At last year’s forum on servant leadership at Hope College, during Q&A, one of the students described the management and owners of this restaurant as great servant leaders. She explained that they were always willing to help the staff in any way possible, taught them all to support each other and emphasized the importance and value of the customer. On top of that, she continued, they had a great interest in the community and helping those less fortunate. That sounded impressive, I thought. However, it also did not sound abnormal from most restaurants. Being in the food service industry, many attributes of the business should align with servant leadership principles. It was not until I visited the restaurant myself, that I fully appreciated this organization as a profile of servant leadership in action…
Stephanie, my waitress, is friendly, outgoing and concerned about her fellow team members. Although the place is packed and every seat in her section is full, she frequently asks other staff members if there is anything she can do to help them. Another waitress sets down a tray of food behind a fellow team member and says “Hey Gina, your primes are here, do you need anything with them?” Five minutes later, Stephanie asks another waitress, “what can I help you get?” as the other waitress prepares her tray, she lists of several drinks and Stephanie begins to fill the order. It may seem as though this is no different from any other well trained, efficient wait staff. However, the thing is, they all seemed genuinely instereseted in helping each other asnd serving the customer. While other efficient restaurants come across as just a well-oiled machine, these people more like they were doing what they felt was right – not just what they were told to do.
The management does not stand out – in a good way. There isn’t anyone barking orders. Nor does there seem to be anyone in particular the staff is concerned about. Although there is one person at the register that wears a distinguishing outfit – seemingly the manager on duty, they otherwise blend in with the team.
It is clear though, that the owners deeply value the employees. On the walls, near the entrance are a series of class portraits. These photographs proudly display at the main entrance, for all to see, the many team members that have worked at the restaurant, year by year. These are the type of class photos you expect to see in a fraternity house, at a summer camp or somewhere more focused service than on making money.
One of the most intriguing items I see is a series of dollar bills hanging on the walls. Each pinned to the wooden wall with a thumb tack. Curious, I ask a waitress on my way out, “What’s the deal with the Dollar Bills on the wall?”
“People just pin them up on the wall throughout the year. Then, a couple times a year, we pull them all down and donate them to a charitable cause.” She then walks me back near the restrooms and shows me all the framed signs there. Each is another charitable cause to which they donated these dollar bills over the years. They rang from disease research and prevention programs, to disaster relief and other needs of the community. The dollar values are quite high:
“There must have been an awful lot of dollar bills on the wall,” I reflect.
“Well, sometime we hold fundraisers too.” she comments as I walk toward the door and thank her for explaining it to me.
Yes, the Hope College student that called my attention to The Crazy Horse Steakhouse and Saloon was absolutely right – this is truly a profile of Servant Leadership in action. The only problem is, it drives so much business for the company, that I may have to wait 45 minutes for a seat again the next time I visit. It’s worth the wait though – and worth the company’s investment in Servant Leadership. Keep up the great work Crazy Horse.