Only in corporate America

I was sitting in Red Robin yesterday, waiting for my wife to arrive. Beside me, spread across two tables that had been pushed apart, was the cartoon map of a Red Robin restaurant. A manager, a middle-aged man with a perpetually furrowed brow, and a younger, more affable corporate wonk were placing cards on the map. At first I was confused, unable to discern the purpose of this exercise, and then the corporate wonk spoke.

“Here at Red Robin, we can only treat our guests as well as we treat ourselves. Look at the map and find examples of team members working together and helping one another out.”

I stole a glance at the map and realized that the cards that had been placed represented cartoon people in various locations in the restaurant. The manager examined the map, looked back at the wonk, and then back down on map. I am certain that he was thinking the same thing as me:

Are you kidding me? Whose stupid idea was this? Why not just look around the real restaurant and find examples of teamwork instead of playing this insane version of Restaurant Monopoly.

Instead of saying this, he replied, “Well, I guess these two people are helping to clear a table, and these two guys are stacking bun racks. But I don’t know why that would ever take two people.”

Elysha was about fifteen minutes late, giving me plenty of time to watch this tortured manager read aloud Customer Response Cards, Unexpected Situation Cards, and similar board game paraphernalia.

“Here’s a family of nine,” the wonk said, placing nine cardboard people on the board.  “Including three infants.  How do you accommodate them?”

The manager began to describe his solution, but three words into his explanation, the wonk said, “No.  Show me on the board.  Move your pieces.”

The manager and I both rolled our eyes simultaneously. 

In the corporate office of Red Robin, some executive had decided that playing this game with restaurant managers was a good way of improving leadership skills, customer interactions, and overall management expertise.

Based upon my years of experience managing a McDonald’s, I can assure you that whatever idiot dreamed up this idea never actually managed a Red Robin restaurant in his or her life.

I felt bad for the manager, who clearly found this exercise as futile and foolish as me. At one point, I almost said something to the wonk, who was either too stupid or too brainwashed to realize the lunacy of this experience. But I refrained. If I’ve learned anything about restaurants in my many years of management experience, it is this:

Don’t insult an employee who may have access to your meal at some point.

Besides, the whole situation was highly entertaining.