This article will show you how to motivate your staff as a restaurant manager, using techniques from the best football team on Earth, Barcelona.
Today, I am energized and inspired.
It is important now to talk about the thorn in the side of every restauranteur – the motivation of their employees (without giving them more money or spending more).
I can show you the best strategies to motivate this staff by becoming a manager fit for the best football club in the world: Barcelona.
Go ahead and get comfortable, this is a bit of a longer chat. However, it is full of great tips to inspire every level of your staff from the chefs to the waiters.
Well, let’s go.
Motivating Your Staff Starts with Inspiration from Successes
You can see that I always work to gain inspiration and cues from the successful people that I meet or see. These cues can improve my everyday business life with useful lessons.
Within the F&B sector, as with many others, you need a team of motivated individuals that is willing to fight to the end with you. It is vital to improving your business.
You can also improve your mental health this way, because other solutions have you doing everything on your own – and that’s a problem.
Delegating to motivated people can help you survive this competitive environment.
You might already know that Barcelona is my second home (as I live here several months of every year) and is also the home of one of the most successful football clubs in history.
While the team has had one of the best players of all time, Lionel Messi, their primary claim to fame revolves around the motivation of their players on the pitch.
They have developed a culture of success which hinges equally on dedication and responsibility.
Every staff member and player equally contributes to the success of the brand.
Even without the sports, and only from a business prospective, Barcelona is still an inspiring model to follow.
An English writer, Darmian Hughes, has written a book about this model known as Barcelona Way in which he explains the success of the team is relative to a culture created by the football club.
The book offers some interesting insight to help any investor manage their team and further develop their business.
I personally believe that aspiring restaurant managers or owners can benefit from the information, especially holding their business against the successful benchmark of FC Barcelona.
Let’s see what lessons we can borrow from Barcelona for our restaurants.
The Organizational Culture Inspires Motivation and Inspiration
Back in 2008, Barcelona got a new coach, Pep Guardiola.
His resume showed success across the world as a player and captain, but he did not have experience as the manager of a team.
It feels like only yesterday when he was sharing the field with Roberto Baggio for Brescia. Oh, what good times.
According to most fans, it was a real gamble for Barcelona to choose an inexperienced coach for one of the most important clubs in the world.
Obviously, the criticism was poorly placed, as the team has broken countless records, along with nabbing a fair share of titles and cups.
The greatest of these successes is the respect that Barcelona now has in the international stage of football.
This is a club that has changed the game, revolutionizing traditions that have stood in place for 150 years. Just one part of this revolution has taken place on the pitch.
This begins and continues with a great culture of organization.
What does that mean, exactly?
What is an Organizational Culture?
This culture is a structure of written and non-written rules and guidelines that dictate the behavior of those that represent the organization.
In the F&B sector, this is a structure of creed, principles, and values that can inspire and lead those that you have working in the restaurant.
As an example: if in your restaurant “the customer is always right” is a mantra of your culture, the staff needs to work to solve every problem for a customer with a smile.
Want another example?
If we have a shared principle of “One for all and all for one”, then people would not ever feel inclined to feign sickness for time off that could cause problems like understaffing the restaurant.
Many smaller restaurants have no organizational culture because the owner has no idea what it even is.
It is an underestimated and underappreciated as it is generally unknown.
The staff as a whole behaves as best as they can to achieve shared objectives and successes.
This often does not come to pass because management cannot act like Barcelona, and instead of culture, just shout and yell to get a point across.
Nobody is shouting in the Barcelona team, but the culture is strong.
The Truth Behind the Success of Barcelona’s Inspirational System
The main elements of Barcelona’s successful culture are:
- a great concept;
- a transformation arc;
- recurrent systems and processes;
- cultural Architects and organizational Heroes;
- authentic leadership.
Each of these single elements is vital to the textile of successful business, and understanding how it can help a small restaurant find that same success is important.
1. The Great Concept
How do you psychologically encourage hard work of your staff to reach a shared goal?
This is one of the primary concerns of restauranteurs.
First you need a concept. This helps you to identify the path and destination for all staff involved.
You need to essentially provide your staff with a map to follow.
The concept can help you establish you culture in the business, which consists of goals, values, behaviors, and customs that define the identity and success of your restaurant.
A “great concept” for a restaurant requires both time and dedication, but it also comes with many benefits.
In fact, any following action, like the strategies of values, originates from this great concept and from the culture that it creates within your team.
