While many restaurant workers worry and sweat in anticipation of an imminent job-related performance review, employees at Applebee's in Westland have adopted an entirely different attitude toward the employment evaluation process. This is due in no small part to the fact that the general manager, Lisa Blanco, rewards superior employee performance the old fashion way.
"We have the lowest turnover rate in the company," said Blanco, beaming. "I'm proud of the fact that when I get an employee, I know how to keep that employee happy and productive."
Blanco started this unusual practice with her subordinates about five years ago, shortly after being promoted to management and immediately after her first husband died. This particular motivational technique is, however, deeply ingrained in her nature, and has served her well in many other areas, and at many other times in her life.
"When I was a waitress with this, and other, companies," said Blanco, "I loved my job, and I was continually looking for ways to increase my tips while making the customer happy. Hell, I remember understanding this philosophy way back in high school. I learned there had to be balance, it had to be a win/win situation for everybody...I've always had high values and integrity. I learned that to get what I want it only made sense that I needed to give the customer what he wants, and I knew I already gave above-average service. Now I needed to give above-average head."
Blanco's track record is excellent. Her store outperforms virtually every other Applebee's in Michigan -- and is consistently in the top-five out of all the Applebee's in the country -- in sales, service, customer satisfaction, product quality, penmanship and, for obvious reasons, employee satisfaction. In addition, her restaurant has maintained almost the exact same staff for the last three years, well beyond any previous company records.
"Yeah, it took me a couple of years to get to know my staff," said Blanco, absently stroking an Applebee's pen while gazing reflectively into the distance. "Working in a busy restaurant can be a high-pressure experience. We are a melting pot of diverse personalities, working under often stressful circumstances. You never know how someone is going to react.
"I learned their likes and dislikes, and what motivated them to the point that they'd willingly give me that something extra...that, whatever it is that comes out at that moment of truth when they've reached the point of maximum heightened activity. Is it hot in here?"
Not that her employees are complaining. Several suggested to the corporate office that Blanco's philosophy be adopted company-wide, and because of those suggestions two senior corporate managers plan a visit to observe, and possibly make recommendations, later this month.
"It's great timing," said Larry Ward, who was brought over by Blanco after working with her at another restaurant. "I think most of us are up for review right around the time those big-wigs are supposed to be here. They get to see hands-on what gives us such a strong unit. Sure, we go against almost every modern axiom pertaining to manager/employee relations, but she took the single most important principle -- keeping your employees happy -- and she does it better than anyone else could ever dream."
Said Ward, "While everyone else is looking outside the box, we're all looking inside hers."
After over 12 years as a waiter and bartender, Dennis Rymarz walked completely away from the business and launched Don't Tip the Waiter, a one-of-a-kind satirical publication that reports fictional news and events from the restaurant industry.
Initially intended specifically for servers and bartenders, the publication is now read by a rapidly growing audience that includes just about anyone who goes out to eat.
Don't Tip the Waiter is distributed free-of-charge to bars and restaurants in the Detroit area, and can be read on line at http://donttipthewaiter.com