Work Culture: Creating A Place To Love Not Leave

Work Culture: Creating A Place To Love Not Leave

Most restaurants, it turns out, do not close during their first year. Forbes reports on a 2014 study that shows only 17% of restaurants fail in the first year, a failure rate lower than some other service businesses. Bar and Restaurant Success reported that 2016 was the seventh successive year of growth in the industry and that wholesale food prices were going down in that year while menu prices went up. In addition, The Motley Fool reported that for the first time in 2016, the average American spent more on restaurants and take-out than on groceries! Seems it’s a very good time for restaurants.

Let’s not get carried away, though, with the idea that success is easy or likely. By the third year, almost half of restaurants close. So, what is the difference between success and failure?

We all know the mantra that food and service make the restaurant. Imagine, for a moment, that two restaurants in close geographic proximity offer the same quality food and equally good service. Which will prevail in the competitive restaurant industry?

Certainly management practices impact the ultimate success of a restaurant — but what about differences in the customer experience? Wait, weren’t we talking about equally good service? But consider this: in one of those restaurants, employees do their job and serve their customers well, if perfunctorily. In the other, employees do their job joyfully and serve their customers so well that they leave smiling and look forward to returning soon.

And that last experience has everything to do with work culture, creating a place your employees love and don’t want to leave. A great work culture not only makes your business more fun and less stressful for you and your employees, it is critical to your competitive success. It’s just good business to be a happy business.

Your employees are your face to the public, and they are most directly responsible for creating the experience that will bring your customers back again and again. If you want your customers to leave happy and satisfied and eager to return, focus on creating that experience for your employees through the work culture you develop.

What will keep your employees happy and satisfied, looking forward to work? What do your employees want?

What your employees want:

  • Employees want you to be clear about the core values of your business so they can align with them and represent them well. This means you need to be clear about your core values and reflect them in every aspect of your business.
  • Employees want to feel that they are “going somewhere,” that is, that they can advance in your business, whether in status or increased income and benefits or personal growth.
  • Employees, like all people, experience greater satisfaction when they feel part of something bigger than themselves, whether that’s a “team” or a concept they embrace and promote.
  • Employees appreciate fairness and integrity.
  • Employees appreciate recognition and contribute more when they get it.
  • Employees benefit from well-defined responsibilities and a measure of predictability but conversely need variety to maintain maximum enthusiasm and creativity.
  • Fun and laughter not only reduce stress, but they release “feel-good” brain chemicals.

Simple enough, but how can you ensure that you are doing your part to create the work culture that keeps your employees at their best as they serve your customers? Keep in mind both formal mechanisms as well as informal mechanisms.

Formal mechanisms include:

  • Staff meetings. It’s difficult in the restaurant industry to take time for staff meetings, but they are invaluable for building a team environment in which all contributions matter. Make staff meetings short, informative, and encourage staff contributions. Maintain a positive atmosphere, and let employees know what their channel is to deal with complaints.
  • Meet with each employee privately for a written “review”. Discuss employee’s goals at work as well as employer evaluations and areas that need work. Revisit these issues at each meeting to evaluate progress toward resolution.
  • Institute a health and safety program. Healthy employees are happier employees.

Informal mechanisms:

  • Nip problems in the bud. If you spot something going on, don’t let it fester.
  • Do not allow aggression among employees, active or passive.
  • Encourage positive attitudes and cooperation.

Most importantly, remember: people who laugh together stay together — and keep your customers coming back. Find things each day to laugh about. Plan laughter into every day, and seize opportunities to find humor in your environment. It’s an invaluable tool for defusing the stress that accompanies life in the restaurant industry.

Your employees will appreciate you for the interest you show in them and the supportive, happy culture you create, and they will, in turn, engage your customers in that experience.

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Avoiding Negative Chef Stereotypes

Avoiding Negative Chef Stereotypes

There are plenty of stereotypes surrounding the role of the chef–and all too many of them are negative. You, however, want to break out of those stereotypes and create a kitchen that’s fun to work in while still maintaining the expectations of the restaurant’s customers. By learning to recognize these familiar stereotypes, you can avoid the trap of becoming one of them.

