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(RenÈ Jansa/Royalty Free)
(RenÈ Jansa/Royalty Free)


How to stop theft and motivate a talented slacker Add to ...

Your questions about your business answered by our expert.

Dear Guru: You wouldn’t believe how much prime rib walks out the back door of my restaurant every week. I was thinking of starting bag checks. Do you think I’m being too drastic?

Emil K., Ottawa

Answer: Why stop there when you could buy a box of rubber gloves and do some really thorough examinations? It won’t take long before the audible snap of the latex has your staff quaking in their Crocs. Actually, I think we can agree that this is a terrible idea. And so, too, is instituting a bag check policy. The only thing you’ll succeed in doing is convincing your staff that you don’t trust them at all.

But if it’s any consolation, know that you’re not alone in having to deal with kitchen staff who believe a few hours of loyal service entitles them to a five-finger discount.

“Every restaurant has this problem at one time or another,” says John Lee, a friend of mine and owner of Chippy’s Fish & Chips in downtown Toronto. The way to solve it, says Mr. Lee, is to establish how much product you’re losing and when exactly you appear to be losing it.

“You need to put one person in charge of monitoring product,” he says.

You’ll soon know which shifts contain a few light fingers. That’s when you let the staff know that inventory is being strictly tracked. Chances are, your problems with theft will disappear overnight. Most thieves steal only because they think that no one’s watching.

Besides, you really don’t want to know what some people keep in their bags.

Dear Guru: Tell me if this sounds familiar: Smart-alecky 25-year-old know-it-all shows up late, ducks out early, and goofs off whenever I’m not watching. He’s also the best Web designer I’ve ever hired. How can I turn him into a team player?

Chris T., Vancouver

Answer: Oh, it sounds familiar, all right. The world is lousy with smart alecks in their 20s. In fact, I can’t even go shopping for a pair of skinny jeans or an ironic T-shirt without encountering one these days.

But while dealing with Generation Y’s famously outsized sense of entitlement can be frustrating, I would advise against coming down too hard on this kid. Wag that analog finger of yours at him enough, and he’ll simply go find an employer more willing to pat him on the head and give him gold stars for whatever he does, just as his parents probably did.

No, you’ve got to be more subtle. Start with the fact that he probably thinks of the world as one big video game. When he looks at you, he doesn’t even see a figure of authority; he probably sees Donkey Kong banging his chest and tossing barrels at him. And like any gamer, what this kid wants is the challenge of reaching higher and higher levels. He also wants praise — it’s the drug that people his age can’t live without.

So take him out for a non-fat iced macchiato and lavish compliments on him. As you’ve said, he’s the best Web designer you’ve ever hired. Then let him know there are some projects coming down the pipe that you’ve been eyeing him for, but before you can advance him to the next level, you need him to start coming in on time and proving he can do the kind of work you know he’s capable of. With that combination of pampering and prodding, your problems will likely disappear, just like all those high scores we logged in the arcade when we were smart-alecky kids.

This feature originally appeared in Your Business magazine. Send questions to yourguru@globeandmail.com

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