Lollapalooza recently announced Black Sabbath as a headliner at this summer’s music festival. A news program covering the story cut to concert footage of the band playing “Iron Man.” The hard rock and wild electric guitar riffs brought me right back to my early teen years when I tested the patience of my parents and neighbors by turning the speakers of my record player out the windows and blasting Sabbath’s songs. I began to reflect on the longevity of the careers of the band and its founder. Say what you will about the crazed and dazed Ozzy Osbourne but, over 40 years after the inception of Black Sabbath, they are going stronger than ever. In fact they have sold millions of albums and have won just about every music award possible. It stands to reason that such durability is no accident.
It's the kind of durability that we in the catering and hospitality industry crave. Osbourne and mates are shining examples of building around established systems. One of the most important tasks in business is creating internal systems that generate predictable results. Once you have solid systems in place, you can weather any change-over in personnel. Sabbath has had over 20 musicians join, quit, and return over the years. Regardless of this "revolving door" model of employee retention, the band's concept, format, and methods have stayed the same.
If rowdy and outlandish hard rockers can instinctively follow these business principles, why do we struggle to do so in hospitality? Our chefs want to cook “their” food rather than menus requested by the client. Or, a cook wants to riff rather than follow recipes. Sales people hunger for big-name galas at the expense of profitable margins. Or they burden the kitchen with impossible demands like scheduling tastings on the busiest weekends. When pressed for time and under pressure, ops people are tempted to cut a corner or two. Worst of all is when owners are afraid to ruffle employees’ feathers by drawing clear lines. Employers justify their failure to formulate protocol by saying “it is a lot of work” or “there’s never enough time” or “the staff won’t buy into a new process.” These are all excuses that hold companies back from reaching and maintaining excellence over the years.
If we catering and hospitality professionals cannot step back and create reliable systems at every level of our companies, we are not likely to experience the sustained success enjoyed by Black Sabbath. Where will your company be in 40 years?