Attention to detail.
On paper, everyone agrees it's important. Like being "goal-oriented," it's one of those generic hallmarks of a good manager. In theory, it all makes sense: people should sweat the small stuff if they want the big stuff to turn out correctly. In practice, though, there are plenty of reasons why attention to detail is honored more in the breach than the observance: time (or lack thereof); conflicting priorities; lack of quality control; loss of ownership over a project.
After the jump, I'm going to talk about one small instance of a critical lack of attention to detail, and what it all might mean.
Yesterday, I went to lunch with a friend, a visiting researcher who knows his way around the Strip better than many locals. Since he's the guest, he got to pick where we went; thinking maybe of the last Vegas Gang, I suggested hitting up a good, old-fashioned casino coffee shop, preferably one that neither of us had been to for a while. He suggested Harrah's Cafe, and, after a quick check of Vegas Mate showed it wasn't rated any worse than other places in its category, we set off. Eager to get that TR discount, I even brought my Total Rewards card with me.
The coffee shop looked like a Vegas casino coffee shop, albeit one a little slower than you might expect for 12:30 in the afternoon. A mix of seniors, convention guests, and vacationers filled about 30% of the seats. Service was quick and pleasant.
I was in the mood for a salad, as was my friend, so we both skipped the impressive array of breakfast offerings (cherry danish french toast sounded particularly tasty) and went straight to lunch. And here are the salads:
The Cafe Baby Green looks pretty standard. But the Caesar Salad...not exactly the standard romaine lettuce/croutons/parmesan that I'm used to. A hint of anchovy and lemon? Outstanding if they can manage it. But I've (almost) never seen a Caesar salad with a mix of baby greens, roasted turkey, chopped eggs, and the rest. Let me explain the (almost)--interestingly enough, I ordered a Caesar salad and got pretty much that a few weeks back at the Four Queens coffee shop, so I now think this is some kind of broader industry trend that merits writing about, as opposed to random weird stuff that happened to me.
I accepted that this wasn't really a Caesar, and looked for something else to order, but this seemed to be the best thing on the menu for me. It was a close call between that and the Cobb, which my lunchmate ordered, but I thought some succulent roast turkey would go down better than fried chicken.
The waitress came to our table, asked us what we wanted. When I said "Caesar Salad" she dutifully read off the choice of dressings: "Ranch, Thousand Island, French, Italian, Caesar." I said I'd like Caesar. It got a nice laugh from everyone.
The salads came quickly. Here's my Caesar:
I was a little disappointed that the promised roast turkey wasn't actually cuts of juicy fresh-roasted turkey breast but instead diced slices of the kind of turkey you'd put on a sandwich, but I polished the behemoth off.
So what does all this mean? I got the salad I asked for. Everyone was nice and, thanks to the excellent company, it was a great lunch. I thought it was just a fun adventure in Vegasland. I even tweeted about it last night, just meaning to have some fun with it. But I think it goes deeper than that.
Now I never claimed to be a foodie, but I figured that they just switched the name of the Caesar for another salad. @PokerVixen probably nailed it when she tweeted "Looks like the caesar is a cobb and the cobb is a chopped."
So my question is, how did it happen that the menu got printed with a rather obvious mistake, and nobody caught it? Not the VP of F&B, not the executive chef, not the restaurant manager, not one of the wait staff, and not one of the cooks who actually prepare the food. Is this a symptom of something that's ingrained deeper in casino culture?
I'd say it is--there's either a critical lack of attention to detail, or people who do notice these things don't feel empowered to speak up about them. I'd assume that the people making and delivering to the table these salads know what a Caesar salad is supposed to look like, and they know that this isn't one of them. Why hasn't anyone spoken up?
From my own experiences in the casino world, I can say that it's a place that doesn't always appreciate open inquiry and discussion or initiative-taking. Someone above you set the menu; you get paid to bring it to customers, take their orders, and cook what's on it--it's not your responsibility to correct even an obvious mistake.
I felt pretty good about my lunch--which concluded with a visit to Buck and Winnie's statue and a brief mini-tour of the Linq construction in the IP--until something dawned on me.
Van Halen's contract rider. Brown M&Ms.
If you need a refresher, one of Van Halen's contract riders for live performances specified that a bowl of M&Ms was to be present backstage, with all brown M&Ms removed. The presence of a single brown M&M would mean that Van Halen wouldn't perform, but would still get paid in full. This wasn't because anyone in the band hated brown M&Ms, but as a way of checking the quality control of the arena personnel. As Roth said in his autobiography: "So when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl...well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you're going to arrive at a technical error. They didn't read the contract. Guaranteed you'd run into a problem."
This got me thinking: if something this obvious can slip through the cracks, what else is wrong that we don't see? It's actually kind of scary if you think about it too hard, because casinos are tremendously large and complex buildings filled with thousands of people, with plenty of potential for things to go wrong.
And I've got to admit that I'm just as guilty as everyone else here. I knew that what I ordered wasn't a Caesar salad, but I didn't say anything. Before the food arrived, because it's my standard policy not to antagonize restaurant staff before getting my food, and afterward because everyone was so nice I didn't want to seem ungrateful. And I figured someone else would catch it.
The challenge for managers--not just at Harrah's, not just at its parent company, and not just in the casino business, but everywhere--is to make sure that staff up and down the line aren't afraid to speak up, and don't want to pass the buck to someone else.
This morning, a nice Twitter exchange with @DenverGambler, @Misnoper, and @Detroit1051 gave me another Caesar-related data point: this site plan of the proposed Grand Bazaar Shops in front of Bally's. On the left side of the document, there's a note indicating access from "Bellagio/Ceasar's."
The Caesars/Caesar's mistake is so common, and that's almost forgivable because it's (mostly) grammatically correct, and it's the instinctive way to spell the name of the resort, particularly if you don't obsess over casino signage. Spelling it "Ceasars," though, should just look wrong. If it's internal, you've got to wonder why nobody caught the name of the company itself misspelled. If it was produced externally, that's an error on par with misspelling your potential boss's name on a job application cover letter.
All this isn't to suggest that Caesars is the only place where this kind of thing happens--as I said before, I had the exact same salad fun at the Four Queens a few weeks ago. And I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy myself at lunch--I had a great time and would go back (but probably for breakfast). I'd just like to use the experience--and my own complicity in not correcting the mistake--to think a little bit about how we can all do a better job of getting things right.