Monday, April 27, 2015

What Can We Learn From Waffle House?

What Can We Learn From Waffle House
It Might Surprise You!
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown April 27, 2015

It's Sunday morning and I was on my way to stop by the local Sams' Club to pick up a birthday cake for my daughter's birthday.  Sams' did not open until 10:00 and it was 9:20 so I stopped at the Waffle House on Brownswitch Road in Slidell, Louisiana for breakfast.

A word of explanation is in order.  Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson and that is to imagine that everyone you meet has a tattoo on his or her forehead that reads - WCILFTP?  And HCIMTPFI?  What do they mean?  What Can I Learn From This Person?  And, How Can I Make This Person Feel Important?  It is a two-way street no matter how you look at it.  You can learn something from both the best person as well as the worst person in the  world and you can always make someone feel important.  This morning as I entered this particular Waffle House it was no different but I got far more than just a breakfast.

As I entered I took one of the two remaining open seats in the restaurant; it was a counter seat.  As I waited to be served I did a quick head count of customers - 29 including me.  I also did a head count of the employees - 9 including the one serving me.  My Waffle House lesson started the moment I walked into the restaurant when at least three of the workers welcomed me to Waffle House.  When was the last time that happened to you when you entered any business of late.  #1WDIL - What Did I Learn?  It takes only a second to be cordial and welcome people to your place of employment whether it is your job or not.  Being cordial is EVERYNE'S job!

I took my seat and immediately someone again welcomed me and ask how they could serve me.  I placed my order that included coffee and the coffee was almost immediately placed in front me.  #2WDIL?  Promptness, and be polite no matter how busy you are.  #3WDIL?  The nine workers were all extremely busy but they all without exception seemed to have two gears - one was full out keep busy.  The second gear was almost full stop as they would not only stop their physical activity, they would also stop their mental activity as they came face to face with their customers.  They would slow to a stop and smile and ask how was the food, is there anything else they could get for their customers and may they warm the coffee.  Then it was full speed ahead again.  In other words, take time to smell the roses and treat everyone like they are the most important person in the world at that particular moment (even if they are behaving like a jerk).

While waiting for the food, I could not help but notice that they all spoke in code.  The servers would verbally send their code to the cooks who immediately coded the order by placing a plate or a bowl on the work area and then place something on/in the plate/bowl that signified exactly what the coded order meant.  Everyone knew exactly what they were doing and everyone waited for their turn to speak.  #4WDIL?  The importance of training.  Everyone and I do mean everyone, knew exactly what was going on even though I didn't.  #5WDIL?  When everyone is properly trained, the orders were properly prepared.  As stated, there were 29 customers on this Sunday morning and I did not hear any of them complain that their order was improperly completed.  #6WDIL?  Accuracy of service IS EVERYTHING!

Wait, it gets better.  If you have ever been to a Waffle House you know that the area in which the servers and cooks work can't be much more than 6 feet wide.  In this area these nine people did not once bump into one another.  #7WDIL?  If you know what you and your team are doing, space is not all that critical as long as you respect what others are doing.  Speaking of that, my server as stated would be going 100 mph but suddenly stop and ask if there is anything I needed.  She would then go about her business and that business was not just waiting on her customers, it also may involve washing dishes, cleaning counters/tables and even sweeping the floor all the while greeting customers both coming and going.  #8WDIL?  You may have a job description but customer service is Number One for everyone and there is nothing above or below your job description that if it needs to be done, is done by everyone and not ignored.

It was then I realized that of the nine workers I did not notice any one of them appearing to be a manager although I am sure one of them was.  #9WDIL?  Teamwork is everything!  When everyone does their job and a little bit more there is no need for a manager to be constantly looking over everyone's shoulder.  Being in charge is not a title, it is an attitude.

What about the food you ask.  Good question.  It was as expected; it was hot, it was tasty and it was served in a reasonable time.  Again it was as one would expect from Waffle House.  #10WDIL?  Customer expectations must be served and maintained if you want to maintain your reputation; good or bad.  Sadly some customers come to expect certain things and never fully appreciate exactly what goes into making the experience "as expected" even if that expectation might be exceptional and therefore unto itself non-memorable.  Think about it.  Do you remember a good meal and/or service, or do you remember a bad meal and/or service?  What is important is that as a worker, did you do your best to make that experience exceptional?

Then came the surprise that made me smile.  One of the other servers stopped in front of me and leaned over and with a sly smile said, and I quote, "We need some entertainment in here; I'm going to create some havoc!"  There is fun-loving havoc and there is horrible havoc.  I know she fully meant the fun-loving kind.  Sadly, I had to leave and could not stay to see what her idea of havoc meant - my loss for sure.  #11WDIL?  Have fun while you work, it is much better than the alternative.

Sunday morning at Waffle House; only 25 minutes of my time.  You can learn something from everyone and every situation you encounter IF ONLY YOU PAY ATTENTION!  I think I tipped my server 90% this particular morning  because the lessons I learned this morning were as good if not better than any sales training I can recall given it was for only 25 minutes.  And finally #12WDIL?  It doesn't matter if your customer is paying attention to what you and your team is doing - give it your best; SOMEONE IS ALWAYS PAYING ATTENTION.