Speaking With a Single Voice

Posted by at 10 March, at 10 : 32 AM Print



PARTNERSHIPS can be a great way to grow a business more quickly, with two or more individuals having a vested interest in the success of an operation.  One’s strength can complement the other’s weakness, and the burdens of running a business can be split, keeping the principals fresh and effective.  Partnerships can also, however, have their challenges, particularly when competing visions, approaches and opinions come into conflict.  And while those conflicts can be taxing on the partners, they can do great damage to a business, causing confusion, inertia, and downright disillusionment for the people working for those partners.

Restaurant staff – be they hourly or management – looks to the business’s leaders to understand how they should best do their job and contribute to the restaurant’s success.  Understanding the business’s vision and mission is a big part of how they approach their work, and of how to prioritize their tasks, and give importance to various aspects of the business.  When the business’s partners are not on the same page, those staff members are frustrated, and rightly so.

For example, Tasos and Philip are partners in a busy downtown diner.  Tasos is focused on speed of service and table turns, willing to take some kitchen short cuts that increase throughput but might diminish the overall food quality slightly.  Philip, on the other hand, believes that everything that comes from the kitchen should be cooked to order, with specific cooking instructions followed to the letter to ensure consistency.

Neither is wrong, of course.  In a perfect world, we all want both speed and perfect food.  But seldom is a world perfect, and often are the times that compromises are called for.  In this case, the line cook is stuck in the middle.  Surely he can follow one instruction, but in some instances he can’t follow both.  If he listens to Tasos, he may find himself using the microwave in some instances where he would prefer not to; he may have to par-cook a half chicken and finish it to order rather than cooking it fresh from a raw state; or he may have to warm his pita in a bread warmer or oven rather than on the grill if the grill is filled with other items…  If he listens to Tasos, the customer won’t get the expected culinary experience, and if he listens to Philip, the customer may not have time to eat the meal he ordered because his lunch break will have run out.

Of course, these scenarios are not limited to the kitchen; Tasos and Philip may have differing opinions on dozens of other issues:  How many servers are needed on a shift; whether to offer free desserts to first-time guests; whether to close early if business is slow; which specials to run; whether the lights should be lower and the music louder; which employees need to be terminated; etcetera etcetera etcetera.

Often, the differences between partners are so stark, that staff members tailor their methods to coincide with which partner is running the shift.

If you find yourself in one of those partnerships, I have a recommendation for you:  Don’t try to prevail.  Sit down with your partner or partners and communicate with one another.  Don’t ignore your differences (your staff certainly isn’t) – embrace those differences and come to terms with them.  Find agreement on the issues, big and small.  And provide clear guidance, with a common voice, to your staff.  In so doing, you will enable them to be more efficient, and take ownership for what they do.

Constantine Kolitsas is the president of CNK Consulting, a Restaurant Consultant and Coaching business. He can be reached at 203-947-6234 or at


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