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How to Tell if Your Huddle Needs Help

Jul 26, 2018 by Bob Bennett 0 Comments

how to tell if your huddle needs help blog


You may know that Zingerman’s Roadhouse is a full-service restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI, with a reputation for really good American food and great service - and you many also know that we’ve practiced open-book management since opening in 2003.  That’s not to say we’ve always done it perfectly, at any of the Zingerman’s businesses! One thing we’ve learned time and again is that the culture of the huddle is a good pulse on how the business is doing overall, and that’s even more true when you’re talking about the team in the kitchen.

There’s a reason that many restaurants are starting to refer to the kitchen team as the ‘Heart of the House’ rather than the ‘Back of the House,’ which is a more traditional restaurant term. This is a team that works tightly together. At the end of the day, no matter how great the customer’s experience is, the business must keep certain things in mind in order to succeed. If this team isn’t working productively not to only get great food out, but also manage waste, keep an eye on labor, give great service to the other staff, and help the restaurant meet their goals, it’s infinitely harder for the business to succeed.

The culture of the Roadhouse’s kitchen team has undergone a significant change in the past year, and part of that work started with evaluating what was going on in their huddle culture. 

Below is an assessment that you can use to determine your own huddle culture!

What is the participation like - both for reporting and other attendees?
1 - One person dominates: heads are down, little eye contact, no questions are asked, and no suggestions are given.
2 - Most of the speaking is done is by a manager, and questions get shot down.
3 - The same people speak up as always, not much discussion.
4 - Questions are asked, the group works together to solve problems, and all voices are in the room.  
5 - Active participation by all present, lots of great questions, and input from the front line.  Leader is in a coaching role.

What is the attendance like at the huddle?
1 - What attendance?  Is it a huddle with only one person?
2 - The two people who have to be there, and the suck-up.
3 - Same people as every week.
4 - All of the key players are there, and many people also opt in, even when they don’t have to be there.
5 - We can hardly fit in the room!

What is the team energy like when you wrap the huddle?
1 - Significantly lower than when we started - anyone walking in room would turn around and walk out again.
2 - Worse than when we walked in - picture rain clouds above people’s heads.
3 - So-so, not worse, but not better either - very medium.
4 - Higher than when we started - there is some laughter and checking in among the staff.
5 - Through the roof - everyone is pumped to go back to work and hit those forecasts!

Add up the numbers for each of your answers.  If you got:
3-7 points - Sounds like your huddle could use some help.
8-11 points - You’re on the right track, and could stand to tune up your work huddle.
12-15 points - Give yourself a high 5!  You’ve got a good huddle; can it get even better?

If you are looking to get the culture in your huddle on the right track, or interested in taking a good huddle and making it great, figuring out what’s going on is a great place to start!  Join us at The Gathering of Games for more of the story on how the Roadhouse team turned their workplace huddle around.


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Topics: Huddles

Bob Bennett
Written by Bob Bennett

Bob Bennett was a part of the opening crew at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in 2004, and worked his way up to the role of Head Chef. Bob oversees all of the menu planning, food production, and overall quality of what comes out the kitchen, including the attitudes! He has been a line-owner almost since the beginning, and now leads the Back of the House huddle - and is ultimately responsible for the financial results of his department.

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About The Great Game of Business

Our approach to running a company was developed to help close one of the biggest gaps in business: the gap between managers and employees. We call our open-book approach The Great Game of Business. What lies at the heart of The Game is a very simple proposition: The best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a voice in saying how the company is run and a stake in the outcome. Let us teach you how to develop a culture of ownership, where employees think, act and feel like owners.