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Many of us may be familiar with the peculiar peccadillos of rock bands and divas for specified products in their dressing rooms. We've heard of demands for certain brands of water or required food for the traveling party. This rock star excess concept may have been first introduced in a contract rider in 1982 by the rock group Van Halen. The contract stipulated a large bowl of M&M candies to be available to members of the rock group accompanied with the added text: "WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES!"

As ridiculous as this contract point may seem, it was not about the discrimination of brown candy coated chocolate. According to an article by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post, Van Halen was one of the first "superbands" to set up elaborate productions in their concerts. The production required large and very expensive equipment that traveled to venues around the country. It had to be handled in a very specific way to avoid damage and provide the most effective sound and sensations during the concert. Many of the venues were not ready to handle the sensitive equipment and worse, many didn't read the contract with specific instructions on how to manage it.

So Van Halen established the "no brown M&M test" within its contracts. Lead singer David Lee Roth went backstage when he arrived at the venue site. If he saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, he knew the promoter had not thoroughly read the contract rider. The color of the M&Ms was beside the point. It was a test for attention to detail. Extensive tests and checks of the equipment installation would then be conducted, checking for the attention to detail that was required for the safety of the equipment and maximum performance.

The M&M test metaphor applies to our industry in many ways. Routines in the kitchen require specific attention to detail to avoid serious consequences. Times and temperatures violations in food preparation may result in serious illness if contaminated food is consumed. Poor or nonexistent training on kitchen equipment may result in serious injury. Poor cash handling or security breaches may result in armed robbery, where innocent employees and customers could be killed.

We may make false assumptions that we have policies and procedures that address those issues with specific instructions. How many of us have a great employee handbook that the employees signs during their orientation? It may be the first and only time rules and expectations are expressed. Yeah, we can prove they got it with their signature. But have they read it, understood it and applied it? Shoulder-to- shoulder training takes place, and we make assumptions that the new employee, or even tenured ones, received the proper training on holding times, keeping the back door secured, or removing excess cash from tills. We rely on this type of training to guide our operations, but the small details and absolutes of food safety and crime prevention may be missing or misunderstood.

Testing the employees on their understanding and proficiency of the procedures and policies is important to the successful operation of the business. It is one step that is often neglected. And if it is neglected, the lack of completing the circle of training may result in employees improvising or making incorrect assumptions on their own. Those improvisations and assumptions could place your business in serious jeopardy. Complete the training by measuring your employees' understanding of the rules, procedures, and expectations necessary for the success of your company. Let them pick out the brown M&Ms. The detail brings the retail.

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Loss Prevention

Latest posts by D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D.B. “Libby” Libhart has more than 30 years of experience in the loss prevention industry. He has provided security and safety leadership in retail settings such as department stores, drug stores and quick-service restaurants. Before launching his own company, LossBusters, Libby served as the Senior Director of U.S. Security and Safety for McDonald’s Corp. He entered the QSR industry with Taco Bell and subsequently YUM Brands.
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