Complacency and parmesan cheese.

I wrote this for my company marketing email, and I wanted to share it here as well.

What does parmesan cheese have to do with restaurant management?

The best part of hosting Top Restaurateurs is what I get to learn. Recent guest Tim McLoone told one of the best allegories about unmanaged restaurants I have heard, and it applies to all businesses.

It went like this:

A nice restaurant hand-grates parmesan cheese at their restaurants. They use a cloth napkin and a good, old-fashioned grader. It creates a pleasant aroma and a great customer experience.

Over time, these graters begin to break, so the staff goes looking for the crank style graters they used to use. It’s still a good customer experience, but not the one that was intended by the restaurateur.

After a while, the cranks break, so the waiters ask the kitchen for ramekins of parmesan cheese. It’s not a great customer experience, but the customers still get cheese.

The ramekins get lost, and break, and before long customers are receiving their parmesan cheese in little plastic cups.

The restaurant struggles. The staff doesn’t commit to the high level of service and experience they once did. Complacency sets in. Customers stop coming. The restaurant can no longer afford to buy the little plastic cups, or the cheese for that matter. They are out of business.

When you are not intentional about setting expectations and creating accountability systems, shortcuts will be taken, and business will suffer.

What are the areas of your business that are likely to slip if left unmanaged? What are you doing to make sure that does not happen?

The good news is it’s never too late to start doing something about it.


Unconscious competence.

There are skills you possess which are so natural or innate you don’t recognize them as skills.

Often these are skills you picked up watching your parents or peers. Great speakers and sales people are usually the children of great speakers and sales people.

They are tied to your temperament and personality. It’s easier for people to be assertive, be good at conflict resolution, entertain, or problem solve when their natural tendencies lean that direction.

It’s important to be able to identity these skills because they often point to areas where you can make the greatest contribution. I find this exercise particularly beneficial when I am stuck. If I think through skills of which I am unconsciously competent, I am able to see a path to break through.

So spend 30 minutes reflecting and noticing what you do well. Document the steps you take when you are using those skills. Do work to understand why are you have those skills. What you uncover will open doors for you.