New York City, on a Tuesday evening in November
Eleven retailers joined the expedition to Washington Square, and some brought a team leader or one of their team members. When they entered the restaurant, Josh immediately felt a similar vibe as when he’d arrived in London. The layout of this store was quite different, though.
They were immediately greeted by one of the CAREmakers. After explaining the goal of their visit, Josh and his colleagues were guided to the large table in the heart of the store. While passing the retail area in the store, all retailers looked around and saw that most, if not all guests seemed to be engaged and happy. Yet there was no intense presence of CAREmakers and there seemed to be no pressure.
Josh explained that the restaurant only worked with one operational position: CAREmakers. Some of them were helping out at the retail counter near the entrance, others were welcoming and seating guests. They also chatted, gave tempting suggestions, took orders, and served them with care. They seemed to also keep the restaurant looking cozy yet organized, and in the meantime, were having fun with most guests and each other.
After ordering a drink, Josh explained the concept of Bread&Care in more detail. When he was nearly finished he was complimented by Sophia, one of the CAREmakers. “I couldn’t have given a better explanation,” she said with a big smile. “You must have been at our restaurants before.” Josh shared he had become a huge fan when he traveled to London that year. Some of his friends quickly added that Josh was actually the reason they’d come to the restaurant that night.
“So what are you guys up to?” Sophia asked. Donna, Bryan, and Mildred explained they were all retailers, and that Josh had inspired them to think differently about the experience they wanted their customers to have in their stores.
“What came as a surprise,” Donna said, “is that you hire your team members for their personality, rather than for their skills.”
“We do indeed cast our crew members, although that doesn’t mean we don’t care about skills. We just think that skills are trainable, and developing attitude takes a long, long time,” said Sophia. She then explained that every team member goes through immersion training. Mildred asked, “What is immersion training?” Sophia explained the training–either prior to or after the opening–during which all CAREmakers are immersed into the brand and philosophy of Bread&Care. “This goes much deeper and has way more impact than a general introduction, which is focused on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the job.” Josh enjoyed Sophia summarizing what he had also learned about the immersion program in London. “That sounds pretty cool,” Mildred said. “Have you heard of FISH! at all?” Sophia asked. “Sure, I love Fish, Sophia,” said Mildred, wondering where the conversation was going. “No, I mean the FISH! philosophy, which is based on how the famous sh mongers work in Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.” Mildred said she hadn’t, but Donna had. “Isn’t that the market where they actually throw fish? And they work with incredible energy and have a lot of fun together,” Donna said. “Exactly,” Sophia responded. “There is a video about this market, called FISH!, which we use as a metaphor during the immersion program. It’s a great example of how you can create a very cool experience with a relatively unexciting product. The energy it creates is viral, and the team always gets very excited and pumped up.
Then there is also some focus on skill building and knowledge transfer. After the immersion, there is on-going training, mainly on-the-job.”
“So, you first make sure you have the right CAREmakers on board. And then, you develop their skills and knowledge,” Bryan summarized.
“That’s the idea, yes,” Sophia said.
“Do you have internal trainers guiding you?” Martin asked.
“We have some internal trainers,” Sophia replied. “Yet most learning is triggered by colleagues. We have a very cool learning platform.”
Sophia explained why she felt that learning from peers was more impactful than just learning from trainers. And that mobile devices really enhanced the learning. “We have decided to bring the learning to where our team members are, rather than expecting them to come to classroom training sessions or follow traditional e-learning modules. I guess e-learning is for our parents,” Sophia stated with a big smile.
“So how do you call your approach to learning if it isn’t e-learning?” Bryan asked.
“We call it m-learning where the m stands for mobile.”
“Of course!” Bryan concluded.
“The coolest thing about our learning platform is that we learn more more from each other than from our managers and trainers.”
The whole evening was a success for Josh and his colleagues. They learned a lot by listening and observing, and they had inspiring conversations among themselves. They agreed to come back later that month.
During their next visit, Josh also brought his wife Marcia along, and Jeff, the restaurant manager, was expecting them. They learned more about the different approach that Bread&Care was taking. Jeff briefly talked about the approach of reverse thinking & engineering: “The experience we want our guests to have guides everything that we do and also our interactions with our guests, our working climate, and our leadership.”
Josh, of course, had heard this before and enjoyed watching how Marcia and his colleagues were absorbing the information. Jeff explained how Bread&Care had reversed their organization chart. “With the host on top and taking ownership for delighting our guests.”
“So you rule out hierarchy?” Marcia asked. “Good question,” Jeff continued. “We do still have a pretty strict hierarchy, but we simply reversed it. We also have fewer layers than most traditional restaurants, and every layer in the organization simply has one goal: to guide, serve, facilitate their team, and to set them up for success. This creates a completely different working climate. We tend to think more in terms of a community than a business.” Josh was impressed by the consistency in vision between the restaurant here and the one in London.
The retailers really understood that reverse thinking & engineering had led to taking a completely different approach to recruitment (casting), immersion (instead of introduction), training, and peer- to-peer learning. There was even a different way of rewarding and recognizing desired behavior. “We believe that it is no longer about just satisfying our guests. Instead, we focus on delighting them. It is the extra mile and smile we go for, which is also the focus in our daily shift briefings and evaluations,” Jeff explained. Josh remembered he had actually experienced such a briefing in London. And he recalled the CAREmakers in London were having inspiring meetings to make sure the guests would truly feel at home and appreciated.
Connie, who ran one of the bigger shops in the Village, was especially impressed with the fact that each Bread&Care restaurant worked with an experience blueprint. Jeff explained: “This is a one- page document with a brief description of the why, who, how, and what of our stores. It also uses keywords to describe the desired experience in every store, as well as the behavior, working climate, and leadership that would bring the desired experience to life.”
Connie was also amazed at the fact that the restaurant team was evaluated by the supervising host at the end of every shift. And that the team evaluated the supervising host at the end of the same shift on the leadership behaviors that were listed in the experience blueprint. “So instead of having one formal evaluation every six to twelve months, we evaluate ourselves every day,” Jeff explained.
After their second visit to Bread&Care, Josh and his fellow retailers kept meeting about once a month. They agreed to look at and learn from other successful companies. The team quickly found out there were many other brands that applied a reverse thinking approach. Starbucks, Tesla, Nespresso, Apple, and Lush cosmetics were quickly identified as being inspiring examples of reverse thinkers. At each meeting, one concept was analyzed, insights and lessons were exchanged, and this consistently led to better customer experience in Greenwich Village.