an underperforming restaurant or bar, the first thing I do is stop all marketing and

public relations.  I tell my client, why would you spend all this money to get people in your door when you’re not taking care of them once they come in.

It’s so important that the guest experience is superior because not only will it make your guests happy, but then potentially build them in as part of your marketing team by going out

and telling people about how good their experience was.

Today,  with modern technology, people share their feelings via their cellphones, in real time, whether their experience is good or bad. Social media is the new normal for modern day marketing.

In my business, the clients that I work with write testimonials so that potential clients will see what other clients are saying about my business and services. This form of marketing is worth much more than any advertising  that I could pay for to grow my business.

Who Do You Work For?

When I work with and train service teams, I invariably ask the audience who they work for.  I’ll go around, and I’ll ask specific people what they’re job is.  I’ll get various answers: bartender, server, dishwasher, cook, hostess, etc.  I then tell them that that is their role, but their number one job is to service the guest.  In essence, everyone in the restaurant works for the guest.

I recently was doing a training at Radio City Music Hall. I was asking the team who they worked for.  They looked at me incredulously and said, “Radio City Music Hall.” I challenged them.  I told them that I disagreed with them. None of them work for Radio City Music Hall. They might get paid by Radio City Music Hall. They might get their checks written from Radio City Music Hall, but ultimately, every single person there works for every guest that buys a ticket and attends a performance at Radio City Music Hall.

In a goods and services economy, everyone of us works for the person that ultimately pays for the goods and services.  That factory worker that works for Mattel, the toy company, might think that they’re working for Mattel, but actually they’re working for the guest that’s in Target that buys that toy off the shelf.  Without those consumers, without those people that buy the goods and services, none of us have a job.  I learned a long time ago that the guest or customer isn’t always right, but they must be satisfied, because all of us ultimately work for them.

What is the No.1 Way to Make Someone Feel Important?

Often when I work with hospitality groups, I ask the question, “What is the No.1  way to make somebody feel important?”  I get many answers from, “Smile at the guest,” “Make eye contact,” “Say hello,” “Simple greetings,” and while all those are great ways to make somebody feel good, they don’t make somebody feel important.

The No. 1 way to make somebody feel important is to find out their name and use it.  As humans, we all have an innate desire to want to be recognized by our name.  I then ask the group, “If the No.1  way to make somebody feel important is by finding out their name and using it, what’s the best way to find out their name?”  Almost always, the resounding answer is, “Ask them.”

Certainly this would work, however my recommendation is that the best way to find out somebody’s name is to introduce yourself to them first.  Once you’re introduced yourself to somebody, odds are they’re going to tell you their name.  Once you’ve found out their name, use it as often as you can in your conversations and transactions with them.

In my business, 98% of  people pay for their meals and services by credit card, another great way in which to learn somebody’s name.  How great is it if you were to dine in a restaurant, and when you paid the server came up to you and said, “Thank you Mr. Smith, it was a pleasure to serve you.  I hope you come back and see us again.” Something so easy that I train all of my teams to do, and yet 10% of the time, the response from the guest is, “How did you know my name?”  I find this rather humorous considering that staff members do this simple yet impactful step so few times that the guest would actually be shocked that one of my staff members would know their name.

Is Every Member of Your Team a Brand Ambassador?

Whenever I work with leaders of organizations, I notice that the most successful leaders are great at utilizing their team to grow their brand.  In my business, hospitality and the restaurant business, I ensure that every one of my team members knows everything they need to know that one of my guests might ask them.  The importance of this is that every one of my guests or customers meets my team members typically a lot more often than they meet me.

The reality is my brand is 100% represented by the people that work with me.  Any guest that sits in any of my restaurants meets my team members, and they therefore are a representative of my brand.  If a guest asks what the hours of operations are, who designed the restaurant, asks about certain menu or food or beverage items, it’s incumbent upon me to make sure that my team knows every answer because they are representing my brand.

If you are in a leadership role, always remember that managers are not rewarded for what they do, they are rewarded for what their people do.  How well is your team representing your brand?

Don’t Confuse Results with Effort

Quite often I engage with team members that complain about all the hard work they do without achieving the desired result.

I like to use the fly analogy as I discuss with them that all the effort in the world doesn’t mean anything if you don’t achieve your desired result. Have you ever witnessed a fly that is bouncing off a window, trying and trying to get outside? All it is doing is just bouncing and bouncing against the glass using all the effort in the world to get to the outside. All the fly had to do was take a different tact and fly through the open door 10 feet away but it’s trying and trying to get out that window. The end result is the fly usually ends up dead on the window sill instead of achieving the result of getting outside by trying a different method.

I use this analogy to illustrate to my team to find the ultimate goal and work backwards from there so that you can achieve the result through minimum effort. All the hard work in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t achieve your results.