Lentil as Anything: Pay as You Feel
As the world changes and capitalism takes over, a counter trend is also observed. In other words, in a world of profits, pressure and competition, there are some entities which militate for different values. They are non-profit agencies which promote human dignity and human rights and which strive to make the world a better place. Such an agency is Lentil as Anything.
Lentil as Anything is located in Melbourne, Australia, and it is based on the pay as you feel system. The three restaurants serve high quality and healthy vegetarian food and ask the customers to pay the amount they found to be worth the food and the experience. They also encourage the customers to donate to humanity purposes.
"Lentil as Anything is a series of 3 pay as you feel restaurants located in Melbourne, Australia. There are currently 3 restaurants in St. Kilda, Abbotsford and Footscray all serving healthy and delicious vegetarian food on a trust basis. The pay as you feel philosophy is simple -- we invite you to pay what you think the food and the experience is worth -- and invite you to also donate towards a philosophy that places human dignity above profit. All donations and payments are made into an anonymous box. Anonymity, in our view, preserves dignity and promotes trust and feelings of social inclusion" (Website of Lentil as Anything).
The current endeavor recognizes the humane benefits of Lentil as Anything, but seeks to assess the company through business lenses, specifically at the level of the quality of its managerial act. In the aftermath of the analysis, several recommendations would be forwarded for improvement.
2. The managerial act at Lentil as Anything
Lentil as Anything was founded by Shanaka Fernando after he had spent six years traveling through third world countries and getting accustomed to the cultures across the world. Lentil as Anything employed 400 staff members at its peak and feeds as estimated 1,500 people each day (Mehta, 2010). The restaurants do not have a price menu and the people are encouraged to pay the amount they felt the food was worth. There is no cash register and the money is simply put in a box with a whole in the lid (Documentary Australia Foundation). The owner and founder of the restaurants believes that this system encourages trust and his underlying and core hope is that of supporting the community.
The customers -- or the people who eat at Lentil as Anything -- are generally economically challenged, which means that they will be unlikely to afford or to pay the actual sum spent on the making of the foods they consume. For the company, this means that they would register decreased revenues. And while revenue registration is not the primary scope of the restaurant -- it being a not for profit entity -- fact remains that it does have to generate sufficient money so that it can support its activities (Czarnecki, 2005). The current system would as such be characterized as financially ineffective.
Another managerial element to be reviewed refers to the staff members. These are culturally diverse and often originate from regions other than Australia. The staff members would often be unskilled and faced with limited demands upon hiring. They are integrated in the organizational culture of community support and not judged based on performance criteria.
While the actual working environment, performance appraisals and career opportunities are inconsistent with those of an efficient economic agent, the high levels of workforce diversity are laudable. Diversity in the workplace is a growing phenomenon across the world and it is the result of the forces of globalization. The adequate management of the multicultural workforce is often a challenge for the economic agents, but it seems to have been well implemented by Shanaka Fernando. And in a context in which the proper management of workforce diversity represents an essential part in overall organizational success (Parvis, 2003), it can be argued that from this standpoint, Lentil as Anything develops a revolutionary managerial act.
A third aspect of the managerial act at Lentil as Anything is represented by the control and evaluation systems, which, from the standpoint of an efficient economic agent, could be perceived as inadequate.
And no-one seems to be in charge. And there are no prices anywhere" (Documentary Australia Foundation).
This lack of control reveals a great sense of trust from the part of Shanaka Fernando. The owner appears to be trusting his staff to serve the needs of the people eating in the restaurants, but also to be managing the situations in the restaurants. This model reveals a rooted practice of employee empowerment, which is both advantageous as well as disadvantageous.
The modern day economic agents seek to empower the staff members as a means of motivating them. They as such try to eliminate the barriers of control and the vertical hierarchy, in order to stimulate the employees to take an active part in the change strategies developed and implemented by the firm (Ugboro, 2006). Attaining this objective is often difficult to for profit economic agents, who deal with various concomitant pressures, such as maintaining control and creating employee satisfaction. But in the case of Lentil as Anything, these difficulties seem to have been removed and the company appears to have attained the maximum level of employee empowerment.
But aside from the immediate sense of accomplishment with employee empowerment, fact remains that the high degrees of decentralization and complete lack of control and leadership among the staff members does generate a wide array of shortages. The most important of them are briefly presented below:
Decisions are more difficult to make as the opinions of all empowered employees are taken into consideration. The decision making process is as such complex and tedious.
Strategies are more difficult to be implemented as differences of opinion continue to exist.
The employees might be under-qualified to make the decisions or they could base their judgments on values different from those of the manager or different from the company values and goals
Not all of the empowered employees would be creative enough so that they are able to support a high quality decision making process
Change strategies are difficult to be implemented as the larger decision group would respond in a slower manner
Employee empowerment and inclusion in decision making creates precedents and it is then expected that employee participation be high in all organizational decisions (Levine, 1995).
But while from the standpoint of the for profit economic agent, this model of complete employee empowerment would be considered as ineffective, it would be perceived as appropriate at Lentil as Anything. And this is due to the nature of the operations completed by the institution, as well as the nature of the people which frequent the stores. Specifically, while not perceived as a charity organization, Fernando's pay as you feel restaurants are frequented by people who encounter social and economic problems. This specifically means that the employees must also act as social workers and counselors (Maribyrnon Leader, 2011). This also explains why it is accepted that they -- the employees -- are demanded to possess little business expertise.
3. Improvements to the management system at Lentil as Anything
As it has been mentioned throughout the previous section, the managerial act at Lentil as Anything is constructed around the promotion of community well-being. The company is not created to generate profits, but fact remains that it does have to generate funds in order to sustain itself. This subsequently implies that it is advisable for the restaurants to develop a new strategic approach in order to enhance its position. The recommendations regarding the new organization direction are divided into four different categories:
Staffs and teams
The first step which has to be taken is that of stimulating communication in both vertical as well as horizontal structures (Kenix, 2007). Such an endeavor would ensure that all stakeholders involved -- customers, employees, the public and so on -- are aware of company objectives, values and standpoints. Also, enhanced communications create a context in which the best decisions are made as the innovative ideas and creative standpoints of all parties involved are taken into consideration. Nevertheless, it must also be ensured that communications do not become redundant and as such create more disadvantages than advantages. In order to stimulate communication, the following actions could be implemented:
The creation of an organizational philosophy which promotes communications. Employees should as such be encouraged to speak their mind and forward their standpoints
The creation of an infrastructure which stimulates communications (Kaizen, 2008). This could refer to accessibility of mobile telephones, main telephone lines or internet through which the people can be reached
The preparation for interactions and communications and the increase in the access to information
The analysis of the situation to be communicated in order to stimulate efficiency
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