The other day I was in a restaurant and saw a sign advertising "Sliders Fridays." From what I gathered, they offered a deep discount on tiny hamburgers, called sliders, on Friday nights. The interesting thing about this discovery is that I own the restaurant and it's the first I knew of it. (Stacey's at Waterford: www.eatatstaceys.com)

I don't just own the restaurant. I also manage it, although I use that term loosely. I've taken the concept of hands-off management to the next level. Most of the time I have no idea what the staff is up to. They organize customer events, execute marketing ideas, hire and fire, change the menu, and pretty much anything else they want. I only get involved if there is a largish expense that needs to be approved. I see the financials daily, by e-mail, but I'm mostly about the bottom line.

As a well-known critic of managers, I painted a big red bulls eye on my back when I started managing the restaurant. For the first year I was involved in the details somewhat, but primarily to establish an operating culture. I wanted to give them lots of flexibility to try new things, and even more freedom to fail. And I wanted them to feel like it was their own business.

I'm lucky because I have exceptional managers, with lots of experience, who appreciate the freedom they are getting. I think freedom partly compensates for the fact that restaurant pay isn't the best. It's a luxury not having your boss breathing down your neck. Apparently something is working because the restaurant quality is better than it has ever been, and January revenues were slightly up from last year despite the tanking economy. I'd love to take credit for that, but lately all I do is eat there.

The principles I tried to establish with the staff early on, that seemed to have stuck, include these:
  1. Have fun. Loosen up.
  2. Try something new. Often. Keep whatever works.
  3. No penalty for a new idea failing. Trying is the thing.
  4. Employees are more important than customers.
  5. Stop asking Scott for approval. Just do it.
  6. Managers get to see the financials.
  7. Being a jerk to coworkers is grounds for termination.
  8. Do whatever seems smart and fair to make customers happy.
  9. Watch the competition closely and borrow their best ideas.

It probably helps that the staff realizes that getting another job these days is a dicey proposition, and they all want to make sure the restaurant stays in business. When someone doesn't pull their weight, the staff weeds them out on their own, either directly or indirectly.

It's a fascinating exercise. Obviously it only works if you have the right people in key positions. But so far, so good.

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May 2, 2009
Re your management ideas: I managed a dot-com startup using similar ideas, back in the 1990s, and you'll be interested to know that, even though we were in the most incredible competitive market we'll probably ever hear of -- any of my staff could literally walk down the street and walk in any door to get a good job, maybe at more pay (we were in the notorious Soma area of San Francisco, where all the dot-coms resided). But we had few problems with the great economy -- as you suspect, when people work somewhere that they can shine, when they get the credit for their contributions, when they have the full responsibility without The Boss breathing down their necks and second-guessing every move and every mistake -- they *know* how lucky they are, and more importantly, they are getting a *lot* of satisfaction from their jobs. And job satisfaction is the secret sauce of every successful company.

So don't think that when the economy picks back up, your staff will melt away or become truculent. There will always be people moving up and moving away to other jobs, that's actually good because your people are improving themselves and you're sending them off into the world like so many hopeful children. But they will still, while they're working for you, work hard and work smart, and try to be heroes. Because that's what everyone wants, to be a hero at work.

You're on the right track. don't worry about it.

mac in castro valley

0 Rank Up Rank Down
May 2, 2009
Stupid computer. Sent my comment before I was finished.


That cook you have -- Cody? -- jesus, I can't believe that kid is so young and so good.

Our wine-and-food-pairing group, Taster's Guild, hosted at Stacey's a week ago (April 09) and the wine and food pairing menu was off the charts. The food was as good as anything I've ever eaten. Seriously. The pork-based thingie was so good I looked up, as I tasted it, and the woman across from me clearly was having the same thought: "I just took a month off my life, but I don't care!"

