By David Parmenter

As an international speaker, there has to be some perks. One of which is to eat seafood around the world. One venue in Brisbane is eagerly awaited by my stomach, the Pier Nine restaurant. It all started during one lunch time where I had only 45 minutes for lunch, I had run over time on the morning session. I walked into Pier Nine explaining the issue to the maitre de. No problem, sir I can recommend the wild barramundi.

The way the rushed order was handled, the stunning meal, has had me coming back ever since. Each time I visit I receive the same excellent quality of service, food and wine that blend into an experience that has me even salivating now as I write. I started to talk to the management and staff, and practices emerged that we can learn from to turn our organisation into a pier nine.

Recruiting the staff member’s friends

When PN want staff they ask their staff to look around there friends and previous work colleagues. The every staff member knows the culture so it is not strange to find that staff introduce friends who they have worked with, who have a compatible work ethic and are likely to fit in. Why rely on adverts when recommendations could be a much better in finding the right staff.

Bonus scheme based on the  ‘Mystery diner’

The bonus scheme is interesting. The staff bonus depends on the mystery diner feedback. Whereas the management bonus is linked to the staff satisfaction. If staff satisfaction is down the bonus is adversely affected. The CEO knows that happy staff make happy customers who make happy shareholders.

Many organisations use the mystery buyer to keep up service levels. PN ensure that this role is treated importantly. They take the feedback into the bonus scheme. Staff every day know that a customer could be that diner. Staff ensure all customers They want them to have an experience they will not forget.

See your key suppliers as friends

The owner pointed to a service man delivering the linen table cloths. He was a burley man dressed in a yellow T shirt and shorts, it could have been in somebody’s idea of a corporate uniform, someone mad. The owner said that person is critical to the business, a friend to staff and does a valuable duty. He ensures the table cloths are always accounted for and those used each day are taken by him and cleaned. The supplier is thus part of the team, too such an extent that the supplier is invited to the Xmas staff function as are the cleaners. How is that for vertical integration of the supplier into becoming part of the organisation!

Staff satisfaction surveys that mean something

They run regular staff satisfaction surveys, at least three to four a year, and take the feedback seriously. The feedback is discussed with management and staff promptly and actions implemented swiftly to rectify any issues.

Dealing with complaints while backing your staff 100%

The owner has a interesting policy here. Whilst the customer is always right they back their staff a 100%. If a customer is unhappy management immediately rectify the situation by offering them a free meal at some later date. They ensure that the wine is paid for as this is quality is seldom nowadays an issue. They treat each such occasion as a learning experience and at the same time believe the staff version of the facts. The key about this procedure is that it forces the disgruntled customer back at the same time not giving away too much. In both meals the drinks will have been billed and paid for as the owner will point out, �your complaint is about xxx and not about the wine�. Far to often we give too much away to a disgruntled customer.

Work with passion

As you enter PN you see a hub of activity. Staff all know what they have to do, and it is a restaurant where I always get the wine waiter to match the wine with the food. It is a 100% success record to date. All staff I have spoken to over the five or six occasions I have had the pleasure of attending have been courteous, knowledgeable and attentive. There is definitely an �aire� about PN that staff believe it is a pleasure to be of service.

Everyone to the pump

There is a seamless division between management and staff. When times get busy all staff can act as front line staff, and do this without a second thought.

Handling the down times

During January when all the business customers are roasting on a beach or golf course staff are encouraged to take their holidays. Part time staff are retained even though they are not required. As the owner said it is important to give your staff longevity of employment, and ride through the slow times.

Honouring long serving employees

All long serving employees get long service leave . This comprises an extra 4 weeks holiday in that year. This is given to staff for every 9 years of service.

Dealing with conflict

In a high pressure service environment staff can, on occasion, stand on each others toes. As the Owner pointed out this one day led, away from the customers eyes to a bit of rough and tumble. The owner, took the staff aside when they had cooled down and said this the sought of behaviour that is expected from great staff in a great restaurant. Both staff, who were expecting to be fired, only left at the end of the day with the shame. They turned up to work the next day vowing to always stay in control.

Pay above the odds

It is said so some many times if you want monkeys pay them peanuts. Paying slightly above the market rates does not actually cost much. Loosing one good staff member for higher pay can cost you over $10,000 in recruitment costs and lost time. This money could and should have been invested in giving staff a premium wage for a premium effort.

Next steps

  1. Buy the leadership toolkit called Winning Leadership: A Model on Leadership For The Millennial Manager” – Toolkit (120 page PDF whitepaper + e-templates).

David Parmenter is the CEO of waymark solutions, a Wellington based company specialising in helping organisations measure, report and improve performance. David Parmenter is an international speaker and recognised expert on performance management. This article is an extract from his book, Leading-Edge Manager’s Guide to Success, soon to be published better practices for accounting functions.