Case Study: P.F. Chang serves its workers well Essay

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It is suggested by various text books and management tutors alike, that the mastering of the four functions of management; Planning, controlling, organising and leading along with developing technical, human and conceptual skills, should go some way to allowing a manager some degree of success in the field of management. Of course, having skills is just part of being an effective manager, these skills and functions must be communicated in a way that fellow managers and workers can understand and act upon. The case study of P.F. Chang, a U.S based chain of Asian Bistros and contemporary Chinese diners P.F. Chang serves its workers well, indicates a number of systems in place by the company that allows its managers to plan, organise and lead their workers and control the final product. The communication process is also aided by processes in individual restaurants. Of course, any individual is responsible for their own behaviour and young managers develop their own style over time, but for a P.F. Chang manager certain skills need to be mastered to assimilate themselves with the culture and values of the company.

Of the four management functions that a manager at P.F. Chang would require to manage a restaurant effectively, it could be argued that leading is the most important. The Leadership Grid of Robert Blake and Jane Mouton (Schermerhorn, et al., p246) illiterates a scale of concern for both people and production. The case study of P.F. Chang restaurants shows the companys concern for its people, (P.F. Chang serves its people well). It can, therefore, be assumed that on the Blake and Mouton scale, the concern for people is high. As both restaurant managers and workers achieving the shared purpose of customer satisfaction. A P.F. Chang manager, would according to the Blake and Mouton grid, be required to adopt the management style of a Team Manager. As noted in the case study, most the workers are typically young and that could present challengers. Developing a human management skill would be very beneficial for a P.F. Chang manager due to the make up of the most of workers at each restaurant.

In a recent study of Generation Y hospitality workers, it was concluded that even though there was a desire by the respondents to work less hours to ensure a positive work/life balance, employee engagement can mean high commitment in recruitment, retention and performance. (Axwell, 2010). Further reading into the management of the members of Gen Y (those born after 1980 and the most likely the age group that makes up the staff members at P.F. Changs) show that certain styles of leadership are called for. Eisner suggests that Gen Y workers tend to have unbridled energy, endless enthusiasm, and the skills and experience of those much older [and] they should be managed with a coaching style (Eisner, 2005). Obviously, not all workers at P.F. Chang will be Gen Y, and of course, not all Gen Y employees will respond to the same style of management. So the effective P.F Chang restaurant manger would need to have an awareness of how different style of management would motivate each worker. Each manager at P.F. Changs may bring their own beliefs on what makes them effective as a manager.

This could prove to be a hindrance if the individual manager is not open to learning (and putting into practice) a different style of management, subsequently re-evaluateing their approach to how they manage their restaurant to bring themselves in line to P.F. Changs corporate values. Emphasising that different generations may require different management strategies, Axwell explains that Compared with other generations, Gen Y tends to have less respect for rank and more respect for ability and accomplishment. Expectations should be explained to Gen Y from the outset, including the big picture and how they fit into it. (Axwell, 2010) Along with many other businesses operating in the current economic environment, P.F. Changs business relies on customers discretionary spending and P.F. Chang makes a point of putting their customers satisfaction at the forefront of their business. This position is illustrated in the 2010 financial report of P.F. Chang which stated that the companys aim was to strive to create a loyal customer base that generates a high level of repeat business in our restaurants and translates to interest and trial of our retail products [however]

Our business is highly sensitive to changes in guest traffic and our operators concentrate on consistent execution of superior customer service while also focusing on additional opportunities for operating efficiencies (P.F. Chang, 2011). Some workers may struggle with the concept of exceptional customer service and a P.F. Chang manager must find ways to organise those workers to meet the companies expectations while upholding the companies values of openness and respect. The case study mentions that restaurant managers face the challenge every day of putting the right person in the right job, creating a team that works well together. At P.F. Chang, staff meet before every work shift where the manager is able to organise staff, reminding them of them of their duties for which ever role they may occupy. This meeting could also give the manager an insight into which member of the team may be feeling unmotivated and time could then be made to talk to the team member and discuss any issues. By delegating tasks from a manger to an employee it conveys a sense of trust in the worker, and sense of empowerment.

