When I was promoted to my current position here at Outback Steakhouse in the summer of 2011, I knew I’d face my share of challenges. It comes with the job, after all. But every time I’ve been faced with a tough decision on staffing or cleanup or our Curbside Take-Away procedure, I’ve used my best judgment and stayed true to my values, even when it meant going against popular sentiment. Because I believe history alone will be the true judge of my tenure as Outback shift manager.
Only in the years to come will we gain the perspective necessary to fully assess the policies I have enacted at our Maplewood Avenue location. And when future generations of Outback hosts, servers, line cooks, dishwashers, and even bussers look back and issue their verdict upon my time in this job, I believe they will deem it a success.
It’s true that many of my decisions have proven divisive. When I first added more double shifts to the schedule, many of our servers viewed the change as an undue burden—but at the same time, many members of our kitchen prep team were grateful for the extra hours, particularly Kenny, who, you’ll recall, needed to pay for some repairs to his Jeep. And while my strict enforcement of the black-shoes-only policy was criticized as overly harsh, in time we may discover that, in fact, a more professional-looking staff benefits us all in the form of tips, customer approval, and personal self-respect.
And it is my hope that my admittedly controversial decision to require refills of our Honey Wheat Bushman Bread before the customer has to ask will one day be seen as my greatest legacy.
But it is, quite frankly, too early to say. One shouldn’t rush to judgment on my requirement that employees aggressively upsell customers on our Aussie-Tizers and tropically inspired cocktail selections. We do not yet have the distance—let alone the impartial detachment—necessary to evaluate the impact of any one action I’ve taken in our kitchen or dining area.
Yet there were those who called me a coward for not punishing Dave when he showed up late for the third shift in a row. And some openly questioned my decision to allow Alicia’s request to take Memorial Day weekend off in light of the fact that we were just then launching an ambitious new Sizzlin’ Summer Sirloin menu. And of course, the entire shift voiced their doubts when I promoted Heather from hostess to server. Was that the right decision? The wrong decision? Should I have waited until after the college kids had gone home for the summer?
Only time will tell, of course, but I believe in my heart that in each of these instances I was on the right side of history.
Even my harshest critics would have to admit that I inherited a bad situation from my predecessor, Brendan. When I took over, we were short-staffed, the weekend schedule was a mess, and the seemingly endless rush from the Steak and Unlimited Shrimp promotion had driven employee morale to an all-time low. Those were difficult times for all of us.
No one’s shift management tenure is perfect, and mine has been no exception. Was my insistence that the ice machine be completely drained and wiped down on a daily basis overzealous? Perhaps. But through the longer lens of history it may yet be seen as a step in the right direction, as I believe may also be the case with my decision to reintroduce the waitstaff’s choreographed “Happy Birthday” routine, for which I was derided by many as an asshole.
With time, I believe the record may even be set straight on the chaos that ensued during Bloomin’ Onion Mondays, which was hard on everyone, but entirely out of my hands.
I’ll never forget when I chose to exclude our Signature Combination platters from the employees’ complimentary shift meal. Some employees saw it as a shortsighted bullying tactic, and few stood by me. But who’s to say that in 10, 20, maybe 50 years, that decision won’t be seen as a bold and vital precedent in the history of this Outback location?
Regardless, history must bear witness to the fact that it was I who spearheaded the implementation of pagers at the hostess stand, and it was I who oversaw the transition to the Aloha POS system. Decades from now, who will remember Stacy, the bar manager? No one. But future patrons and managers of this establishment may yet say my name with reverence, possibly heralding me amongst its greatest shift leaders of all time.
I have a stack of mostly favorable customer satisfaction surveys for anyone who thinks otherwise.