What else does your oven guy do?

For those of you that have deck ovens…what else does your oven guy do? I realize it’s relative to the volume of business, but I just want an idea of what else they may do. I’m a new place opened for about 7 months, currently doing just pizza, 2 sizes. My oven guy gets an attitude when I ask him to do something else in the course of the night (not open for lunch). It’s not that busy during the week, it’s usually me, him, and one other guy. Weekends are a different story and I don’t expect him to do anything but cook the pies. I had no pizza experience prior and neither did he (he was there from the beginning). We figured a lot out together, and I consider us a good team, all the pies come out looking great. Should I just accept the fact that he’s not a multi-tasker and stop relying on him to do anything else?

To be blunt… that sounds absurd. Your employees job is to be a good part of the team and to do whatever part of the team’s workload it makes sense for YOU to assign to him.

I would recommend a written job description for all positions that would spell out what each position is responsible for. You are the owner and assign jobs to the employees and not the other way around. If the employee is responsible to mop or sweep or wash dishes then that needs to go in the job description. An employee with an attitude is not desirable in the workplace.

Always include this sentence “All other duties as assigned.”

I’m trying to figure out what is realistic. When there’s 8 pies in the oven, I’m not going to ask him to go clear a table, but if there’s maybe one that was just put in, then I might, and he doesn’t want to move from that oven. The pies take like 10 minutes to cook, and he just wants to stand there watching it cook, lol.

It’s like a kid testing your limits, either nip in the bud now or live with it forever. If you’re willing to do whatever it takes then so should he. And attitude? Check it at the door with me, I refuse to feel uncomfortable in my own place. You need to set the tone and calmly lay out how the business will be run from now on including a job description. If you got time to lean. … man up and call him out.

On weekend nights, I usually man the ovens myself. This allows me to check for accuracy before it goes in the oven and when it goes in the box. Our set up has the oven a little farther away from the prep area than I would like currently. On a busy night, I have to station myself there more than I would like. When I get it moved closer after our remodel, I can be of more help in prepping. I use an 8 position timer to keep from getting things confused. This also lets me know at a glance how much time I have before the next pie is ready. If I have a few minutes, I can do things like restock the beer cooler or anything else. Obviously, the timer is no substitute for keeping an eye on things, but it does help me not be completely chained to the oven as much. It also reduces opening/closing the door to check on the the pizzas. Once you get a feel for how it’s baking that night, you know about how much long or short of 10 minutes you need to go that night.

He may be paranoid of forgetting or losing track of time if he does anything else but stand there. I know I wouldn’t trust myself 100% without the timers to not forget one once in a while or overestimate how much time I had to complete a separate task. But, like everyone else said, he does what you need him to do, bottom line. But you can make sure you’re giving him the tools to do that to the best of his ability.

Sounds like he needs to be reminded that everyone is replaceable.
So when he is not baking pies, does he just expect to be standing around and getting paid to do nothing? I would sit him down and lay out the rules, and if he does not like them, he can find employment elsewhere.
I try to cross train all my people, find their best talents, and utilize those talents the best that I can. I explain to the crew that they are being groomed to be able to take over my responsibilities if I ever get caught up in something so they can take over.

I do tell him that. He would stand around though if he could. There’s pretty much always a pie in the oven, except when we first open. He’ll cut mushrooms and peppers to cook in the oven and we’ll get the slice pies done. But even if there’s only one pie in, he won’t answer the phone, he’ll say, I have a pie in…I tell him the caller can be out on hold if need be. If I need something on the fly from the back, he’ll say, I got a pizza in the oven. I understand when the oven is full, but that’s not always the case. Business is so erratic, sometimes its slow, then out of the blue we’ll get slammed and they’re not used to it, they become complacent. I dunno.

Not sure how busy you are but we run two to three guys depending on business. Maker, oven and bencher.

Our “oven guy” mans the oven which includes spinning pies, moving pies, popping bubbles if needed, removing, cutting, boxing and bagging and handing over takeout orders to the cashier. Also deals with the sides of sauces, jalapeños, etc. essentially everything post make.

Maker does nothing but stand there and make pizza after pizza after pizza.

Bencher benches dough after dough after dough. Backs up the oven guy if he needs it. This is a typical setup for us when it’s busy.

When it isn’t busy, we drop down to two guys and they both stay busy doing all of the prep including making the dough. Someone keeps an eye on the ticket printer, usually the guy not making dough. Our guys walk away from the oven to get back to prep then come back to finish.

When there is nothing to do, which there pretty much always is or else they would be scheduled differently, they do whatever it is I need them to do. I don’t force them, or make them, I just ask them and they do it.

Let me tell you something that a lot of these guys might not be able to. I get it… Deck ovens are rare today. It’s not because they produce a poor product (quite the contrary) but because they take cold hard skill to properly use. It’s not easy finding someone that can consistently put out a great product with deck ovens. Working double or quad stack ovens at one of our places is a full time baking position filled essentially by bakers. A bit more to it than waiting for a conveyor belt to shoot a pie out the opposite end. I question my sanity on using decks constantly.

That said, don’t let the fact that skilled bakers are so hard to find that you need to ignore incompetence. They are out there. If not, they can be trained. It takes a while to train someone to do it all, but it’s not impossible.