Stereotype #1: The Angry Chef

You’re probably familiar with the angry chef from comics and television. This typically male character is often the one standing over a new employee, bellowing at them–or perhaps chasing a server who dared ask for a customer’s requested substitution on a meal. In your kitchen, this plays out as a chef who is quick-tempered, hard to please, and who can quickly bring down the mood of the entire evening.

Avoiding the Stereotype: If you don’t want to be the angry chef, there are several things to keep in mind. First and foremost, respond–don’t react! By controlling your responses to everyone else in the kitchen, you’ll quickly deescalate what could otherwise be a negative situation. You can also follow some of these tips:

  • Always take a minute to think before responding in anger. Is that response the one you really want to give the person in front of you?
  • Remember that some things aren’t within the control of your coworkers. Blasting a server for the customer’s order won’t help!
  • Take a break and calm down if you need to. Just make sure the kitchen is covered!

Stereotype #2: The Stressed-Out Chef

Being a chef is a difficult, demanding job. You’re constantly moving, constantly trying to get orders out, and the danger of making a mistake is high. Not only that, many kitchens are stiflingly hot or packed too full to be comfortable. As a result, this stereotypical chef is constantly running on high-stress levels, rarely able to calm down.

Avoiding the Stereotype: You know just how stressful a bad day at work can be. There are days when the crush of the kitchen can get to anyone! That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to live in that heightened state of stress. Instead, try this:

  • Arrange your kitchen so that things run smoothly most days. Know who to ask to take care of specific tasks, have adequate staff on hand to take care of the orders you know are coming in even on busy days, and do as much prep work as possible ahead of time.
  • Let go of the need for perfection. Take a deep breath and be willing to laugh at yourself when things go wrong.
  • Be a little silly, as long as it doesn’t compromise safety. Humor will always defuse tension!
  • Separate life stresses from work stress. Learn not to bring life stress to work, and don’t take work stress home with you.
  • Take adequate breaks throughout your shift so that you can calm down and regain perspective if needed.

Stereotype #3: The Perfectionist

This stereotypical chef is an artist. Everything must be exactly so: the recipe followed perfectly, the plates arranged exactly the same way before they leave the kitchen, and everything moving at exactly the pace he’s set. If things don’t go his way, he’s right there in the middle, micromanaging the little details and insisting that perfectly adequate work be redone until it’s up to his standard of perfection.

Avoiding the Stereotype: Ouch! Did The Perfectionist sound just a bit too familiar? Fortunately, you can learn to let go and avoid micromanaging every aspect of your employees’ performance. Try this:

  • Delegate, then let people do the jobs they’ve been assigned. Don’t hover over them every moment.
  • Don’t insist on perfection. Keep in mind that most people won’t notice many of the differences you’re stressing over.
  • Give your staff freedom. Trust that they know what they’re doing and will come to you if there’s a problem–most of the time, they will!

You don’t want to be a stereotypical chef. You want to be a great, memorable chef with a staff who enjoys working for you. By avoiding these key stereotypes, you can shift the way you respond to your kitchen staff and your customers, making yourself more than a stereotype ever could be.

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How to Succeed as a Restaurant Manager and Still Have a Life

How to Succeed as a Restaurant Manager and Still Have a Life

From restaurant owners who are trying to kick a great new restaurant off the ground to chefs who are trying to make a name for themselves, everyone needs work/life balance. For restaurant managers, who are required to be at the restaurant during peak hours, including holidays and weekends, it can be even more challenging! If you’re struggling to find the critical balance between succeeding at work and still enjoying the rest of your life, these tips will help!

1. Give Work Your Best

When you come into work every day, give it the best you’ve got. Work hard. When you’re on the clock, be on the clock: not hanging out in the office with your favorite employees or texting, not giving your least favorite tasks to the employees you enjoy working with the least, but genuinely giving the best you’ve got to your restaurant while you’re there.

You know that’s great for your work life, but have you considered the benefits it offers to you in the rest of your life? When you work hard while you’re at work, your employers are willing to go the extra mile for you. This might include things like extra paid time off, being able to take off the hours you really need, and even scheduling flexibility when big life choices come your way. When you fail to give your best to your employer, on the other hand, you’ll find that they’re much less willing to give you those extra advantages.

