Quick Service Restaurant Management: Focus Framework in Fast Food

Your managers aren’t performing like you want them to, so the store(s) isn’t producing like it should and you know it can. It’s because your managers aren’t focused.

I just finished a two-hour phone conversation with a highly respected QSR district manager about myriad topics concerning his district, franchise, and the industry and we applied the focus framework in many of the instances. What really stands out in my mind was the portion of our discussion about the challenges experienced by the general manager (GM) in the district’s second-highest volume store.

The store struggles to meet metrics like sales-per-labor-hour, food costs, speed-of-service, and customer feedback. The GM inside the store asserts that he cannot reasonably meet all the metrics because his personnel are uncommitted and the schedule never pans out. Further, the rushes are overwhelming, he doesn’t have the labor, and he doesn’t have time to train. Additionally, he doesn’t get along with the afternoon shift manager. He says that she’s lazy and selfish and that he doesn’t like being in the store when she’s there.

There’s a ton here to unpack, but let’s use the focus framework:

Step 1: Commit

It doesn’t make a difference which QSR or fast casual you work inside; you still have to decide to commit to focus. You can’t meet your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly numbers if your attention is everywhere else. You can’t allow random things at work to distract you either. The general manager’s personal feelings toward the shift manager, for example, are nothing more than a distraction. When they are at work, they’re professional colleagues committed to the objectives. Once they leave, they don’t have to speak at all on a personal level. Committing, therefore, means compartmentalizing the fears, frustrations, and personal pressures to deal with them at the appropriate time so that you can tackle the objectives. Schedule changes, by the way, generally fall into the frustration category. Because schedule changes are everyday occurrences, they shouldn’t derail the entire operation. If the GM were focused, he could anticipate the disruption, and plan ahead. He doesn’t have time for distractions, he has customers to feed, delivery times to hit, and revenue to grow.

What he should do: Check his watch and consider how much time he has available to him to be amazing—normally, it’s ten hours. That’s ten hours that the GM can leverage in meeting or exceeding goals. He can elect to get ahead, stagnate, or fall behind (and from where I’m standing, stagnate and fall behind are the same thing). Because the framework begins with COMMIT, he should select get ahead. Next, he should review his objectives and the subordinate tasks that will make meeting objectives a reality. After which, he should compartmentalize his circumstances, placing priority on his professional duties and subordinating fears, frustration, and personal pressures. He should actively proportion his energy into meeting objectives, waiting for the appropriate time to deal with the other things. So, when his irritation with the shift manager increases as the workday presses on, he can allot time to pull the manager aside and engage in civil discourse to improve their professional relationship. Committing aids him in recognizing that engaging the shift manager during busy or inappropriate periods is detrimental to meeting objectives. When they do engage, it will be at an appropriate time when they can focus on resolving the issue and not be derailed by distractions.

Step 2: Model

There are several rush times during the day—every day—year-round. QSR and fast casual managers know when the rushes occur, they can estimate the volume of each rush, and they can hypothesize how long the rush will last. Rushes are the time for the GM to shine and not allow distractions to make his leadership look third-string instead of starting line-up. It’s during the busiest times where the GM must be at his best. In the stress of the rushes, he must be a beacon for his team.

What he should do: The GM must COMMIT and the team has to see him MODEL professionalism, tenacity, and compartmentalization. It doesn’t make a difference that managers don’t get along. What matters is that the GM focuses on the objectives and prioritizes what must be done over distractions. When the GM finds himself amid a rush and the team has exceeded an order’s delivery time, the GM shouldn’t panic; he can’t change the past. He needs to ensure the next order is fulfilled in the correct time and every order after that. He needs to show his personnel that stressing over what happened five minutes ago will not make the next moment better.

Step 3: Coach

Focus may not come naturally to the team, especially in an industry-culture that too often pays lip service to personnel-development. Cashiers, cooks and food preparers, hosts and hostesses, drive-thru personnel, and other managers need the GM’s guidance in compartmentalizing. He can offer mentorship, wisdom, and perspective in dealing with events, people, relationships, and emotions. More importantly, he can coach the coping skills that allow team members to prioritize their professional duties when at work. It doesn’t take long, just a few minutes here and there.

What he should do: The GM should engage personnel, offering guidance and assurance. When the drive-thru professional, for example, is not performing optimally because he or she is side-tracked with activity on social media, the GM should take a moment and coach that individual:

“Hey, superstar, I understand what you’re dealing with is stressful. But, right now, I need you to focus. There will be time to handle that. I need you to give this one-hundred percent. The team needs you. Later, why don’t we talk about what’s going on if you’re comfortable talking about it? Perhaps, I can offer you some perspective.”

I’m not suggesting that the GM—or any manager—be touchy-feely nor am I suggesting that he be a jerk. I’m suggesting he be a beacon of professionalism and explain what success looks like. He should coach the team and be patient with them.

Step 4: Succeed

The GM needs to meet sales-per-labor-hour, food costs, speed-of-service, customer feedback, and myriad other metrics; he needs to meet them all consistently. Focus is his ally in being consistent. No matter the level of talent, the years of experience, or the network of connections, the GM CANNOT meet objectives if he’s not aiming for them. If the GM is more concerned with things he can’t control (i.e., not having enough labor, etc.) while the team is delivering to a dining room and a drive-thru full of eager patrons, consistently meeting objectives becomes next to impossible.

What he should do: Start with step 1, then do step 2 and 3. Once he’s done with those steps, he should guide the team’s execution to consistent success.

That’s it.

Can you relate? Are you focused? If not, use the four-step framework: COMMIT-MODEL-COACH-SUCCEED.

One last tip: To optimize Step 3, make sure your managers’ and your coaching and emotional intelligence skills are strong. If not, develop them. There is plenty of literature and media that can help. As an alternative, I can also shorten the learning path through a program made to teach and deliver these skills. Click here for more information.

Keep leading!

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