Essentially this information is an emotional glue that adheres all organizations from restaurants to religions together. It creates a sense of purpose and a shared focal point for the entire team.
Human beings recognize ourselves in relation to our respective values or points of view.
Of course, just sharing our concept for the restaurant is never enough.
A collective identity for your team can generate a genuine sense of belonging.
For FC Barcelona, this identity is a fundamental component.
If you create a concept, you have to consider three important elements – what, how, and why. Among them, why is the most important of these elements. If why is large enough, the “what” and “how” follow naturally behind.
These elements make what Simon Sinek, author of the bestselling Start with Why book, calls “The Golden Circle.”
There are three concentric circles that contain the elements Why, How, and What. Why is the very middle, representing it being a key point while How and What fall to the outside.
This is a reason why certain leaders like Guardiola an inspire and others cannot.
The aspiring leaders and organizations like Apple, Martin Luther King or Guardiola will think, act, and communicate in this same way.
Ironically, that is the opposite of the way most do.
The author Simon Sinek has codified that. It is one of the simplest ideas with his “Golden Circle”.
This visual depiction encompasses the key elements of every successful company: What, How, and Why.
What: Every company is entirely aware of everything they do.
How: Few understand how to accomplish the goals, and in marketing, this is deemed the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Why: Even less people know why they do what they do.
Why is not the profit. The profit comes from the results of actions.
Why is more of the goal, motivation, or creed. The reason your restaurant exists. It is the reason you keep trying every day and why others should care about that.
Many start with the visible and tangible. They start with “What.”
Successful leaders like Guardiola start from “Why” because starting from the inside and working out is a common threat for all inspiring leaders throughout history.
I’ll give you an example.
People have taken to Apple products because they have systems easy to understand and use.
If Apple was a common company, they would have a slogan that said ‘we make great computers and they are easy to use. Want to buy one?’
But that slogan does not really inspire the masses, does it?
But even still this is what many companies do. Think about cars. People sell them and push leather seats, engines, alloy wheels, technology.
They are dealing with the “What” rather than inspiring customers.
On the contrary, Apple wants to communicate:
“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
Now doesn’t that make a statement?
The order of information has been completely overturned, but the result has become phenomenal.
It doesn’t work just because Apple says so.
This is a biological process and it is successful for specific scientific reasons.
If you look at the human brain from above, you can see that it is broken into parts that match the Golden Circle approach.
The homo sapiens’ brain has a neocortex, which correlates to the “What” ring of the Golden Circle.
This portion of the brain is responsible for rational and analytic thought, as well as language.
The middle sections help to oversee our limbic system.
This system is responsible for our feelings such as loyalty and trust. It also helps guide behavior and decision making, but does not have language functions.
When we communicate from the outside in, we can understand difficult information such as characteristics, benefits, facts, and numbers.
But this information does not lead our behavior.
When we communicate inside to the outside, we talk to the part of the brain that dictates function and behavior, so people rationalize it through tangible things we say and do.
Instinctive decisions come from here.
How often have you listened to convincing facts and numbers, but also then convinced yourself that the information you received, though factual, was not as accurate as it seemed?
Ever catch yourself saying “I feel that it’s not like that”?
The part of the brain responsible for making decisions isn’t connected to language, and the most we can say about it is “I don’t know, I just feel its not right.”
It is the same premise as someone suggesting a decision comes from the heart or soul.
Sorry to spoil this moment with the truth, but your heart and soul do not make decisions for your behavior.
The limbic system controls decisions and the process of making them, unlike language.
If you do not know why you do what you do, how can you make people buy your product, or more specifically, make them loyal to your business or brand?
It is not as simple as selling food to those that need the food from your restaurant, it is selling your product to people that believe in what you do and the way you do it.
Likewise, you are not just employing people looking for a job, but you are looking for people that believe in the vision you have.
I’ve said many times that you can always hire someone that will work for the money, but if you hire those that share your beliefs, they will pour what they have into making your restaurant succeed.
Let’s go back to the case of Barcelona.
Imagine Guardiola in the locker room saying that the team needed to win everything – championship, Champion’s League, Copa del Rey, but we also need humility, hard work, and teamwork.
Is this speech motivating enough for spoiled young men making millions of euros every year?
Of course not.
The message instead was Barcelona is Catalonia. We represent their history, their struggles, and their values. We are ambassadors of these people to the world.
