The Situational Leadership® Model in the Restaurant, Food and Beverage Industry

The Center for Leadership Studies (CLS) officially opened its doors for business 55 years ago. We have been a global entity since our inception and have helped our customers build leaders within their organizations in a wide variety of settings. As a matter of fact, that continues to be one of the first questions we are consistently asked by new prospects:

  • “Who are your customers?”

Since we (like most suppliers in our industry) honor the bonds of confidentiality and professional courtesy with our customers we typically “paint with a wide brush” when we respond:

  • “Well … we currently have in the neighborhood of 800 active customers. Those customers literally come in all shapes and sizes:
    • Small, medium and large companies …
    • For-profits and non-profits …
    • Across industries and around the world …”

With that as background, this is the first in a series of blog posts that will highlight our experience with different industries. First up, Restaurants, Food and Beverage!

A significant percentage of our customer base, as explored in this segment, is in “fast food.” We are honored to have cultivated long-standing partnerships with established leaders in that realm (several of them more than a decade in duration).

Here are three commonalities and/or points of distinction that reflect our “Fast Food Leadership Development Partnering Experience.”

    1. The fast-food industry employs over 3.5 million people (and is growing every year). Think about the customer-facing employees you encounter when you drive through or walk into a fast-food restaurant. How old are they? Where do they come from? The fact of the matter is that the fast-food industry is a living, breathing and ever-expanding mosaic of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It is the first job for many, so it is not uncommon to see “fresh faces” … from a wide spectrum of ethnic origins … learning their jobs and executing their responsibilities in an effort to better their lives and help their families. What do these employees do? At the entry level they typically take orders, serve patrons, take payments or prepare food.
    1. Probably as much as any industry anywhere, you get promoted into management in fast food by achieving some acceptable level of mastery as an individual contributor. You become proficient in taking orders and payments, serving patrons or preparing food. Does this (in and of itself) prepare you to be a manager? Of course not. But on the other hand, it is inconceivable that a frontline manager in fast food could be effective without that essential base of experience. A common factor that can present a formidable challenge with this transition is that when you officially become a manager of a team in fast food, there is a high probability it is the same team you were part of before your selection! Managing your peers might seem pretty straightforward … but that rarely turns out to be the case! This is where (and why) most of our fast-food customers employ Situational Leadership® training. Learning the Situational Leadership® Model serves as an orientation of sorts for the migration into management. New managers learn there is no such thing as a best approach to leading people (every style works … and every style doesn’t). They also learn they probably have an approach (or two) that come naturally … and an approach (or two) that doesn’t. Regardless of personal comfort level, success and effectiveness as a manager is a function of:
      1. Identifying a specific task
      2. Accurately assessing everyone’s readiness to perform that task
      3. Executing an approach that provides the highest probability of success
    1. As for how our fast-food customers prefer to participate in Situational Leadership® training, there is a strong preference for the classroom-based, instructor-led modality. It is also fair to say the appeal and the effectiveness of the training has a lot to do with the practical, common-sense language of the Situational Leadership® Model in combination with the ability of the facilitator(s) to make that practical language come alive. We have at least one creative customer that incorporates a series of live “role-plays in the round” during instruction that bring to life relevant, contemporary leadership challenges.

As for the future of leadership training in fast food, it is difficult not to be at least somewhat optimistic about its expanding potential … and that has everything to do with the industry itself! The aforementioned 3.5 million employees who work in fast food do so for companies who have a collective market value of more than $960 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 4.3%. As long as customers around the world continue to value convenience and prioritize cost, stability and expansion will likely continue.