Beware of the Sidework Slacker!
Everyone knows who the sidework slacker is. The culprit knows who he/she is. The sidework slacker is forever looking over his/her shoulder to make sure no one is going to stop him/her on the way out the door. For some of us in the business, we’d rather let the slacker go than have a confrontation. Yet, whenever I have confronted the sidework slacker in my own work experiences, he/she never reacted badly. In fact, it became a restaurant’s pet joke that one particular fellow would always try to get out the door without doing his sidework completely. It also became the pet joke that I would literally chase him down and have him come back and finish his work. I think he started to look forward to our daily clash of ethics!
Does any of this sound familiar? If you’re lucky, you only have one sidework slacker to contend with. Can you imagine having more than the one you’ve got? Before you get to know the feeling of that insidious disease, try some techniques that are proven to work. First, make sure everyone knows what the sidework is for a particular station. It is unnerving to be the new person and have to constantly ask someone else what he/she is supposed to be doing for sidework. Also, it’s just a good idea to always have it posted in case there is ever a need for clarification on who does what. Emphasizing to your staff the importance of their duties and the relative impact it has on fellow servers can be helpful. Sometimes servers need to be involved in a meeting where the discussion is purely a venting session about how and why it is so frustrating to work with someone who doesn’t share the work load. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure!
My favorite method is proven to be the most effective, and to describe it I like to borrow a word from the Japanese. The word is “cho,” or group leader, and this person should change from shift to shift. Everyone should have an opportunity to be the cho, and that means everyone also has the opportunity to be a closer for a particular shift. The cho has to be the closer because he/she will check the sidework of everyone else before they leave. Make it a rule that the cho must check out the sidework of every individual before they clock out. If that means that an opening server has to wait a few minutes because the assigned cho is busy, then make sure your staff understands that is just the way it has to be. For clarity, put a star next to the person who is the cho for each shift; don’t leave it up to the servers to decide who the cho is going to be. I like the cho word because it also minimized the risk of employees coming up with derogatory terms for this position, such as “bad guy,” etc.
Assigning a different cho accomplishes more than just the obvious task of making sure sidework has been completed; it also builds self-confidence and assertiveness in your more timid employees. If they aren’t afraid of their co-workers, they certainly won’t be afraid of your guests.
You’re always going to have to deal with folks who just don’t want to play with the team and do their share of the work, but you can take steps to change their habits or, in the worst case scenario, encourage them to move on. You don’t need that element in your restaurant; it’s hard enough already!