It’s Sunday morning. Church has just let out, and Whataburger is the after-church meal hot-spot in your town. You stare out in to the empty parking lot, waiting for the first cars to roll in and the drive-thru headset to go off.
Are you prepared?
Without proper policies in place, companies from Whataburger to Wells Fargo can find themselves throttled by a production pipeline that is just too gunked up to really flow. I’ve worked in fast food for a very long time, and considering that this profession is most sensitive to loss in revenue from inefficiency, I always took time to figure out the best ways to improve the workflow. Here are four basic practices I’ve identified that any job environment should implement.
Aces In Their Places
Not every employee is going to excel in every task. Jimmy might be the fastest pizza topper this side of the Mississippi, but when he has to jump on the oven he drops more pizzas than he cuts. Jessica, on the other hand, cuts pizzas with the efficiency and precision of a lawn mower, but Jimmy laps her whenever they’re on the make-line. They’re both team members, and thus are expected to do both, but you’re going to have Jessica man the oven and Jimmy the make-line all shift anyway.
As the manager, you’re responsible for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the people working below you, and always delegate tasks and assignments with this in mind. Jimmy can probably work the oven as a last resort, but why put him on when Jessica is working today?
Be Consistent in Managerial Decisions
Whether those be assigning tasks to team members or sending people on their breaks, a manager must act with discernible and consistent logic in all of their decisions. A flimsy boss can lead to employees who are not confident in their leadership, and who will inevitably attempt to direct themselves. This can often cause various employees to act at odds with each other, unintentionally or otherwise, and severely cripple the productivity and efficacy of the store.
A strong manager is like a good conductor. Every part and every musician needs a certain amount of direction, but all can be directed harmoniously if they are anticipating what you will ask of them. Randomly asking for a crescendo where there has always been a diminuendo will disrupt the performance of all involved.
Keep Important Things Close
Nothing is more aggravating and potentially time consuming than running out of an important material. If you’re in the middle of the lunch rush, you will inevitably run out of four or more toppings in the top of the make-line at around the same time. If there aren’t any prepared containers underneath, it can halt production and potentially dangerous for the employee who feels rushed to re-supply. Production could come to a near stand-still during these times, and the employee could injure herself or someone else in her haste.
A good supply of materials and back-ups close at hand is of the utmost importance for productivity and efficiency. Interrupting workflow even for a few minutes can cost much more in time lost, especially for an office job where it’s been shown that many employees take a little time to reorient and mentally prepare themselves for the task at hand. As manager, your job is to make sure those supplies are never more than arm’s reach when possible, and to ensure that each employee has what they need.
Group Friends Together
This piece of advice can have dire consequences if you don’t first ensure that the employees won’t distract each other, but this is usually only a problem for high-schoolers in a fast food setting. When your employees are mature enough to stay on target, it’s often best to have them collaborate with those they like most as much as possible. Sometimes it will be necessary to group people who do not have any rapport, or even negative feelings towards one another, but when possible delegating tasks by social clique is one of the most subtle yet profound ways to increase efficiency and productivity.
Tasks are always more fun with friends, and an employee who’s enjoying themselves while they do something banal is one who will work better on that task. This will also spark more creative and honest conversation between the workers, and new revelations about the task and other applications for the result (or ways to achieve that result faster) may be found.
These four pieces of advice have been invaluable to me as a manager at Papa John’s. They are a direct and practical way for me to improve my job not only for me but for those for whom I’m responsible. I hope that these practices can find their way into your own workplace, and that the experience is all the better for it.