Recently during a business trip to Denver, I was having a drink and dinner at the bar of Ted”s Montana Grill in Aurora, Colorado. Being alone, my attention focused on the three individuals working the bar that evening.
Ted’s was busy. The bar was full of customers and the restaurant was full of diners, most with a wine, beer, or other drink request. There was plenty of opportunity for confusion, drink errors, food screw ups at the bar, and of course unhappy customers. But none of that happened while I was there and I doubt rarely does because those three individuals were really a TEAM.
While what I am about to write will not cover everything you will find in the many books and articles about what makes a high performing team, I believe it will cover the essence of high performance by a team in many every-day, real-world work environments. Ted’s bartending team that night were worthy exemplars of:
Product knowledge and they had plenty of product to remember. On the liquor front, this included what they were out of as well as had at the moment and the taste quality of their various wines. Then there was the full food menu they also served at the bar. Their total command was impressive.
Concentration. Restaurant bars are usually highly social environments. Bar customers generally like talking with and listening to those around them — strangers though we often are — and staff behind the bar often engage in these casual conversations thereby fostering the atmosphere they aim to maintain. But on a busy evening, staff engagement can not interfere with the concentration needed to keep the entire team performing at a peak, interdependent level. That night Ted’s bartending team impressed me as getting the conversation/concentration balance just right.
Memory for details. Food and beverage service staff in busy restaurants know their ability to get orders right is directly tied to the size of their tips and long-term job tenure. Attention to details is especially important when customers like me decide to request alterations in a menu item, or ask for a side of something, or an additional add-on item. You just can tell when someone is really dialed in on the details of what they are hearing — confirmed by what you receive — and these three behind the bar certainly were.
Commitment to the whole not individual roles. One of the best definitions of a true team I ever encountered said that on the best teams “every team member cares as much about the success of her or his teammates as they do about their own”. When you hear things like “this is my job, that is yours”, or “I don’t do that, it’s not my role”, or when you see one person standing idly by while others are in high motion, you know you are not looking at a team. As I watched that evening, it was impossible for me to tell one bar tender from another in terms of roles or responsibilities. They all seemed to feel a mutual responsibility for everything and for every customer they served. All three at some point asked me if I was enjoying my meal or needed anything else.
Tabs needing attention got that attention from whoever saw it first. Customers needing something or desiring their final bill got help from whoever was closest. And all three of them seemed to really enjoy themselves and their working relationship despite the hectic pace.
Trust and mutual respect. As I got the chance, I complemented two of them on the teamwork they displayed and the considerable effort and commitment they made to work as one; a commitment I’d wager is made by all who work this bar other nights of the week. They acknowledged that it took some time and effort to develop the trust and confidence in each other their performance now exemplified. Not surprising, I thought, given how challenging achieving real teamwork really is. Before I left, I asked one last question I was certain had an answer I could predict. Do you share the evenings take in tips evenly between yourselves? YES was their answer. Now that does require respect and observable evidence that everyone is truly carrying their load.
So my thanks to Monica — a Ted’s Proprietor and floor manager that evening — for her permission to acknowledge Ted’s bartending team in this way.