There is a marked difference between the quick-service companies that are celebrating an anniversary this year and the foodservice products that are doing the same. To wit, little has changed about the Tater Tot since it first appeared in grocery stores 50 years ago. Quite a bit has changed at Burger King during that same time span. Buffalo wings might have undergone a few evolutions since 1964–new flavors, boneless chicken, fried versus baked–but those modifications are nothing compared to what’s happened at Arby’s over the last 40 years. Beloved sauces, dishes, and sides can–and often should–retain their original identity; companies do not have that same option.
Had many of today’s great companies not embraced change and adhered to old attitudes about the marketplace, they wouldn’t be where they are today. A culture of constant learning and development has allowed many companies in quick-service to thrive while others have faltered.
Just look at how much our world has changed in the last century. One hundred years ago, the hamburger became a part of American popular culture. At that time, 14 percent of American homes had bathtubs, 8 percent had phones, the average wage was 22 cents per hour, there were only 144 miles of paved roads, only 30 people lived in Las Vegas, and California was the 21st most populated state.
Dated thought from the 1900s: “Most Americans will work on farms and in factories forever.”
Fifty years ago when the Tater Tot was invented, entertainment in the home was rapidly moving away from the radio toward the black- and-white television. Long term employment and company-supported retirement plans were the norm. Nearly 80 percent of the companies that made up the S&P 500 then no longer exist. Dated thought from the 1950s: “Chain restaurants? They’ll never make it.”
Fifteen years ago, the Women’s Foodservice Forum was formed. The group has since changed the landscape of our industry and provided needed guidance and leadership to help move us all forward. The best-selling Service That Sells! also came out in 1989, launching the suggestive selling and “steps of service” wave.
Dated thought from the 1980s: “Videos are the wave of the future. They’ll be around forever!”
Ten years ago, my first laptop had a 120 MB hard drive. Today, it’s possible to fit twice as much information on a thumb drive that clips onto a keychain. Sexual harassment and diversity moved to the forefront of human resource issues. Successful companies who were embracing differences continued their successful run. Others went to court. Dated thought from the early 1990s: “Nobody will ever pay $4 for a cup of coffee!”
Eight years ago, my first LCD projector weighed in at over 25 pounds. Today, they are 50 percent cheaper and weigh one-fifth as much. Dated thought from the mid-1990s: “Self-service at airport counters, grocery stores, and quick-serve restaurants? That will never happen!”
The name of the bus is change. It’s your choice to be on it or under it. Unless you want your operating model to be lumped with the dated thoughts from the early 2000s, begin implementing some of these ideas:
- To change the guest experience, alter the employee experience. Put your employees first. Invest in them. They are a resource and asset, not just a labor line on the P&L.
- Think: “On-demand.” This applies to how you train and how your systems are designed. The idea is to eliminate extra work and save time.
- Be prepared for the future. At the very least, each of your stores should have its own television, DVD player, personal computer, and CD-Rom drive.
- Migrate toward e-learning. Today’s (and tomorrow’s) employees are raised taking tests and getting information from personal computers. Books and videos? They are so 1990s.
- Want to help make this industry more attractive to potential employees? Get with the times in regard to training and management styles. Old school, hard-nose, my-way-or-the-highway attitudes need to be eliminated immediately. You can try to resist, but eventually you’ll be run over. After all, some days you’re the bug and others you’re the windshield. Believe me, it’s more fun being the windshield (and hurts much less)
While many of the products celebrating anniversaries this year haven’t changed that much, the way people learn and the tools available to us have been radically altered. Adapt to the times. Leverage today’s advances in technology and training to help accelerate the growth and success of your company. Next year, let’s celebrate the first anniversary of your new, more successful business.
T.J. Schier is service professional, consultant and speaker with over 20 years experience in operations and training. Founder and president of Incentivize Solutions and podTraining, T.J. has helped numerous clients enhance their service and training programs and spoken to tens of thousands of managers, franchisees and operators in various fields. Visit http://IncentivizeSolutions.com/ for more info motivating today’s employees, training today’s generation and delivering outstanding guest service; or http://podTraining.us/, a unique new system and the foundation of ‘i-learning’ – using the device of today’s generation, the iPod – to train your workforce.
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