Can a Slice of Pizza Make a Difference? – building alignment in service industries

training providerslargeAll owners and managers dread hearing “I’m just here for my paycheck”. It’s crucial for all establishments to have a culture that employees can relate to, and this means building a working environment where employees share your mission and vision. Large organizations may have a strong overall culture; but the specific cultures within each department and team are just as important. We want our staff to feel attached to the mission and vision of the company. But how do we do this?

I’ve worked with many companies working in the service and hospitality industry in the US and Asia. One problem I’ve noticed is that whenever people begin to talk about building the right culture within a department it can quickly become too abstract. This doesn’t need to be the case! Let’s think of culture as a pizza (or a “pizza pie” as we say in the States). There are several layers in developing a successful and delicious pizza and every layer is essential. Building an effective company or team culture is similar – each layer has its own role to play in impacting the work environment and the bottom line of the organization.

The Dough

The dough is our foundation. When managers and Human Resource departments hire new candidates, one criteria they should look for is the candidate’s commitment or we could say “Is the candidate passionate about what he/she is trying to achieve?” We need to hire those who are passionate and enthusiastic about their roles.

The Sauce

Dough would be tasteless without the sauce. Sauce can be described as core skills and behaviours for the organization, and one-on-one time with new hires is essential. On-boarding training is key too. I consulted a business called Reggae Bar Phi in Thailand. They wanted all new candidates to jump into the job and weren’t spending any time on induction and training. Taking the time to train new employees meant that employees knew what they were doing, why they were doing it and how their roles and actions impacted the bottom line. On- boarding should have a company-wide element plus be customized to fit the department’s objectives.

The Toppings

We’ve got the dough (a passionate candidate) and the sauce (essential training). We all have our own favorite toppings for our pizza – and this is where acknowledging and working with individual diversity is essential. For instance, in the hospitality industry, it’s important that all team members bring their own unique charm to the table to customize a guest’s experience at the hotel. Managers and Human Resources hire employees because they see the unique aspect in each individual that could impact the company. I strongly feel that leaders should build an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable being themselves and playing to their individual strengths.

I had the privilege to work for a great manager at a wonderful hotel in Orlando. One of the key characters my manager asked for was that I be myself. She told me “Bring out the charm in you and wow the guests”. This is an important statement. It’s hard to change a person’s personality and characteristic, but leaders can craft those inner talents towards the establishment’s goals. Allowing employees to bring their personal skills and assets to the table drives commitment, engagement and quality.

The Oven

Have you ever eaten pizza raw? Of course not, we need an oven to fully complete the process. Leaders and Human Resource departments should be there to support individuals and departments to achieve their goals. Employees must feel connected to the organization. One client shared her approach as “Treat employees like you want them to treat external clients”. This can be extended to treating colleagues with the same respect – after all we all need support from one another. Employees need the support from their supervisors or leaders. Front desks can’t run a hotel without the support from the housekeeping department. And a logistics team can’t function without the IT support team.

I’ve used my “Pizza Mind” metaphor to help hotels improve their Market Metrix score and ranking of the departments from the lowest to the winning department of the year. In addition, it also helped to increase staff retention and morals. The main objective of implementing the “Pizza Mind Metaphor” is to help organizations create a stronger and effective culture where employees can be the competitive advantage in the market. No competitors can replicate this recipe of building “intangible assets” within the company.

Earl DechsakdaAbout the author

I have worked professionally in the hospitality industry for more than 7 years. I am currently getting a Master degree in Human Resource Management. I’ve helped train several departments to achieve both departmental and organizational goals. I have consulted and improved employee’s engagement at various small businesses locally and internationally.

Earl Dechsakda



5 replies
  1. Gerhard
    Gerhard says:

    Very interesting read, Earl!
    I think you can certainly train to understand what guests want. So “misunderstandings” can be reduced to a minimum. A wealth of knowledge can be accumulated.
    Many thanks for your answers so far!


  2. Gerhard
    Gerhard says:

    Hello Mr. Dechsakda,
    sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by the kindness of staff in hotels, especially at the reception. But is has to be a natural kindness, not simply an attitude. They shouldn’t overdo. How to achieve such a thing as an employee?

    • Earl Dechsakda
      Earl Dechsakda says:

      Hello Gerhard,

      I would like to thank you for your interest in my article. I grew up in the hospitality and have great passionate for it. Therefore, I love every element about the service industry. Yes, as you mentioned Gerhard, sometimes individuals “overdo” or “over smile”. I strongly believe that providing service needs to come from within.

      It’s important that guests feel the warmth of the service. In order to do that, we need to proper training in place. For example, the Dough section refers to finding that passionate employees to work or setting goals, therefore, employees know what they are trying to achieve. The Topping section refers to brining your own inner talent and customize service towards different guests. Hospitality is such a globalize industry that every guest is different. Therefore, what service we provide for one guest may not be effective for another. Another key element I always train my team on is reading clues and knowing when to stop. Therefore, we know how to approach each specific guest. I always tell them that we need to put ourselves in guest’s shoes. If a guest is upset, employees need to show understanding and help guests to find solutions rather than keep smiling. I hope this help, please do not hesitate to leave comments if you have any questions.

      • Gerhard
        Gerhard says:

        Hello, Earl, thanks for your reply!
        Yes, I have another question:
        I think a lot people are upset nowadays or in a “nervous state” and you have to cope with it as staff-member. But how to react if you feel that the guest shows no real respect for you? You surely want to be treated well and on the other hand do a good job!
        I guess you should not take it personally. If someone believes he can treat you this way then it’s mainly his problem.

        • Earl Dechsakda
          Earl Dechsakda says:

          Hello Gerhard,
          I am more than happy to clarify any questions or concerns you may have. Hospitality industry is a service industry. Our main goal is to make every guest leaves the hotel with a smile. However, reality is very different. As I’ve mentioned hospitality industry is very diverse. In a hotel you can see guests from all over the world. Therefore, every guest has their own expectation and definition of “service”. This is why we constantly see service failure, when employees aren’t able to please guests. What is more important than acknowledging service failure is providing a service recovery.

          It’s crucial that every employee in the business are empowered to recovery guest’s issues before it escalates to the cooperate level. This is what I called service recovery. Being able to resolve guests concerns and “wow” them in timely manner. As a paying customer, guest is expected to get what they purchase. Our duties at the hotel is to provide that. I cannot stress enough on how proper training and affect the bottom-line of the business. The Sauce section in the article refers to standardize training. Being able to read clues and knowing when to step back is an important section in training. First you need to acknowledge guest’s concerns, so guests can feel that employees are putting themselves in their shoes. Next is training your team to be active listener. Listening for clues is one of the important keys as an active listener. Employees need to listen to what guests really want. Sometimes, guests would not state what they want, but employees need to try their best to listen for those clues. Response action is also what will determine how guests feel. Lastly, never forget to do a follow up. For instance, ask your employees to give guests a call and ask them if the problem is fixed or what can they do to make their experience at the hotel more memorable.

          There will be time that your team will not be able to control or fix glitches. As referred above, sometimes employees will need to step back and give guests their own space. I strongly believe complication starts from misunderstanding but it can be solved by just simply acknowledging guest’s concerns.

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