Pots of gold

Monitor progress

Though the mission, vision and principles points the company in the right direction, Johnston still has to monitor if the company is meeting its goals and where it can improve.

To do that, Johnston manages by objective and not micro-management.

“My role, any leader’s role within an organization, is to share the top-line vision and have a clear understanding of what the objectives of the organization are,” he says. “The team members’ role is to develop the strategies and the tact
ics to bring the organization to that objective and achieve it. My role is to set the objective and make sure they’re clear and, when necessary, help remove roadblocks for team members. Maybe they need more resources or they need to be kind of nudged in a different direction, occasionally, but that’s it. Their role is to get us to that result.”

Because one of the organization’s principles is learning, the company relies on that data to know where they are succeeding and where they are coming up short.

“You have to have your clear objective,” he says. “They have to be measurable. You have to have budgets and metrics for measuring results. You have to force yourself to face the music, look at performance against expectation and budget, and when it’s out of line, talk about it, make adjustments. We do that on a monthly basis with the entire leadership team.”

The company has an open format where all of the restaurant operators share all of their sales and data with every franchisee and operator, so they can learn from one another.

There are also franchise business consultants who work with restaurant franchisees, managers and employees and conduct topto-bottom assessments of how each unit is running. A third-party consultant company then monitors the customer feedback and reports on the results.

“I sit on the edge of my seat every Sunday waiting for that report to be e-mailed to me so I can see what the customers’ attitudes are toward the service and the experience we are providing,” he says.

When you get results, you have to use your own judgment when deciding what information will have the greatest impact upon your customer.

“It’s fairly obvious where the opportunities are,” he says. “We don’t overreact. We look for trends. We look for validation. If this feedback is an anomaly, then we might, I wouldn’t say we disregard, but we’ll come back and look at it later. If it’s something that we’re seeing continual feedback of the same sort, then we huddle up with our leadership team … and look at that and examine it further, drill down and go to our operators and managers, talk to them about the challenges that we think we are seeing and get their input.”

While, ideally, Johnston wants his people to identify a problem and work through it themselves, there are times when they need help.

When there is a roadblock, Johnston wants the troubled team member to come to him with the problem. In order for that to happen and for him to monitor effectively, he needs to establish an environment where a team member will admit to a mistake.

“It’s something you work on every day,” he says. “The bottom line is that comes as a result of the team members monitoring your behavior, your actions. You can say it all you want — ‘If you need help, let me know.’ But, if your actions say something different, trust me, they aren’t going to come to you. They’ll sweep it under a mat.”

When Johnston experiences a customer defect while dining out, he knows that if a manager doesn’t visit him, it isn’t because the front-line employee doesn’t care enough to tell the manager.

“It’s because they’re worried about the repercussion of going to management and saying, ‘Hey, we dropped the ball here,’” he says.

That’s why the company preaches to the managers at the restaurant level that the ball will be dropped from time to time, and, when it does, don’t read the guilty party the riot act.

“You think they’re going to come see you again?” Johnston says. “Would you rather have problems and know about it so you can do something about it or rather not know you have problems?”

HOW TO REACH: The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc., (800) 783-0867 or www.meltingpot.com