We represent the Catalans. People consider us to be their heroes.
Much like our illustrious past, we can win any trophy or championship with humility, hard work, and teamwork.
That sounds a bit more convincing, doesn’t it?
Case Study: Lillo’s Fish Eatery
I can tell you about one of my customers, who thanks to his great concept and sense of belonging, has managed to open a couple successful small restaurants without experience as a restauranteur.
Lillo is a sport fisherman who has never before owned or managed a restaurant.
As a sea enthusiast, he decided to open up his own small restaurant.
Knowing that he could not work full time in this restaurant, he knew that finding talented and motivated people would be the difference for his eatery.
He put out an ad to attract talented personnel through the local papers stating: “Are you a fisherman for hobby and passion and looking for a job? If you have any idea about how to serve in a restaurant, we are looking for some sea consultants that can act, from Tuesday to Sunday, as our waiters, in order to make our customers know the real taste of the sea”.
Once he had the right people in place in the restaurant, he could impart his vision.
I can quote him.
“We are not serving fish, but we are bringing the sea to the tables. Our job is not getting others to eat, but to experience the sea through our dishes and stories. We represent the sea.”
He has created a culture of hard work to achieve this concept.
Every member of the staff is emotionally involved, so the they make the customers experience the sea and not just have a simple meal.
The restaurant is fully booked night after night, and Lillo has a staff that is motivated and independent so that he does not have to be in the restaurant constantly.
2. A Transformation Arc
There is a second element of successful culture, and that is the transformation arc.
Naturally, let’s continue with the football topic.
Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most prolific and charismatic managers in history used to say that “Victories never happen in a straight line.”
If you want to achieve the goals that you have set, you have to identify your transformation arc. That is the different phases that your team just pass in order to establish a successful culture.
But change is difficult to achieve.
A trick to keeping interest high during this path is using a constant flow of communication that is significant and relevant.
If you want to share your ideas, one of the easiest methods is through using a story.
Storytelling is praised by all worldwide marketers, including myself.
Especially during conflicted phrases, stories remind us to persevere and believe in the goal and great concept.
Storytelling is often referred to as “narration” and is an older artform that uses words and actions to reveal elements and images of a story, which can encourage imagination, inspiration and motivation.
Barcelona’s Guardiola has always been a clever storyteller.
Storytelling is something this Spanish coach has used for years, and he instills it involuntarily.
In an Amazon documentary, besides strategic “behind the scenes”, many details of Guardiola’s motivating method get revealed.
One of the most powerful tools in this method is storytelling, usually based on anecdotes about the legendary Dutch champion Johan Cruijff, which was Guardiola’s mentor in Barcelona.
Guardiola has told many legendary stories about Johan Cruijff during the darkest and prolific moments of change for the team.
Also, symbols like the subject of these stories play a significant role in the development of the culture.
They can strengthen a great concept and navigate change without losing motivation and direction.
According to Guardiola, there are three fundamental symbols: the Catalan flag, the emblem of Barcelona, and Cruijff’s shoes.
These symbols connect to something bigger than individuals, linking personal stories to the team.
I have seen the power of symbols firsthand.
Back in 2012, I worked for Costa Crociere, an important international cruiseline.
My story with the company ended, unfortunately, January 13th of 2012 when the cruise ship I was working wrecked and many died or were injured.
That night, we stood by our symbol.
A glorious logo that embodied the values of the company was not just on our uniforms, but it was part of us as well.
This would give us the strength to keep on seeing our concept, to put the customer in the focus of your thoughts even in tragic situations and rescue operations for more than 4,000 people.
3. Recurrent Systems and Processes
Third fundamental element, recurrent systems and processes.
Most human beings are creatures of habit.
Creating positive habits can help to create an effective culture for your brand.
If you are checking your team’s habits, you can transform the organization and establish a productive culture.
Regarding Barcelona, this is represented by their “Rondo” – where players form a circle with three in the middle. Outer players start passing the ball quickly and trying to avoid interception by those in the middle.
This is an exercise that represents the whole approach of the team on the field: pass the ball, pass the ball, pass the ball. The opponent cannot score if you have the ball.
You can tire an opponent who must try to steal the ball from you. If you are holding the ball, you can win the game.
We usually thing that training ends when we are able to accomplish something several times successfully.
Training only should end when we can do something so many times that failure cannot happen anymore.
In our restaurant, we can focus on recurrent systems that match our concept, shaping the transformation arc and our culture.
