Foodie Friday, and today it may be a bit of a gross-out fest. There is a thread on Reddit in which fast food workers are asked what should we NOT order at your restaurant? Why not? The responses aren’t pretty. OK, that’s a lie. They’re disgusting. That said, they’re instructive in a few ways, the most obvious of which is that the worldwide megaphone is now amplifies all of the dirty little secrets that once were told from bar stool to bar stool after work. It’s not about trade secrets. Those generally have competitive value. These secrets are things that are worst practices that no solid organization would follow.
What struck me was how often cutting corner resulted in unsafe conditions. People not washing their hands, food held at unsafe temperatures, food recycled for days, often transformed from one dish into another, and worse. I will never drink anything in a restaurant with ice in it again after many reports of filthy ice machines that are never cleaned. But it’s not the unsanitary conditions that are instructive.
Many of the restaurants mentioned are part of a national chain. Some are franchised, some are corporately owned. IN every case the writer mentions standard set by the parent organization for cleanliness and food safety. In every one of these cases, those standards were ignored. There are a couple of weak links in the chain.
First, it’s clear that the managers make the difference. Several of the threads discuss how managers ignored the problem even after an employee pointed it out. I think this quote from someone working at an Olive Garden sums it up nicely:
The whole kitchen is incredibly organized, and it’s incredible that we can serve the amount of food that we do with so few kitchen staff, so I think that OG’s corporate system(Darden) is pretty good at what they do. I just happen to work at a location with an insane and incompetent manager.
There are dozens of other examples of brand being sabotaged by an incompetent individual who won’t adhere to standards. But there is another weak link. What about the workers themselves? It maybe true that you have an incompetent manager, but this Reddit demonstrates clearly that the employees recognized how wrong and unsafe the situation was. How about taking some responsibility for disaster they see? I guarantee you that every company can be reached with safety concerns. This, however, was typical:
I try very hard to stick to our safety standards and common sense safety standards. I am not in charge of any of the meat dishes, pastas or sauces, and while I’ve expressed my concerns to my coworkers who do work these stations, every single one speaks Spanish, and I speak English. Also, to be honest, I’m more interested in maintaining pleasant relationships with my coworkers than reporting them to my manager. It’s not my responsibility to manage the kitchen.
In any business, success and failure needs to be a shared thing. Every employee and any level needs to feel invested in that success, certainly enough so that they are unwilling to let safety issues slide or are able to risk interpersonal relationships to move the entire organization forward. The more senior the employee the more critical (as is the weak managers) this becomes. We need to get people to manage themselves well enough that they can take responsibility. Making it happen is something to ponder.