Life is a Bitch?
I recently had some t-shirts made up for one of my consulting customers. In the process of developing the design, I came across a shirt with the old phrase, “Life is a Bitch, Then you die”. This is one of the phrases that at first glance sounds pretty true. For example, a service or quality complaint can pretty much ruin an entire day for most managers and owners, making life a bitch.
Turning a complaint into a win-win situation or the frown upside down is another topic in itself that has been covered to death, and is not really the point I am trying to get across here. The same goes with another suggestion I see all the time: “Why not just never make mistakes?”. For the majority of entrepreneurs, and an even higher percentage of managers, these self help mantras, posters, and other advice are easy to find, and just as easy to ignore.
Looking closer at the actual phrase brings out the contradiction in this line of thinking. We can all agree that life is a bitch some of the time, but is it true all the time? If life really was so bad, wouldn't dieing be a welcome relief? I assume most of you aren't searching for the nearest tall bridge or cliff to jump off, so don't let this overlooked contradiction poison your thinking. It does have a very observable effect on morale. The root of that phrase is something along the lines of: “Why bother trying, my contributions won't matter anyway”.
How does this relate to the pizza industry for example? Here are just a few of the many examples where the 'Life is a Bitch mentality' can kill your morale:
I hate this place, but when I am done I have to go home to my crummy apartment.
This job Sucks, and whats worse I might get fired.
Big Deliveries are Heavy, and then you get Stiffed!
This is the basis of many complaints I have read over and over again on Pizza Today's BBS, both from managers and drivers. The exact wording varies, managers are usually asking about how to make drivers feel better when they deliver a large pie order and get no tip. The first thing that comes into many driver's head when they see a large order is either 'Booya! Big Money time!' or , “This delivery is far away, heavy, rainy..., and those cheap skates aren't going to tip me”. Going into a delivery setting your self up to get the old “stifferino” is a sure way to kill any chances of a tip you might have had.
You might also lose future business because of a poor attitude on the driver's part. The walls have ears when you are complaining about a customer inside of their own building. One clear and easy way to eliminate this situation is to just stop taking large pie orders or delivering to the edge of our delivery areas. Does that sound like a viable option to anyone? Taking that to the extreme you could solve the problem completely by eliminating deliveries all together. No deliveries, no drivers, no worries about no tips! This approach is a non-solution to the problem though, like killing the goose to get all the golden eggs or throwing out the baby with the bath water.
Even the single pie deliveries with no tips tend to make drivers angry, an anger that is exponentially proportional to the number of pies times the distance from the store times the amount of the tip, as outlined in the following formula:
# of pies X Distance from shop (in feet) X $ amount of tip = Driver Satisfaction
(With a $3 tip being the standard of neither happy nor unhappy).
A far more reasonable solution is to just attach a fee to any orders over 5 pies. A $3 gas fee is not unreasonable for a large order or a delivery out of the delivery area. How many operators have a 10-20% discount for large pie orders? (If not, you should). If you don't want to attach a fee, then lower the discount and kick the difference back to the driver. This small step will not help the drivers with tips on the single pie orders, but it will let them know that you are aware of their tips and are actively doing something to keep them happy and well tipped. At a cost of a few dollars every once in a while, it is one of the cheapest and most cost effective ways to raise driver morale out there, and in the long run it will cost you a lot more to get another trained driver than it will to gain a new customer.
You don't need the wisdom of Solomon to understand the effect that a single thought can have on your operation. There are more than a few circumstances when having policies in place can save time and make your operation run more smoothly. And to end with another cliché, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
© Chris Tierney
About the Author: Chris Tierney has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years and in consulting for over 10 years. He currently consults in both the US and Japan and keeps busy with a full schedule of television appearances in Japan.