2. Don’t Always Eat At Work

You get a great discount on work food, and it’s faster to just grab something off the menu than it is to, for example, pack a lunch for yourself. Unfortunately, restaurants are rarely geared toward the healthiest offerings–not to mention the fact that they often use very large portions that aren’t in keeping with what you should actually be eating. Instead, take the time to pack a lunch for yourself. If you must eat at work, know the healthier options on the menu or how to reduce the calorie count of your order. It will help keep you healthier, increase your energy, and make it easier for you to take on the challenges of balancing both your work responsibilities and your life.

3. Prioritize You

When was the last time you got in a great workout or went to a concert? Are you overdue for a haircut? When you prioritize self-care, you’ll discover that you’re in a much better position to give your all both to work and to your personal life. Take the time to get in a workout–every day, if you can. This will increase your overall energy and make you feel better equipped for everything else you have to do in the day. Make sure you have time to shower, to decompress, and to do the other things involved taking care of you. If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to be able to take care of everything else?

4. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are an important element of maintaining that critical work/life balance. Just like your kids or your spouse know not to call you at work unless it’s an emergency, work shouldn’t call you out of your home life for anything less. Be clear about the hours you’re able to work, including what you’re able to offer in the event of an emergency situation. If you need specific hours off–for example, you don’t have childcare on a certain day or you’re attending classes–don’t feel as though you need to compromise those activities in order to make the restaurant owner happy. It’s okay to say no and to stick by those boundaries!

5. Get Adequate Sleep

Working at a restaurant, your hours are often long. This is particularly true if you close late. You may struggle to find a schedule that allows you to sleep adequately–but it’s critical to your health that you do! Work with the owner and your coworkers to create a schedule that allows you time to sleep before you have to return for your next shift so you’re not sacrificing your health and alertness for the sake of your job.

Creating that balance between work and life can feel challenging at first. Over time, however, you’ll discover that you can have it all! By creating boundaries and prioritizing healthy self-care, you’ll quickly find that you can succeed as a restaurant manager while still having a life outside of work.

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Tips for Newly Hired and Promoted Restaurant Managers

Tips for Newly Hired and Promoted Restaurant Managers

The National Restaurant Association (NRS) states that many new managers are often so eager to be endorsed and make others happy that they make common mistakes. They may institute changes too quickly, hold friends to different standards and think that relationships will remain the same. The following tips will help newly hired and promoted managers avoid common mistakes and achieve success.

Soft Skills

Research by Gallup reveals that companies that hire supervisors and managers based on their people skills and core talents will experience better employee engagement. The research shows that these companies may see a 17 percent increase in productivity, a 30 percent increase in employee engagement and 48 percent increase in overall profitability. Employee turnover rates may decrease up to 19 percent. All of these successful statistics depend on the restaurant manager’s strong interpersonal skills. Good leaders must be flexible and spontaneous to deal with random operational and personnel problems.  An authoritative demeanor and calm voice will help maintain stability in stressed kitchens. Being patient and organized will help maintain quality and efficiency.

Understand Motivation

Many restaurant supervisors may have strong professional skills, but they may lack human resources training or business administration experience. Managers must be able to analyze, understand and motivate their staff. The pressure is intense and the turnover rates are high, so understand individual motivations and collective goals will help restaurant managers maintain employee satisfaction. There are many well-known motivational theories, such as Sirota’s Three Factor Theory that states that employees’ basic needs should be met and that company and employee goals should be aligned. McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory states that employees are motivated by power, affiliation, and achievement. Regardless of the theory, restaurant managers should be able to understand motivation to cultivate respect and top performances.

Real-World Experience

The above-mentioned theories provide insights into the conceptual motivation of employee’s actions. Seasoned restaurant managers know that while employees will have different motivations, they will all follow Maslow’s basic two motivations of safety and survival. That is, employees most value their salaries and job stability. Restaurant manager should know how to create mutually beneficial and long-term relationships between the restaurant and employees. For example, performance reviews that randomly criticize issues without future goals and commitments are not as effective as continual communication and reinforcement.  Performance goals and expectations should be connected to salary increases and job opportunities.

In Defense of Delegation

One of the most important skills a restaurant manager must master is the science of delegation. Even a superstar cannot accomplish everything on their own each day. The best way to help both new supervisors and employees grow is through appropriate delegation. This starts with establishing individual roles and responsibilities. Restaurant managers should learn how to organize themselves so they can direct tasks, follow-up with staff and minimize poor performance. Organized delegation will free them up to focus on more important managerial tasks such as budgeting, marketing, and quality control. Restaurant managers who carefully match the right people with the right tasks and tools will enjoy better results.

