Monday, August 28, 2006

Losses and training

I have been training people for Red Lobster for more than 6 years of my adult life. Prior to that I trained people for 3+ years in another restaurant, and I have trained hundreds of people in a previous career. There comes a point in a server trainer's run where he or she figures out very quickly whether the new trainee will be a keeper or not. It is often just inches beyond a gut feeling, but I'd estimate 90%+ it is the right call. Believe me, I've had some really gifted people, and then I've had people who couldn't grab their own ass with both hands if you gave them a map and directions. Strangely enough, some of the worst trainees I have had to work with were people in Red Lobster's manager in training (MIT) program. People with virtually no social/people skills who have nonetheless managed to make it into the ranks of the professionals via some clueless regional director. I understand that there are times where the pickings are few and needs are great (as is supposedly currently the case in the Chicago area for RL's) but there needs to be a minimum requirement, or if there is one, it needs to be raised.

What is worse is that when we get a good manager who comes through training, that we (as a corporation) struggle to keep them as a Darden employee. Red Lobster trains their MIT's very well, in a deep and comprehensive way, so that they know all aspects of the store (even if they are not proficient at all of them). By far the least emphasis is put on their learning how to serve tables, because they will not be doing that in the future (at least not in a Red Lobster as a manager). The way Red Lobster/Darden has structured things causes them to go through managers at a remarkable pace. They have effectively, from a corporate standpoint, set their middle managers up for failure. Once you make it to General Manager (overseeing a whole store) you have a bit more security, but still only a bit. The mid-level managers are in the worst possible position. They take heat from every direction. They deal with all the cranky, insane, rude, crude and otherwise unpleasant customers. They also have to deal with all the staff problems in their area of responsibility. They are also micromanaged in large part by the general manager. Beyond that they are micromanaged by the area director. At to add insult to injury, they are handcuffed by a corporation who has decided to kiss anyone's ass, regardless of how wrong that person is. If anyone with an ax to grind calls in, be it for a legit reason or not, the mid manager's job is on shaky ground. It would take about 3 minutes of effort on any employee's part to get virtually any manager in hot enough water to probably get them fired.

This is further exacerbated by the requirement that ALL managers must work a minimum of 50 hours in a week. If their time card shows less time than that (not including vacation and sick days) their check will be docked (they won't get their full salary). What worsens this burden is the constantly rotating schedule that does not allow for a consistent schedule. This causes a remarkable amount of stress on managers with families. One day you are at work until midnight closing, and then you have to be back the next day at 8:00AM to open. With the set up of 4 managers in most stores, that means 3 of the 4 must work every day. One opens, one is a mid (comes in before a lunch rush, and stays until after dinner rush), and the third is the closer. If someone wants to go on vacation, everyone else suffers until that person comes back.

Now you might contend they get paid to do this, which I cannot argue against. You could also argue that they are choosing to do this, which I again, cannot argue against. But to say those first two statements without understanding the rate of turnover, plus the cost of the training for a manager is enormously naive. The added cost is turmoil caused among staff by the transitions between new managers. Added stress of existing managers trying to carry the burden. The time it takes a new manager to come up to speed in a new store costs time and money. The stress on the new manager's life and family is a cost. I'm sure there are many other costs as well. It boggles my mind that Red Lobster/Darden does not do more to build up their management staff and to support them. But of course, that'll never happen. As the original title of this blog stated, Red Lobster hates its employees.

I used to get asked on a regular basis by our area director to consider being a manager in that director's area. Not a chance. I'm escaping as fast as I can. That day cannot come to soon.

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Ranter said...

Wow, Lobster Boy, that's exactly like The Company that I work for. In our region, we have 1 manager who has been there for at least a year, all the others are new (as in 2months into The Company) or without managers. Our Company turns over staff like nothing else. Casuals and store managers leave at an amazing rate and those that are left behind always have to pick up the slack. My trainer and ex-manager (she's about to quit and has gone back to study) has trained at LEAST 50-odd casuals and managers in the past 2 years, and only a handful remain.

You sure have guts to stick it out at RL and continue to train. And I wish I could name my blog 'XXX hates its employees' as well, but ours is not such a big company and I'm sure I'd easily be hunted down and exposed! And I want to rant some more before I'm shut down and done!

Keep up the good work and great stories!

Ranter said...

Hey Lobster Boy, cool, thanks for adding me to your links! :)

The Management said...

There are few things that detract from your point more than misspelling "naive."

Lobster Boy said...

Good catch there Mr. Management. I fixed it, just for you.

Lobster Boy

fooddude said...

yeah i applied for a manager job with RL i made it thorugh the first 2 phases then failed the cognitive test, i dont know how many i got wrong or what, i have been the GM at my restaurant for over 5yrs, increased sales by 10% every year and created our own catering business which now revenues an additional 5 % of sales monthly, and RL turned me down because of some silly test. kind of pissed me off that there was no real explanation other than corporate office said "disapprove". oh well, my boss has been doing back flips for a week since i told him i am not leaving. And you wonder why RL managers have no people skills, they should actually interview their applicants instaed of testing them like lab rats. more power to you for getting out of there bud.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I left Red Lobster in 1997 as General Manger in Dalton Ga because of the items mentioned by Lobster Boy. Really loved the company, was with them 13 years, but have to say the comments posted here still sound the same, even after 10 years have passed for me. Got tired of fighting my Area Director on how to run my restaurant. Al Brochue, where are you?

Anonymous said...

Must not do any drug testing for management training.....A stoner I live next to is in the training program now.