Furthermore, it gives the manager more time to complete other tasks. This delegation is evident at P.F. Chang. The case study notes that by giving servers authority to replace meals and the freedom to make decisions there is a reported positive impact on staffs attitude and performance. Regional Vice President, Roxanne Pronk says that those freedoms extended to employees have a huge impact on their attitude and performance. Some research, however has found that not all employees actually want extra freedom to decisions. A front line service worker in a 2008 survey of the empowerment made the comment that they were not paid to make decision, stating thats a supervisors job, thats not my job Other respondents mentioned they wanted extra money for doing extra things, and they see it (empowerment) as extra things to their work (Ueno, 2008).

Conversely, it is suggested that some employees are more likely to improve their behaviour when given added responsibility while others may resent it. A manager should be aware that a one size fits all approach where the assumption is that every member of the team wants added responsibility is unfair, not just on the individual worker who is happy with their current work load and level of responsibility, but also for any particular worker who desires increased responsibility, but does not get it. As noted in Chen et al managers need to make judgments regarding whom to empower and to what extent (Ford, Myron, Russ, & Millam, 1995)

Ueno concludes that empowerment can improve both customer satisfaction and employee attitudes and behaviour but also that high empowerment does not necessarily represent high service quality while low empowerment does not inevitably correspond to low service quality (Ueno, 2008). Information such as this could help the P.F Chang manger in organising workers, assigning roles that the employee feels comfortable with, acknowledge that while some employees will enjoy extra roles and increase their engagement, some may not and the encouragement of taking on more responsibility may actually be detrimental to the business. Being able to master the managerial functions and skills is, of course, only one part of the process for a P.F. Chang manger. How the information is conveyed to the staff of the restaurant is another set of skills that would need to be achieved. Good leaders tend to be good communicators who find ways to overcome barriers to effective communication.

Restaurants by their nature of being a place where many people gather can be nosy places, the kitchens that serves the talking customers can be even noisier and servers waiting on tables do not generally have access to work stations with computers where they can regularly check email or other forms of electronic notifications. It would be important for the manager to establish systems for effective communication with the staff. One such system seems to have been established, as the case study mentions every work shift ¦. begins with a staff meeting. As noted in the case study, this meeting is used primarily to motivate workers to head into their shifts with an upbeat outlook, and as noted earlier, serves as a function for managers to organise staff according to their strengths. From a communications perspective, this meeting would also be the perfect opportunity for managers to disseminate information that could be useful for front line staff members to pass on to customers, for example, changes to menu items.

P.F. Changs also places emphasis on respect and open communication between its managers and staff. As noted in the case study, managers sit down and discuss if and how workers external issues may be affecting their performance at work. Part of developing this human skill which is essential for a task such as this is active listening. Schermerhorn, et al. state that when people talk, they are trying to communicate something. That something may or may not be what they are saying (p 462). Further to this, Schmerhorn et al also show that different ways of communicating are more effective than others. This channel richness or the capacity if a communication channel to effectively carry information (pg 456) argues that face to face meeting can be much more effective in conveying information than hard copy like postings or bulletins.

In addition to P.F. Chang managers conducting staff meetings before every shift, they also are engaged in discussions with their staff regarding performance issues. With these meetings being face to face, they would be personal and two way and thus, high in richness. Any outcomes and possible agreements made between the manger and employee to meet a specific target to improve performance is more likely to be understood by the employee. Conversely, by sitting down and having a chat, the manager would gain a broader understanding of any issues that may be resulting in the change of behaviour or lack of engagement on the employee. Having open communication between the manager and employee also seems to have benefits for the business. Authors of a study which looked at service worker behaviour found that conformance to service standards [are] more likely to be met if service standards are communicated and understood by all members of the organization, including line employees.

Thus, open communication between frontline employees and managers is important for achieving service quality (Chen, 2010). Developing skills for effective communication for the P.F. Chang manager is of course the key to this communication process being effective, along with having an awareness of barriers to effective communication. Age, gender or generational differences can also prove to be a barrier. Returning to a broad example of younger employees Gen Y workers tend to look for instant gratification [and] tend to be constant negotiators and questioners, how meetings become why meetings (Axwell, 2010) The afore mentioned poor channels of communication like bulletins along with the more subtle areas such as negative body language and other non-verbal communication and a lack of active listening skills may be covered in the training that P.F. Changs gives it restaurant managers. As with a lot of large chains, the overall direction of the business would come from senior management.