Professional Feedback

Reality TV shows with vulgar celebrity chefs often glamorize and exaggerate the conflict and hostility in professional kitchens. While it is true that the restaurant industry runs on extremely tight budgets, schedules and performance standards, the best restaurant managers use their business acumen, HR knowledge, and respectful attitudes to provide feedback, identify problems and discipline staff. Giving real-time feedback in a loud and busy kitchen environment is difficult because many people are either too sensitive or indifferent. Employees need factual feedback to improve their productivity and performance. Constructive criticism that focuses on objective issues will improve issues and mitigate risks.

These tips will help new restaurant managers increase their professional competency and decrease their occupational frustration. Restaurant managers should consider avoiding these nine bad habits. It’s helpful to continually hone skills and seek knowledge through legitimate resources. A good way to find a restaurant management job is to use a job search site that allows you to follow companies, save jobs for later and apply with one click.

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5 Things Job Seekers Wish You’d Put in a Listing

5 Things Job Seekers Wish You’d Put in a Listing

A lot of companies are having trouble drawing the kind of dedicated and highly skilled talent they’d like to see filling their key roles. Of course, it’s nice to have high standards right down to the coffee intern, but businesses everywhere are finding themselves either going short staffed or compromising on quality. At the same time, studies are revealing how important it is to find employees of the right personalities and lifestyles for your company culture, adding one more complication to the task of finding good hires. One thing you can do to help the situation is to improve your listings for job seekers.

Often the most appealing listings are the ones that wear their business culture on their sleeves and give you a real idea of the personality-nougat inside the hard chocolate shell of corporate presentation. This gives job seekers a better idea of who you are and whether or not they’re a good fit for your team. To help the process, here are five things most job seekers wish you would share on job listings, but most companies never do:

1) Team Personalities

When job seekers are skimming through hundreds of potential positions, saying that you’re hard working and dedicated to customer service simply isn’t useful information because that’s assumed. What they really want to know is whether or not you match their sense of humor. Is the office full of chipper morning people or is there a regular coffee-pot crowd? When a team gets behind on a project, to they lock down or ease the tension with painfully funny puns?

2) Your Realistic Skill Expectations

A long list of skills may make you feel like you’ll get a grade-A pro, but most people are acutely aware of what they do and do not know and these lists can be pretty intimidating. Job seekers understand that you would like someone who’s familiar with every POS platform under the sun, but it’s hard to measure up when you say it like that. Instead, try asking for someone with the truly necessary skills and the attitude of an active learner willing to dive in and get up-to-speed on the ‘everything else’ list.

3) What the Break Room is Like

The break room is an important part of employee stress relief, but some break rooms are seriously nasty. Even if your break room is perfectly clean, the way it’s decorated and how employees treat it is a huge indication of your true company culture. Whether your business-casual or silicon valley chic, most employees don’t get a chance to see this all-important room until they’re already hired, but they’d definitely like a peek beforehand.

4) Flexible Schedule Options

Lets’ face it, most employees will eventually need time off. Even the workaholics who like making perfect attendance and staying late to clean up may one day have to stay home with a sick child and knowing how welcoming a company is to their occasional scheduling needs is a big decider for most job seekers. When you’re up front about a company daycare, sick days, or flexible parent hours, you’re a lot more likely to get enthusiastic applicants who have noticed a rare opportunity to be a good employee and parent at the same time.

5) Opportunities for Advancement

You want employees who want promotions, right? These employees are more likely to work harder, try to improve their stats, and will support their entire team more enthusiastically when they feel there are raises and promotions in their future. On the flip side, job seekers want a job where they will have opportunities for advancement. Even if you didn’t plan to cover this topic until six months in, you can provide this vital source of motivation from before day-1 by mentioning upward mobility in the listing itself.

Finally, when writing your job listings, remember that you’re talking to people, not another company. You want employees who will be happy and productive in your open positions and they want to know that they’ll be welcome in both personality and working style in the new environment. In other words, you want the same things, and you can make that happen with a listing that speaks to real human concerns instead of some corporate ideal employee.

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