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Managers are not exempt from serving

I used to work for a general manager who was critical of our hotel’s food and beverage director because he had a reputation for rolling-up his sleeves and pitching in when the restaurant was slammed. Sometimes, he would seat guests. Other times, he would bus tables.

My GM believed that the reason he had to seat guests and bus tables was because he inadequately staffed the restaurant to service the forecasted volume of guests. That may be true but, as any operations manager can attest, there is a finite number of payroll hours to work with each period in order to stay within budget.

For this reason, many operations managers roll-up their sleeves and pitch in. (Believe me, this is a lot easier than increasing your department’s payroll budget.) Often, their motivation has less to do with being seen as team players and more to do with not exceeding their budgeted payroll hours.

Maybe my former GM was right and the F&B director scheduled inadequately? Or perhaps the F&B director did what he had to do to staff a restaurant with an inadequate payroll budget? I can only judge by what I can see: a line of guests waiting to be seated and a cluttered table that needs to be bussed.

Recently, my son and I were at Cold Stone Creamery. As a line formed nine customers deep, a single employee scrambled to accept, fulfill and ring-up orders. Meanwhile, a second employee was “working” in back in full view of customers waiting in line.

As the harried employee rang up our order, I motioned toward the employee in back and asked, “Is she available to help you out?”

He responded, “She’s a manager, so she has other things to do.”

Unfortunately, her “other things” didn’t have to do with supporting her staff or serving customers. Perhaps she feels as though she’s done her time working on the front line? Maybe she’s above it now that she’s a manager and, as such, should focus on more urgent managerial-type tasks like scheduling, procurement and budgets?

Or, possibly, none of those applies and she just missed an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and exceptional customer service by supporting her staff while reducing the wait time for her customers?

Most managers are classified as exempt employees who, because of their positional duties and authority, are exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. While managers may be exempt from overtime, they are not exempt from serving.

If you’re a manager, understand this: You will rarely have enough budgeted payroll hours to staff your operation the way you’d like to. Scheduling to service forecasted volume is fraught with trade-offs. And there will always be urgent tasks that require your attention.

The most important element to any operation is people: employees and customers. So, when you have the opportunity to serve either of them, do it. Right away.

Illustration: Aaron McKissen

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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