Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What if you could figure out how good a waiter was, without having to eat at the restaurant?

I was a waiter and for a period of a couple years in high school, I terrorized served the patrons of my local Friendly's Restaurant. As was painfully obvious to my peers, I wasn't very good. I was much better making sundaes and frying up burgers. It took a while, but (thankfully) the managers finally realized and had me stop serving customers.

That experience came to mind when I learned recently about the company, Objective Logistics and their product "Muse". Muse can determine who actually are the best waitstaff.  Objectively.  With analytics.  Now I have never used the software, but from reading some articles and their web page, it's pretty clear they can rank your staff for you.  Obviously, it can rank staff based on average size of check (a key restaurant metric).  To me, the power is in more than that it does that, but the power is in how else it can take that data and make it actionable.

To me, the breakthrough becomes the ability to get deep into the data.  To ask why, then why again, and why again, until you really understand what's going on.  Creating more sophisticated analytics based on more sophisticated understanding of your business.  What if you could determine who were you best staff based on profitability? A good restaurateur knows how much each item costs and how much profit is in it.  If a restaurateur can see and then train their staff to highlight the higher margin tomato & buffalo mozzarella instead of the similarly priced duck appetizer, the restaurant makes more money.  Additionally, wait staff who have higher customer service skills will arguably make a higher percentage in tips than their peers who don't treat the customer as well. Could you track tips to see who's over achieving with customers?  Survey them to see who's most happy?

To me, what gets even more interesting is if you can take it to the next level.  Kenexa (now owned by IBM) provides software and services to better recruit and retain employees--the BEST employees! What if, together, the two companies could develop a metric that said how good the waitstaff were.  Employers could then either develop training programs where the best waitstaff partnered with average ones to help them improve.  Some will learn and some will not improve.  You'd be able to even determine who are the best trainers and maybe even calculate if they're more valuable to the restaurant as a trainer than an individual waiter, and potentially justify a higher salary.

What if you could calculate a Klout-like "Restaurant Score" and track an employee's abilities and skills over time.  Taking the information from Objective Logistics and come up with a score that says how good the waitstaff are.  Obviously it's a metric that could be used in promoting and giving staff within a chain the best shifts.  But it's more.  What if you could determine when or even if a server should be promoted from a server  at Outback Steakhouse to Flemings Prime Steakhouse and Bar; from lower to higher end restaurants?

If I was a hiring manager at a restaurant, and knew that a one candidate has a had a higher restaurant score (better customer service and more profitable) than another candidate, it could be an obvious (and certainly more objective) factor in hiring decisions.

knowledge + action = powerBranding specialist and executive coach John Antonios has a great blog entry about knowledge + action = power.  It seems to me that the combination of the Objective Logistics and Kenexa to develop actionable knowledge on restaurant waitstaff would lead to the perfect partnership.  The staff would win.  The owners would win.  And maybe we could even get better service from our local restaurants.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Privacy, Security, and Olmstead

I've been reading articles on privacy for a while and I stumbled upon these wise words:
But [since the writing of the US Constitution] "time works changes, brings into existence new conditions and purposes." Subtler and more far-reaching means of invading privacy have become available to the Government. Discovery and invention have made it possible for the Government, by means far more effective than stretching upon the rack, to obtain disclosure in court of what is whispered in the closet.
Moreover, "in the application of a constitution, our contemplation cannot be only of what has, been but of what may be." The progress of science in furnishing the Government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wiretapping. Ways may someday be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home.
Justice Brandeis
Now, that seems to be very contemporary given the recent Snowden disclosures about the US NSA.  But it was really written 85 years ago by Justice Brandeis of the US Supreme Court in, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 473 (1928).

Yes, I'm a firm believer in these two seemingly contradictory thoughts:

  1. People have a right to expect a certain level of anonymity or privacy; to go about their lives without unreasonable intrusion.   
  2. The government has a responsibility to keep it's citizens safe in much the same way as parents have a duty to keep their children safe. 
I guess it boils down to where is the line...that there are times that for the protection of the citizens and enforcement of the laws, the government, needs to be able to invade that privacy.  I'm not always sure how to balance it, but even Justice Brandeis was concerned.  And he couldn't have ever imagined anything like the power of the internet.