Your manager tells us Cody was an assistant when, a couple of years ago, your really great cook took off for another restaurant (a constant problem; good chefs go fast). Cody, who was 21 (21!!) at the time, told the manager to give him a month to prove he could do it. Since it would take a month to find another cook anyway, she let him try. And boy is she glad now.

What a miracle -- you'd never have hired this kid off the street. A wonderful confluence of !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ and you're looking at a cook who can go toe to toe with the legendary chef of the late, lamented Pleasanton Hotel, or even the incredible chef at Faz in Danville -- which is saying something.

I congratulate you on this great triumph, which you had nothing to do with directly, but indirectly -- well, the great thing about being a boss is that when your staff triumphs, you get full credit too. Credit is like love: It expands to fill all those who deserve it.

And anybody who happens to read down the posts this far, if you live in the Dublin/Pleasanton area, or anywhere in the San Francisco East Bay, Stacey's should be on your must-visit list. It's incredible.

best regards,

mac of castro valley CA
0 Rank Up Rank Down
May 2, 2009
Before I comment on your management ideas, let me comment on your restaurant, at which I ate recently.

Mar 27, 2009
Ignore my entry below, I posted in the wrong blog entry.

I love the list and would like to use them in my Hotel Restaurant Management English class. It is amazing how complicated the goal structure has become, especially when having to teach the bizarre, often self-contradictory ideas in English.

Thank you for keeping it simple.
Mar 27, 2009
I teach English at a college in South Korea. One of my unofficial duties is to proofread other teachers' work and to make suggestions on how to improve articles they submit to academic journals.

My next job will be to edit a paper for a professor whom I know will make many errors and I know that despite spending hours making corrections, suggestions and giving ideas for improvement. They will all be ignored because the professor spent 1 month in the United States and believes he knows all there is to know about academic English.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 24, 2009
Scott, I love the dresscode: "...Nudity is illegal but we’ll allow it on a case by case basis. Just ask the hostess for an opinion." That alone conveys a regulated free-form environment.
I've seen a few friends do well with adapting to the economic sea-change, some doing so three years ago and are prospering. Gone is the $100 per head dinner, served to a once-a-month customer. Does it impact the bottom line? Sure, there was fair profit in that $100 meal.
The upside is they might see that customer 4x a month now, netting $200 in revenue... and they bring friends!
Congrats on the venture, much continued success.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 22, 2009
Great site. And your restaurants look better than anything in Ohio. The best restaurant here is probably Fridays, imo.
Mar 14, 2009
@ mykencasey: The comic your looking for us March 3, 2005
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 14, 2009
I call your style management by osmosis because your rules are all geared to impart success via a relatively simple formula of cause and effect. I'm a big believer in it. Unfortunately, not enough "mangers" either direct or armchair have the capacity to understand it let alone apply it. Then again for you that's a good thing because without decade upon decade of raging incompetence there would've been no market for a Dilbert comic strip. Where I work the corporate mantra is "Customers First." Secretly the workers add, "Employees Last." Also, how employees treat each other doesn't matter one whit as long as they can do their job sufficient enough as to not embarrass their supervisors. You want improvement? The answer, of course, is to hire Consultants to perform engagement surveys. Ha! What a joke that is!! If employees do not answer the survey properly they torture them with meetings until they lie and say everything is fine. Then the consulting firm collects their whopping fee and brags about how they've created a better workplace for all! The World famous organization for which I work is IMHO the most managerially backward place I've ever seen, but nowadays one takes what one can get lest one winds up out of work during the era that gainful employment is dead.

