Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hillbillies, Kevin Costner and Conflict

OK kids, it's that time of the month again.

That time where I schlep and shill my monthly column for Food Service News.

If you were smart, you would vulture it on line instead, because that version will actually be edited by master mind Mike Mitchelson, so basically it will make more sense, and there is bound to be a butt load of other stories that are fun to read.


On Memorial Day, 13.9 million people were glued to their television sets to watch the History channels debut of Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.  Over the next couple of days, the ratings not only maintained, but on the final night of this miniseries, the show closed with 14.3 million viewers.
These statistics pleasantly surpassed the expectations of those who worked on the project, and I think it’s safe to say that the Nielsen ratings staggered the entertainment industry as well.
I don’t know why everybody was so shocked; Americans love to dwell on conflict.
To be honest, I had no interest in watching this series. When you grow up with parents that are Irish and Polish, you get enough quarrelling on Christmas Eve to last throughout the year.
On the other hand, I think I might have been intrigued if the program focused on resolving this long standing conflict instead.
To me, concepts that focus on the art of negotiating win-win situations have always been more interesting than petty squabbles.
Case in point…
The company I work for has hundreds of commercial accounts, and each morning when I step into the plant, our Office Manager and I run through early hour voicemails.
Now I realize I’m supposed to tell you guys that we never get complaints since we are such an efficient operation, but if you’ve ever worked a single shift in the hospitality world, you know that would be an embarrassing lie.
Truth be told, I’d speculate that one out of two, or one out of three days, I start off my shift with a fire that needs to be put out.
Over the years I’ve never kept a running tally as to how often these problems were caused by our accounts, and how often they were caused by us, but I would really be amazed if the ratio wasn’t close to 50/50.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, when a moment of crisis rears its head, people typically respond to this in one of two ways…
#1 They blow up and hurl accusations.
#2 Or they remain calm and help you fix the problem.
It’s that simple, and how these parties involved react to these rough waters will influence their finances for years to come.
In any service driven industry, you better put your client’s needs ahead of your own if you are going to make money.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnesses a long standing relationship come to an abrupt end over a momentary fit of anger.
Let’s face it, the hospitality industry can be incredibly stressful, and often times many of us are shouldering huge burdens in unison.
The following is a list of strategies that I have employed throughout my career, but before I list them, I would like to make one thing clear.
These are not bullet points designed to simply get you through a momentary storm until your client and conflict fade into your rear view mirror.
Instead, I’d view this as a formula that I would feel comfortable with, no matter what side of the conflict I was on. Whenever a blunder takes place, in the long run it’s usually in both parties best interest if there is a red carpet of retreat for everyone concerned.
The following is pretty much my opening line anytime I have to address a situation steeped in conflict…
“Hello, it’s me Klecko and I’m calling to follow up on our problem, and determine what your immediate needs are so I can get to work on this.”
After this statement is completed, extend the courtesy of remaining silent while the person you’re dealing with has completed their full assessment of the situation.
When a person is already in a terse mood, the last thing they’ll want to hear is you interrupting, or offering excuses in a defensive manner.
Somebody once said “Screaming defines boundaries.” If I knew who coined that phrase, I’d call them an idiot. Never scream in business, under any circumstance. No matter how volatile a situation is, screaming is never the answer. In fact…I would contend it is a sign of weakness.
People of power and influence don’t need to yell.
I’m not going to name names here, but think of the people in our industry who have floated to the top of their chosen field, then ask yourself, did they get there through intimidation or negotiating.
Time kills deals. That’s why when turmoil enters into your business relationships. Attack it immediately. People will be impressed by quick action. Remember, every second that there is disharmony in a business partnership, this moment will leave a bad taste in your partner’s mouth.
If you can minimize the damage, and escape conflict without terminating your alliance you’re home free, trust me…this is the hospitality industry and odds are a far worse calamity will befall your associates within the next few days and your point of contention will be forgotten.
Let your colleagues hate their allies that won’t attend to their needs.
Before I got married, I was forced to take counseling from a priest. One of the best pieces of advice the padre gave me was…
“Just remember, when you marry that beautiful woman, you are also marrying her family.”
The same can be said for working in the Food Show. How many times has an F&B Director or an Executive Chef called me and asked…
“Where the he** is my order?”
What this person probably doesn’t know is that the Sous Chef or purchasing guy on their day off forgot to place the order.
Situations like this put a guy in an awkward position, but if I’m handling this personally, I’ll never throw the forgetful cook under the bus.
Remember, I want his/hers business too. Most people in the Hospitality Industry rotate employers. So it is in your best interest to remember, if you Judas just one food worker, when they skip to their next concept, they’ll gladly where a T-Shirt with your face, or worse yet, your company’s logo within a bulls-eye on it.
All too often, when a conflict is resolved, your initial contact won’t be on site to see it rectified. Make absolutely sure that you pay them the courtesy of keeping them in the loop by letting them know you saw this problem through.
If you know for sure that you or your company was responsible for the gaff, man up and extend an apology. This won’t be viewed as a sign of weakness, but perhaps to some, a refreshing change.
If the party you are servicing was at fault, close by not mentioning it. This is not a good time to point fingers, or pat yourself on the back.
Actions really do speak louder than words, so once you have your people up and running again, your job is done.


  1. I love you Klecko! I am a Customer Service manager in the real world, and spend most of my day defending policy versus procedure, versus just suck it up and replace it. Thanks for the smile :).

  2. I love to be loved Zara....THANKS