As John R. Walker (2008) describes in The Restaurant: From Concept to Operation, "chain restaurants have some advantages and some disadvantages over independent restaurants" (p. 8). What the chain offers in its favor is public recognition of a name customers can trust, more extensive advertising, and greater ability to discount. Independent restaurants, on the other hand, also have some advantages -- they are not bound by any corporate model, they are significantly easier to start up, and they can even boom into their "chains." This paper will look at one independent restaurant, called Oakley Pub and Grill, and identify its strengths and weaknesses, from cost-controlling to sanitation, food production, leadership, and staffing.
One cost-control challenge for Oakley would have to be the fact that its food and beverage costs routinely hover around 35%. Cost, according to Randy White (2005), should not be something so high, and one good way to achieve better cost-control is to routinely perform prime cost check-ups: "It is important to track prime cost on a regular basis, as it includes the two most controllable costs - labor and cost of goods sold." Infrequent tracking of prime cost allows too much time to elapse "before it's recognized that costs may have exceeded the benchmark. There's no way to go back and correct them at that point, so it represents a permanently lost profit opportunity" (White).
White recommends daily reporting of food and beverage cost -- which, among other things, helps send a strong message to the food and beverage manager that cost is very important, and keeping that cost down essential to his job. As White says, "That which gets measured gets attention," so if costs are not being taken into account on a regular basis, they can quickly get out of control, as is being seen at Oakley, according to Oakley owner Brian Arlinghaus.
Challenges to Food Production and Sanitation
Oakley, like any restaurant, will face problems with both food production and sanitation. Oakley, initially, had a problem with roaches -- it was infested. The solution was pest control, of course, and the roach problem (the roaches fell from the ceiling to cover the floors of the entire place once the spray started) was taken care of. Food production, however, is something else.
Arlinghaus frequently complains that food production is a big problem at Oakley. The problem is in the way the hamburger patties are produced. The Oakley burger, at one time, was listed as one of the top five burgers in town -- but as costs increased, cut-backs were in order, a cheaper grade meat was used, and more patties were made at one time. The end result was that the Oakley burger lost much of its pizzazz.
The way to address this situation depends on one's burger-making know-how. One, going to a lower grade meat is not saving Oakley that much money in cost. The operation cost is being ignored -- by making a better burger, Oakley sells more burgers. In short, Oakley is not doing anything to solve its problem by using lower grade meat.
The other thing Oakley might consider is making fewer patties at one time. The additives that go into the meat tend to make the meat rubbery if left sitting for two long. A fresh patty is juicy and tender -- Oakley's are clearly no longer fresh. Taking the time to address these issues would not cost Oakley too much. In fact, the Pub and Grill often has two cooks on one shift -- reducing the number of cooks would save them much more than would making too many patties at one time (which happens because the extra cook has nothing to do and must be kept busy).
Essential Leadership Skills
Leadership skills that would be essential to have at Oakley, which is a very hip and trendy place where many college kids like to come, would have to be a good business sense, and an easy-going manner. Arlinghaus confesses that he does not have the best leadership skills.
For example, one manager at Oakley went to great lengths to secure a good cook for Oakley's kitchen. Arlinghaus, who for days had been fuming about the burger, ordered his meal as usual and flew into a rage when it came out sub-par. He went flying into the kitchen, shouting at everyone, and offended the cook so badly that he threatened to quit on the spot. Arlinghaus later realized his error and lamented the fact that he had not kept his cool. After all, it was not the new cook's fault that the patties were not fresh.
Being an effective leader means respecting your staff just as much as they respect the customer. Humility, trust, and integrity are essential in effectively running a place like Oakley, where even members of the staff can sometimes get out of control. (The most recent example would have to be one waitress, who, on her break, went across the street, became drunk, and returned to her job, where she became horribly offensive to customers and had to be fired by the manager). Staff will sometimes lie and cheat and steal -- but a good manager will be alert to minimalizing such occurrences and creating an environment in which a good crew will like to work.
Not enough can be said about effective leadership skills, and yet, the most important thing about being a leader is actually leading. As Henry Mintzberg (1973) says, "Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it." The best way for a leader to hone his skills is to practice them. One of the problems that Arlinghaus frequently finds that he comes up against is the fact that he does not know how to communicate well with people. One thing he could do to make this easier is to do it more often and more frequently. Opening up and talking is far better than bottling up and then exploding.
Nonetheless, the top three characteristics would have to be, as has already been stated, humility, trust, and integrity. Without humility, a leader is a man for whom no one wants to work: he is proud, arrogant, and too tough. A humble leader recognizes that he, too, is human, and cannot always expect the moon -- he also is willing to let his workers know that he is willing to look out for them, that he has their best interests in mind, not just his own.
Trust is also an integral aspect in effective leadership. Trust helps open the avenues of the worker-boss relationship. Distrust immediately closes them off. Trust helps foster communication. And integrity essentially works the same way, too. By promoting integrity above the dollar, a business like Oakley would restore its place in the burger industry. By valuing service and product, its burger would likely regain its prominence in no time.
The Staffing Process
For a while, the staffing process at Oakley has been something like nepotism. The manager hires his friends, which can quickly lead to a lax environment in which everyone is hanging out and no one is working. The problem is self-evident: too many friends behind the counter leads to no friends at the tables.
To fix this problem, the manager at Oakley should be selective in a different way when recruiting or staffing. The ideal criteria for staffing should be as stated: "The [executive team] of an entrepreneurial firm has two basic jobs…to set the vision and strategy and to hire the people to achieve them. Therefore, [senior management] needs to drive the implementation of a staffing system and hold people accountable for results" (Staffing Best Practices).
What that means is that instead of allowing the manager of Oakley to recruit his friends, a template should be used to…