Thanks no reason. Are they just doing pizza? Any sandwiches, breads, etc? I know its not easy manning the oven, and like I said he cooks the pies great. He does cut / box. For a while there, he was putting the finished pies on the oven, while knowing the customer was waiting, wtf. I set him straight on that, hasn’t happened again. He does some post stuff on some pizzas, basil, spinach, etc. Sides are a good idea, I’ll see if he can handle those. Weekdays are not busy, only top oven is fired usually. Weekends I don’t expect him to do anything else.

Nah, it’s physically impossible for any guy in the 3 positions I mentioned to do anything else other than grind out their specific job. If it’s slow, they get as much prep they can get done before its time to work again.

This system works for us because we are pretty high volume. If we were a slower place, i would figure out a way to keep them busy doing other things, as should you.

If you feel that he is underworked and overpaid, make adjustments. If you don’t have much owner / management experience on how to staff someone to keep them busy enough then just put yourself in his shoes and ask the same question. If the answer is the same, that he is underworked/overpaid then make adjustments.

In your post you said that you have been open for about 7 months and you and your oven guy did not have any experience and you both figured it out together. I would suspect that you now have the experience to run the oven and that you would be capable of training someone to bake pies the way the you want them. I would hope that all owner’s would have the ability to train employees to perform any task in the shop. Managing people is an art and is a learned skill. Not all people or owners make good managers as their management skills suck. Each employee reacts to different motivations and management styles. Some employees are motivated by money, some are motivated by positive comments about the wonderful work they are doing. Some just need to be hit in the head with a 2X4 (just a figure of speech and I do not condone physical abuse). First step in managing an employee is to find out what motivates him and work that angle.

Employees are like children. They are going to push the envelope to the edge and see how far they can go. Sounds like your oven guy has decided that his only responsibility is to watch pies. Sounds like he has gotten away with it for 7 months and is now entrenched in that attitude. I think you have a choice to make. Either you allow him to continue his pie watching or you have a “come to meeting” with him.

I have had many such meetings with subordinates and it is not fun but it is necessary when you run a business. First thing that I would do is to sit him down and let him know what is expected of him and his work duties. If he disagrees he is out of there. If he agrees then monitor him and the 1st time he refuses to abide by your policies I would have another meeting with him. My favorite line to use is this. We had a chat back on XXXX and you agreed to follow my policies and you are failing to follow them. I have decided that you can no longer be employed by me. You have 2 choices. You can resign or you can be terminated. Which of these do you desire to do? Then don’t say another word until he lets you know his choice.

You can train another employee to do the job and he would most likely be a better employee and you can train him for other duties from the get go. Yes, it will be hard to let the employee go and it may slow your shop down for a few days but you will recover.

Employees watch other employees and they know what is going on in the store. You let one employee get away with things then the other employees think it is ok and pretty soon you have a mess. Deal with the problem and be done with it. Let us know how it goes. Good luck!

I would start interviewing people for his position, and NOT having him train these people. If he doesn’t get the hint that you are getting upset, he is more dense than I had originally thought.
Did you ask him why he thinks he cannot do these other things? Does he have zero interest in taking on more responsibilities and making more money?

My immediate thoughts; Launch Him!

The bottom line is he should be doing whatever you are asking him to do. It sounds like the guy has an I don’t care attitude and you need to do something about it immediately. People like this guy are a cancer for your business anyone that will have to work with him will also develop an I don’t care attitude. He is not the only pizza maker out there I would definitely find a replacement and don’t be scared about it affecting your business because it really won’t you will actually find relief once you do. I’ve been there and done that and have been scared in the past of what will I do if my guy leaves. Move on the most important thing is your business you cannot and will not move forward with someone like this guy. Give him a chance to snap out of it and is he does a 180 then ok but be very careful as cancer spreads and it spreads quickly he shouldn’t be questioning anything you tell him.

Believe me, I remind him all the time. He thinks I should have people to do every little thing, but that’s just silly during the week when it’s slow. He knew I was pissed, so last night he stepped up, answered phone, rang people up, bought pizzas to eat-ins, etc. I mean really, does he think I’d jeopardize the quality of the pizzas cooking if I thought it could not be done. I’ve been to hundreds of pizza places and see oven guys doing much much more. Apparently people just want pizza on the weekend around here, so it needs to be a skeleton crew during week and we all need to do everything.

Is he the kind of guy that understands numbers? Do you feel comfortable explaining to him why you do not have multitudes of people in specialized positions? Maybe explain labor costs, and just hanging by the oven is not going to be feasible for now, and once your numbers increase, that he will be lucky if he gets to walk away from the oven.
I had a young guy from the “Entitlement Generation” who thought every penny that went in the cash drawer went into my personal pocket, his attitude sucked, The night he said, "Wow, you made a ton of money tonight, I wish I could pocket that amount daily"I sat him down with the checkbook ledger and invoices in my hand and showed him what every little thing costs around here and had him do the math with me. I thought it was going to be an exercise in futility, but it actually sunk in. and his attitude improved to a more tolerable level. He had no idea that our large pizza boxes cost $0.75 Each, foam to-go boxes around $0.37 each, What my payroll, insurance, licensing, & supply liabilities are. Then I pulled up my time sheets and compared them to his and showed him my pay rate compared to his. I average about $1.50/Hour here with my hours. Oh, and this guy refused to work any overtime, my other guys begged for overtime.
Sadly the improved attitude only lasted a few months and we parted ways. His drinking hobby was turning into a profession, we did the math and figured he was averaging $50-$60 a night in alcohol consumption. Yet he wondered why he had no money to get nice things.