Kool Derby

After a busy morning with meetings, I decided to get a take-out salad from a local restaurant here in San Antonio. It was nearly 2:30 p.m. before I had time for lunch. The salad bar option was an easy choice because it was quick.

As I expected, the lunch crowd was far from gone, but the restaurant was steady. It got me to thinking about who eats lunch this late in the day. Is it dinner for them? Do they eat four times per day? I didn’t ask anyone, so I suppose my curiosity will persist.

After a few minutes waiting for the person with the proper credentials to operate the cash register, my order was processed. As it turns out, the manager helped me, and he didn’t look to be in a good mood.

ME: Sir, I will have the salad to go – just the salad, please.

MANAGER: Just the salad? That’s $5.72.

ME: Looks like you guys are bit busy around here.

MANAGER: We’ve been dead for a Monday. I tell you – no one comes here anymore!

[This was a strange comment because I could see 30+ patrons behind him. I guess he was having a tough day, and his expectations were higher.]

ME: I’m sure that will turn around here soon, and you will have plenty of customers.

MANAGER: That’s not going to happen – not with the people we have around here!

[I’m unsure what he meant by this comment. Did he mean that his employees were losers or that the San Antonio market is wrong for the soup and salad menu? I know we like our fajitas and margaritas in San Antonio, but there are plenty of health-conscious folks in our city. Regardless, the comment was inappropriate, especially coming from a manager.]

ME: Thank you very much.

As I walked away, I wondered if I should even be eating here. What level of quality can we expect of the food when the manager is this unhappy? The fact is that quality of product and service are impacted by the commitment of the leadership team.

When teaching my business courses, I make it a habit to remind students that we must look at the root cause of the problem and not the symptoms. The actions of this manager are symptoms to underlying issues.

To better understand the root causes, I would ask the following questions:

  • What are the qualifications required for this management position? In other words, are you hiring the right people?
  • What type of training is provided to managers? I want to know more about the onboarding process and ongoing training. This manager might have lost his enthusiasm after being in the field.
  • Do you believe this negative attitude is systemic? In many cases, poor employee morale is not isolated to one person. You need to conduct further analysis to determine the size of the problem.

After reaching my office, I ate half the salad. For some reason, the poor customer service made me lose my appetite.