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A Heaping Helping of Metrics

May 3, 2006
Related Topics: Basic Skills Training, Featured Article
Developing metrics that shed light on whether training programs are doing what they were intended to do is just as important as creating the initiatives themselves. Evaluation tools such as reports from secret shoppers are a good way to understand whether employers are getting a good return on their investment, says Mike Hampton, president of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers and dean at Lynn University’s College of Hospitality Management.

   With that in mind, the Cheesecake Factory has crafted a comprehensive metrics platform for evaluating its workforce. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the general manager level, where the stakes are exceptionally high.

   The company’s general managers—who currently number 113, one for each restaurant location—are responsible for ensuring that all aspects of the business run smoothly, from fulfilling staffing needs to administrating accounting. It is a complex undertaking. Each restaurant employs about 200 staffers, serves 3,000 customers daily and produces an average of $10.5 million in revenue per year. Fifteen to 18 general managers will be hired this year.

   Only the company’s crème de la crème are able to advance to this level, says Chuck Wensing, vice president of performance and development. Before becoming general managers, aspirants must first go through a rigorous evaluation process at the Professional Assessment Development Center, located at the company’s headquarters in Calabasas Hills, California.

   For almost three full days, participants are intensely scrutinized on every aspect of their performance: human resource management skills, guest relations, financial acumen and operational excellence.

   The company has developed a best-practices protocol for a wide spectrum of tasks that is continuously instilled through training and development programs. The evaluation process is a way to allow candidates to demonstrate how well they have mastered these concepts. Generally, the ratio of evaluators to aspirants is 3-to-1. As part of the selection process, senior leaders, including CEO David Overton, meet face to face with the candidates.

   The track to general management takes at least 14 months. Once there, employees generally stay with the company. Attrition levels for general managers are 8 percent to 10 percent, according to Wensing, much lower than the 80 percent to 95 percent turnover for the company’s overall workforce.

   The Cheesecake Factory weaves metrics into every aspect of a general manager’s responsibilities. The company contracts secret shoppers to evaluate each venue on caliber of service, waiting time and food quality. The clandestine shoppers then fill out a report card and send it to headquarters for review. Restaurants receive monthly, quarterly and annual scores, which are then tied to the compensation of general managers. In addition to the report cards, the company uses other metrics, such as measuring the number of customers and the revenue at each restaurant, to evaluate the performance of general managers.

   The practice of hiring secret shoppers is not uncommon among restaurant companies, but few go the extra mile and decide to adopt pay-for-performance structures.

   "I think it is safe to say that the Cheesecake Factory has led the pack in terms of being imaginative with its compensation packages," says Teresa Siriani, president of People Report, which provides workforce metrics for the food service industry.

Workforce Management, April 24, 2006, p. 26 -- Subscribe Now!

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