Management Feedback

As I was waiting for my Monterey Chicken sandwich in the deli eating area, I noticed the young woman who seems to run the place take a seat and another employee sat across from her.  I’m not a snoopy person, but I am observant, and the three of us were the ones in the joint.  Their voices were not exactly low, so if I wanted to avoid their conversation, I would have needed earmuffs.

As they talked, I found out was the young woman is the deli manager, and the other employee works in management for the store, or likely, the ownership group that has several area stores.  I was going to lean over and ask for clarification, but I thought better of it.

My sandwich arrived, and it was spectacular, right off the grill, with peppers and melted cheese.  The fries were so hot my tongue placed a 9-1-1 call.

I did not overhear the entire conversation, in fact, I left after I consumed that entire basket of food.  Only on occasion do I eat there, the quality of food is great, and the portions so generous that I feel guilty, like I should be feeding a small country.  The melted cheese on the chicken, with the green and red peppers, was more than filling. I’m still thinking about it.

Anyway, what I overheard was basically, the deli manager being interviewed about staffing of the deli.  I found it interesting that management was asking her about ideas or needs for improving operations.  Normally, the questions are asked a certain way, to guide the conversation, but these were more open ended, and I was intrigued by what sort of answers were returned.

By the way, for $6.49 + tax, I got a sandwich on a sub roll, bulging with goodness, a full basket of fries, and a soft drink.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Back to our story.  The conversation was on staffing, the usual culprit of customer service operations.  The manager indicated that when her last full-time cook left, the position was not filled.  Shocking.  Evidently, this had been a few months ago, so she had a part-time person change his hours to do some cooking, and the manager was now cooking three days a week.  Obviously, she was skilled at it, but indicated that it prevented her from doing other things out front and in working more closely with an under-trained staff.

She said instead of a more formal training effort, she trained while she had time and relied on more senior part-time people, but it slowed down their operation.  Since they were short on cooks, there were seasonal items that customers were asking for that she was not able to provide.  Simply, not enough experienced kitchen hands.

If I may interject an observation, I’ve been shopping at this store for nearly 20 years, it is located across the street from where I work, so I’m plenty familiar with the place.  The deli is always busy with customers buying meals, portions of meats and cheeses, ordering off the menu or picking up foods from the display cases.  These folks hustle.  I’ve seen this deli manager stocking the cases practically every time I go in during the lunch period.  Once in awhile, she’s even asked if there is something she could get for me if I have that perplexed look on my face.  That’s my usual look.

I don’t know what these folks get paid, but I’m fairly certain the pay does not reflect the work these folks perform. Just as a lark, I went on their website to look at employment information.  They don’t list pay and aren’t specific about benefits, other than “Superior insurance benefits” whatever that is.  Interestingly, a few weeks ago I was going through one of the check-outs and the cashier was talking with a sacker about needing an MRI for an ailment, but made the remark about the high cost was prohibitive.  I have pretty good insurance and the out-of-pocket cost is pretty steep.  I guess my point is, even with “superior” insurance, people struggle to pay for pricey routine procedures.

On the few times I’ve ordered off the menu, the cashier looked to be a high school kid, unsure of how to ring it up, or what comes with the meal.  The manager also said she frequently lost her employees, who had to transfer to another department in order to get a raise.  New, inexperienced employees was a drag on being able to increase her sales and slowed down serving customers.  About the time she got an employee up to speed, they started looking for a transfer, and she had to start all over.

To help make up for inexperience and relying on part-time instead of full-time help, I heard the manager describe something that she initiated to help with communication with her staff.  I didn’t see what she handed the management person, but it was something she read.  I was going to ask her to angle it better so I could see it, but I had fries that desperately needed my attention.  I gathered from the little that I could pick up, the deli manager had a notebook for her and the staff to put notes to each other, so they could communicate between shifts and days off.  I am guessing it is probably regarding orders, stock, assignments and other things.  I heard her say, “So we could all be on the same page.”

The service industry is tough, never enough experienced people, and most of the work falls on working supervisors and a few full-time workers. Part-time employees come and go. Meeting sales expectations and doing more with less, all the while, being cheerful to customers, like me. No wonder, burn-out is so high.

During this time of year, more people are in a hurry and picking up ready-to-eat food fits a schedule on the go go go. Like other service jobs, it tests your ho ho ho.

I didn’t stick around to hear the rest of the conversation. Some things are private.

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