Evolution is Essential
My dad is an anthropologist and I was raised on a steady diet of evolutionary theory as established by Charles Darwin, my dad’s hero. As a species, humans have evolved over millions of years into the species we are now due to a concept that Darwin called “Natural Selection.” His theory was that the species that could best adapt to their environment would ensure future replication. Replication = success. This concept was later coined “survival of the fittest” and it reflects how adaptation is key to survival.
I am not an anthropologist, and yet, I have seen firsthand how evolution is crucial to survival…the survival of a business. A business that stays the same will eventually become outdated or become less relevant than it had been when it opened. The key to staying relevant in business is to constantly evolve and grow as the years go by.
Time is a key condition of evolution. Evolution doesn’t go quickly, nor is it rash. Rather, it is a deliberate and steady series of adjustments and recalibrations that help promote a new, improved, healthy state of being. Defined, as “the gradual development of something” evolution is just that: gradual and thoughtful.
I experienced this concept first hand when I was a waitress at Balthazar back when it first opened up. The place was a hit from day one: it opened to rave reviews and with a crush of enthusiastic guests. With each passing week we got busier and busier…it was uncanny how insanely busy we were! And yet, a few months in, the owner and managers were keen to improve our systems and maximize the opportunity to serve hundreds of guests a day.
We made adjustments to the tables (divided them to accommodate more guests), to the service bar (added more glasses and an ice bin so the waiters could fill their own soda and wine orders more quickly) and to the schedule (added more busboys in order to stock the shelves and drawers with supplies). This resulted in faster, more efficient table turns, which added dollars to the bottom line.
On the other hand I have also experienced businesses that didn’t evolve. Businesses that were mired in issues; blinded by past glory and refusing to make necessary changes to their methods and products. Common issues of stagnation included the refusal to make necessary menu or product updates (but the critics loved it!), stand up for the bottom line (but Mr. so and so always gets a special deal!) or even update their processes (but we’ve always done it this way!). Small but critical patterns that can hold back even the most respected operations.
The key to evolving is being open to feedback. Feedback from your managers and staff can be invaluable. What do they need to do their job better or improve the guest experience? They are experts in your operation who can help shine a light on the crucial issues that are hampering your - and their - success. Listen to feedback from your guests and look for trends and themes that keep coming up. A common pitfall is to quickly make a change because one person has said something is no good. One person’s feedback isn’t enough to make a change to your products and services. But if enough people comment on a specific aspect of your operation, take heed.
In order to make lasting change you must do it incrementally. Thoughtfully. Carefully. And always in service of your brand and products. Your brand will weather the storm if you allow it to adapt and flow with the times. The ability of your business to stay fit and healthy is key to the survival of your brand.