Planning as a function of the business as a whole, would therefore not be within the gambit of specific P.F. Chang restaurants managers. Of course, a degree of planning would be required and an awareness of this process would be important to the successful management of the restaurant. Schermerhorn, et al. describe planning as the process of setting objectives and determining how to accomplish them (p20). Referring back to the case study, a P.F. Chang manger may set objectives based on the engagement of their staff. For example, reducing absenteeism on days of the week when the restaurant is busiest. The achievement of this objective may be helped by the attitude adopted by the company in dealing with staff whose performance does not meet the company standards an initiative directed by head office, but implemented at restaurant level. Ultimately, the managerial function of control is important to ensure the final product meets the required standard, in the case of P.F. Chang, the experience of diners from the service to the food.

As Merchant points out the need or controls over any particular behaviour or operation within an organization depends very simply on the impact of that area on overall organizational performance. Thus more control should be exercised over a strategically important behaviour rather than over a minor one, regardless of how easy it is to control each (Merchant, 1982). There are many issues that a restaurant manager must contend with on a day to day basis that will have no direct relation to people management, but due to the importance that the restaurant staff have to the overall business, this is the area that the most time should be devoted too. It can be assumed that controls for managing customers satisfaction would at first managed at restaurant level, indeed, the case study highlights that the server has the authority to replace a meal. Should this not be enough to satisfy the complaint of the customer, it may be escalated to the restaurant manager.

Since all employees receive extensive training and their employee hand book, it could be assumed that managing customer complaints would be included in this. Once again, the control function would be lead by directives from further up the management chain, but the restaurant manager (and server) would be equipped with the skills and expectations on how to engage with dissatisfied customers. Schermerhorn, et al states that the task of a manager is to bring the organisations resources into alignment with its purpose in a way that is sustainable in the organisations operating environment (p 19). The case study P.F. Chang serves its workers well highlights some of the processes that are established throughout the company that can assist the restaurant manager in effective management of a restaurant.

For a restaurant manager at P.F. Chang, the goal of maintaining the motivation of the team of restaurant workers is the skill that would most need to be mastered the function of leading through a thorough understanding the workers being lead, how they might be thinking and how they wish to be managed, along with a healthy dose of leadership theory. Similarly, by knowing the personalities of the team, they can be organised to ensure a more productive work business.

Those who are facing issues outside of work and those who want more responsibility (and those who dont) can be managed accordingly. The P.F. Chang restaurant manager has surport from head office by way of systems in planning, but should know that control over staff and how they interact with the customers is of paramount importance. And finally, the P.F. Chang manager must acquiesce effective communication skills lead and motivate in the most effective way, and organised the team with the members that are willing and able to perform varying tasks assigned them and manage discuss in respectful and constructive way when controls in place to ensure performance targets are not met.


Axwell, G. (2010). Generation Ys Career Expectations and Aspirations: Engagement in the Hospitality Industry. Journal Of Hospitality And Tourism Management , 60. Chen, H. R.-J. (2010). Empowerment in hospitality organizations: Customer orientation and organizational support. International Journal of Hospitality Management , 422, 424. Eisner, S. P. (2005). Managing Generation Y. SAM Advanced Management Journal . Ford, R. C., Myron, F. D., Russ, D. E., & Millam, E. R. (1995). Empowerment: A Matter of Degree. The Academy of Management Executive . Merchant, K. A. (1982). The Control Function of Management. Sloan Management Review , p. 48. P.F. Chang. (2011, Febuary 16). Form 10-K for P F CHANGS CHINA BISTRO INC . Retrieved January 18, 2012, from Yahoo Schermerhorn, J. R., Davidson, Poole, Simon, & Chau, W. &. (2011). Management. Milton, QLD: John Wiley & Sons Australia. Ueno, A. (2008). Is empowerment really a contributory factor to service quality? The Service Industries Journal , 1329.

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