Mar 13, 2009
And another benefit, following the example of Dilbertfiles in the recent strips......
If any of your employees comes up with a brilliant idea that you can franchise and market worldwide.....
Well it belongs to you doesn't it?
Mar 12, 2009
Here in the UK working for the National Health Service, the management rules are:
1. Punish anyone who tries anything new
2. Create an environment where patients will die owing to staff shortages
3. Blame the staff for patient deaths
4. Fill the hospitals with useless managers
5. Spend billions on computer systems that don't work
6. Move staff around frequently so they never get to know a job area properly
7. Fire anyone who questions your ability to manage
Mar 12, 2009
It reminds me fondly of how I would chuckle at the book on tape "The Dilbert Prinicple" when you'd describe your OA5 ideal company (Out At 5pm). Particularly the in-depth discussion on how although @$$holes may have important skills, you're better off without them considering how devistating they can be to the work force.

Much continued success!
Mar 12, 2009
I would hope that one of your principles would have to do with proper hygiene, sanitation, and preventing things like e-coli, given that this is a restaurant that you are managing.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 12, 2009

The customer is NOT always right.

However, in the interest of keeping people coming to one's said establishment, I would adopt this philosophy: "While the customer is not always right, we will do everything in our power to serve him/her." I couldn't agree with this more.

Also, I would add a #10 to your list: Never hire family -- especially your wife!

(Which explains why my wife works for my current company now! Hahaha!)
Mar 11, 2009
Sliders! Sounds like White Castles to me!!
Mar 11, 2009
I hate to change the subject (and I'm new) but: I'm trying to find the strip where Wally un-parachutes into Elbonia and announces (as I remember it) "I'm an American and I'm here to help." I live in Prague and use the phrase regularly - to great comic effect - but the only references I can find googling are to "I'm from the government . . .etc." Do I misremember? Can someone tell me if the original is in one of the collections?
Mar 11, 2009
Just came out of a conversation that relates to this. The gist was that not everyone can function effectively without constraints. My colleague suggested a matrix between skill and motivation: high skill and motivation, low skill and motivation, high skill but low motivation and low skill but high motivation.

So perhaps Scott's observation focuses on what he has (and what most of us would want to bet) -- high skill and high motivation. But the pair involving low-skill regardless of motivation is - without pro-active intervention in terms of supplying training and moral support - going to lead to a very unhappy and (in the case of high motivation) a very stressed and depressed employee.

What do you think?

Grnadpa (Grandpa)
Mar 11, 2009
Congratulations, Mr. Adams! This sounds like a fantastic plan, & it looks like it's working for you. BTW I live on the East Coast so I haven't been able to eat there but I would if I could 'cause I want to (is a franchise in the works, perhaps?). Anyway I'm thinking someone should do a case study on your restaurant, as it would be great for business students (either in college or MBA people). Not me, I'm afraid...I am a lowly science grad student...
Mar 11, 2009
Scott, what you're saying reminds me of a couple of things. If you haven't already, you should look at a book called "The No !$%*!$% Rule" (or something really close to that). The author raises the seemingly obvious question of "Why do we put up with !$%*!$%*!$% and by the way, don't. The other thing is a blog sponsored by a friend of mine called "The Importance of Earnest Service", which is about a subject that I suspect has been critical to the success of your restaurant. Take a look at it: http://blog.jmbyington.com. Jeanne Byington and her associates have a lot to say (good stuff) on the subject of service. Cheers! fpainestam
Mar 11, 2009
Phantom II, you are a right disagreeable @rsehole.

For once and freaking all, Atlas Shrugged stinks of overwrought adolescent power fantasies combined with typically conservative negative view of the human condition. Unless you are a crazed Objectivist it is a quaint period piece of crank fringe literature by a remote freak who thought too much and avoided living in the real world. It is one step up from Dianetics - just about, and it gets a big fail both as a novel and as political allegory. It's elevation of the individualistic pursuit of wealth, regardless of the consequences, above all other things; compassion, sympathy, cooperation and working for the common good is anathema to anyone with either heart or common sense. That pursuit of wealth has surely been shown up for the travesty it is currently, no? Ayn Rand did flee from a totalitarian state so was understandably warped - what's your excuse?

Scott, I like your priciples, and they are remarkably similar to those of the best boss I ever had.
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