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“When the rice-flour hits the fan” – Gary Warner from Morrisons

We’ve been baking our gluten-free cheese scones for years. It’s our recipe, and we’re in at 6 AM to heat the ovens and bake them fresh every day. Last week we had a problem when the damn scones just didn’t rise.

We were convinced we followed the same recipe, using the same mix, same baking time, but what came out of the oven wasn’t good. It was as flat as Tahuna on a calm day. We even stuck them back in the oven for another 5 mins. All that did was bugger them up a bit more. A flat and crispy fail.

Our French baker sighed, let out the obligatory “sacre bleu” (or probably “Merde!” to be honest), and then chucked the lot in the bin. But I was happy.

Now, I’m not nuts.  I wasn’t happy that we’d produced squashed up and burnt scones. Let me tell you I muttered my own Gaelic “Cac.” Or “CAC!!” was probably more like it.

But she did exactly what she should in not serving anything she wasn’t happy with. Businesses often talk about a commitment to quality and service, but for some, it’s just talking. We had a line of regulars waiting on their morning scone, so when the “merde” hit the fan for us, I was glad we didn’t try to sneak it past the locals.

Instead, we took it on the chin and told people we’d screwed up and couldn’t feed their daily craving – today. Our philosophy is “only the best.” It’s not only heartening to see our people buying into this, but also taking responsibility and doing it when it matters.

What happened next surprised me. Our team began to reflect on what had occurred. But no-one was trying to blame anyone. Everyone started by putting the customer first, the business second, and themselves last.

People were concerned customers were disappointed. Hungry. Hangry even. No one wanted to let a single customer down.

People then were worried about the business losing revenue. Or worse, customers.

Finally, they checked in with each other, their tools, and ingredients. Was everyone OK? Was the oven hot enough? Did we get the ingredients right?

The team conducted a classic debrief. Debriefing is a powerful tool that allows a team to learn, self-correct, build rapport, and create a culture of continuous improvement.

After the team reflected on the event, they identified opportunities for improvement. They built a common understanding of what worked and what didn’t, then clarified roles and responsibilities. They identified new quality checks and agreed on ways to do things better.

Will we get things wrong in the future? Yes, we’re only human. Are we aiming to deliver mediocrity?  No frigging way. Do we care? Absolutely.

What I observed throughout this event was the connection between people. Our team bunkering down together. Our staff empathetically reaching out to customers. Our customers understanding. Mostly. Hopefully!

This, to me, is the real purpose of our place. Connecting people. Giving people a place to meet, talk, laugh, and support each other. We’re a real-live, physical ‘facebook’ page.

A place to talk to friends, discover what’s shaking in our community, where you can express your opinions without judgement. And somewhere to have a coffee, brownie, beer or some eggs bene while you’re updating your status in real time with real people!

And in case you’re wondering, we got a measurement wrong in our base mix. C’est la vie? No way. Onwards and upwards.

Gary Warner 

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