Viewpoint: Think small when it comes to big business

19 November 2018 by
Viewpoint: Think small when it comes to big business

A personal approach will meet the gold standard of happy employees and profit, says Michael Rabone, head of HR at the Rick Stein Group

a problem we all face and something to which we as a group are certainly not immune.

It's tough to recruit, especially if you're a growing business. It's even tougher to ensure that your new team go on to operate their restaurant at exactly the same level as you did; with the same conviction, understanding and, perhaps most importantly, pride. How often have we seen successful chains scale too fast and experience problems when supply lines and senior staff are stretched?

For many years it wasn't an issue. We haven't exactly experienced rapid growth. There were 13 years between Rick and Jill opening the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and our second location, St Petroc's Hotel & Bistro in the same village. It then took 22 years to go further afield.

Nonetheless, retaining our values, all of a sudden, became a topic on the agenda. Something that had always been so natural became something we needed to seriously consider.

Developing a strong and inspiring culture for all of our team has always been right at the heart of what we do, and we have become increasingly aware that in order to maintain and grow a happy and engaged workforce, we must have a strong senior management team who are aligned in all of their guiding principles. In a family business this is very much aided by having the three sons, Ed, Jack and Charlie, heavily involved.

We follow a service profit chain model for one reason only: it reflects the priorities of the family. We look after our people very well, and in turn they look after our customers very well. And so we build strong, enduring and profitable relationships. It is the relationship between high customer satisfaction and profit that is considered and prized most and it's key to our success.

We've also been fortunate to have the Rick Stein Academy, which produces an extremely high calibre of young chefs, many of whom work their way up within the business. In addition, Rick and Jill have always been visible and accessible and it is a trait followed by their senior management team. It is not a company run from a distant and unapproachable head office, something I've long thought of as the first step of a slippery slope to an unhappy, dissatisfied team.

The relationship with our team members is absolutely key. They must feel engaged, otherwise we've made a mistake. We publish our commitments to them (how far in advance they should have rotas, frequency of one-to-one chats with managers, team meeting dates for the year) happy that they will hold us accountable if we don't deliver.

As we grow, develop and evolve, we believe that staying close to our teams and constantly checking in on our values is the best way to stay on a successful course. We're not perfect, but it's worked for us for 43 years.

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