If you have been following me for some time, you can appreciate that I am one of the partners of a small restaurant chain in Italy.
While I have no operative roles within these establishments, I work on marketing these locations.
According to our culture, the customer is the focus of everything we do. If you are not satisfied, you will not pay the bill, provided that you leave a feedback on the comment card.
This makes it fundamental to our success to constantly improve.
We continually train our staff every day to improve service and the speed of operative processes.
We even have a peculiar approach to this continued training.
In my opinion, there are two fundamental elements that affect profits.
The menu – the physical copy you provide the customers and waiters, especially those taking your orders.
The one’s taking orders are the sales representatives of the entire restaurant.
They are responsible for added sales, and we train them daily to improve these skills.
To stay on topic, they are our Lionel Messi.
The memory of this seller is a fundamentally vital quality.
The more information about customers and products you gather, the more upselling and loyalty opportunities you have.
We train our order takers to remember customer’s faces, their names, favorite dishes, and drinks they typically order.
This has a wonderful effect on the customer, and has been incredibly successful.
Our order takers train daily for these little tests, and this repetitive training approach is similar in nature to Guardiola’s Rondo approach we discussed earlier. It’s based on Kevin Horsley’s, a worldwide memory champion’s, principles and philosophies.
I recommend you buy his book called Unlimited Memory. It has helped us to increase our revenue. Read it, if you can.
4. Cultural Architects and Organizational Heroes
The fourth element is the cultural architect.
When put in ambiguous and difficult situations, we usually look to others to determine the best behavior or response.
Especially in difficult situations, the presence of figures we can reference is incredibly important. They have to be able to recognize the situation and act as a guide for behavior, however.
These are what are deemed cultural architects, and they can actually influence the minds and decisions of others.
A leader is only able to guide if others around him rely on his expertise in a challenging situation.
This might relate to their example, their personality, or both of these. You have to carefully choose the person who has this role in your organization.
The effectiveness of any culture, from a government to a team or company, depends on the people who are a part of it.
Guardiola was a leader that became Barcelona’s cultural architect.
This role is very important because it helps leaders go through the transformation arc and realize a great concept.
The main role of a leader is actually to create more leaders!
Guardiola has generated other leaders in Barcelona’s organization, including players like Iniesta and Puyol.
Remember that leading others is done with the idea that you are not creating more and more followers, but those who are able to shoulder the responsibility with you.
Unfortunately, small restaurants tend to make this mistake often.
The owner or manager is the only leader, well, the only boss anyhow.
They do not take the time to create new leaders, but centralize power on themselves. As a consequence, if they leave for a short time on a Saturday night, the restaurant falls to pieces.
Conversely, if Guardiola was away during some matches, the leaders he put in place could still make the system function.
Think about McDonald’s – no one has ever seen Ray Kroc, the founder, in any of these restaurants. He wasn’t even a restauranteur and used to sell blenders.
Look at what he created despite that. EVERYONE knows McDonald’s.
He was a prime example of a leader that created thousands of other leaders.
You should use it as one of your creeds, as it will change your entire life.
Most restauranteurs become slaves of their business because they refuse to become cultural architects.
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to travel far, then go with someone.” – Old African Proverb
5. Authentic Leadership
The last element that you need is authentic leadership.
We are used to thinking of leaders as people who do great deals, create great concepts, make decisions and inspire others.
In the real world, not every decision made is the right one.
One of the most effective methods of creating successful culture is establishing yourself as someone who sets an example. And that starts with the small things.
In the small daily moments a leader establishes real relationships with those in his/her organization. These moments are critical, as they can send different signals.
I am not more important that you, you should do that as well, and the entire team is bigger than any one single person.
This approach is so successful because we all belong to the same team.
Authentic leadership does not mean doing things on your own, but rather creating an environment so the team can realize goals together.
Guardiola is a master in this field.
He is the first that arrives to training and the last to leave. He makes his players equal, and never beneath him.
This leadership is increased further through storytelling and multiple other examples.
When I used to work for Costa Crociere, none of the employees “from the upstairs” had special privileges on our ships.
To accentuate this point, the chief executive would have his lunch in the staff canteen when on board with the other crew.
We’re all equals here, he used to say. We’re all for Costa family.
As John Wooden said, “The most important leadership tool is our example itself”.
That is all for now, and I believe that I have given you a great deal of information. Do not be shy, however, as your words and comments can help someone else.