2018-04-15 / Marketplace

BUILDING BRANDS

Grits and tips
EMILY CASWELL

“B utt’ it, cut it! Come on guys, you can do this!” The enthusiasm with which this statement was yelled might make one believe that the people “butting it and cutting it” were leading a group into battle or at the very least, leading a group of cyclists during a difficult spinning class. What was in fact happening was that an extremely busy Waffle House manager was encouraging his team to butter toast, cut it and get it on the plate so the servers could deliver it to customers.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of eating at a Waffle House, I highly recommend it. Not only is the food delicious, watching the team at Waffle House work is a thing of beauty and it’s easy since all of the cooking is done right in front of the customers.

Waffle House team members speak their own language (butt’ it and cut it is just the beginning), and work at a pace that makes me tired just thinking about it. I’ve been to many a Waffle House, but during a trip down South last week my husband and I dared to hit a location at 10 a.m. on a Sunday. It was one of the busiest locations I’d ever been to, but the service remained great and we were eating waffles, cheesy eggs and grits within mere minutes. Although I’ve always admired how a Waffle House crew works in such harmony, this particular visit stuck with me.

Spending a week out of my normal habitat allowed me a glimpse into the world of many different professionals, and I realized there are real benefits to observing others in their work environment.

From flight attendants to bartenders to lifeguards and more, in the last week I’ve observed hundreds of workers doing their thing, some great, some not-so-great, and here’s the takeaway. No matter what you do for a living, do it like the Waffle House manager and his team. Here’s how:

• Service with a smile. Yes, customer service is extremely important in the restaurant business, but the truth is, even in an office setting a smile goes a long way. If the Waffle House team can smile through a Sunday rush, your team can certainly smile through a tough project.

• Do your best no matter what. There was no slacking, no slouching, even when things got a little tense by the toasters, it was clear that everyone was doing their best. It’s hard to fault a team member’s mistake if you know he or she is trying their best. It’s hard to fault your own mistake if you know you’re trying your best. Whether it’s a burger or a newspaper, you can’t go wrong when there is 100-percent effort at all times by all team members.

• Lead by example. Everyone at the restaurant was super busy, including the manager. I watched him prepare at least 30 eggs in the short amount of time I waited for my breakfast. He did all of this while helping other team members, even leaning away from the grill to ask a server if she needed help finding the sugar substitute in the back. She did not and politely told him so. While you may have no need to shout “Butt’ it and cut it” in your line of work, there is likely a similar way you can encourage your team when things get busy.

• Prep work pays off. Just as we weren’t surprised to find a packed diner, the team at Waffle House knew that Sunday morning was bound to be a busy one, and they were prepared. The shelves and coolers were stocked, they had a plan for keeping clean dishes within arm’s reach and a way to keep customers moving along so that the line out the door stayed short. It’s rare that a busy day or project truly sneaks up on us. Staying organized and on top of tasks and keeping an eye out for big events ahead will always, always pay off.

As I ease back into the work world after a week of beach reads and sunscreen, I’ll be keeping these tips in mind.

What have you learned while observing others in their craft? Email me at ecaswell@mihomepaper.com.

Emily Caswell is the brand manager for View Group, the branding division of View Newspaper Group.

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