Keeping Your Cool
Few professions are fraught with more stress than those associated with the foodservice industry.
Luckily, most industry veterans are so enthusiastic about their profession that they are willing to take the bitter with the sweet, and know how to roll with any situation. They have learned that keeping one’s cool is critical. Each and every day, stressful situations are going to occur in a foodservice setting. Do these recurring nightmares sound familiar?
- A staff member doesn’t show up for the busy Saturday night shift.
- A tray of glassware shatters on the floor.
- Unruly children are causing a ruckus in the dining room.
- Inebriated patrons are using coarse language.
- An irate customer is loudly berating a server because their food is improperly prepared.
- Someone has slipped and fallen on the icy sidewalk in front of your establishment.
These are just a few examples of good old Murphy and his law, which can send shivers down the spine of even the most seasoned pro.
Secrets to Winning the Stress Test
Too much stress can affect people’s health, happiness and sense of well-being. Managing stress can be successfully accomplished by planning ahead and being prepared. Here are a few pointers:
Set the proper example for your staff.
Treat everyone with respect. Remember the horror stories of yesteryear, when some chefs behaved badly towards everyone around them? Kitchen road rage is no longer acceptable in our civilized culinary society. No one should have to face their workday with a queasy feeling of dread in the pit of their stomach. If a staff member requires behavior modification, perhaps an anger management program is in order.
Strike a balance.
Everyone needs to lead a balanced life. Working hard is fine, as long as time is set aside for relaxation and play. Planning staff activities and outings can go a long way towards building camaraderie, improving morale and blowing off steam.
Keep calm and carry on. Stress is contagious. Make a concerted effort not to pass it around. In times of stress, look for ways to take the high road to defuse the situation. Coach your staff, and enlist their ideas for ways to turn a negative occurrence into a win-win. For example, when a customer is unsatisfied, it is important to immediately de-escalate the issue. Apologize to the patron and let them know what you will do to make it right.
Make a sincere commitment to alleviate staff burnout. It is up to management to provide a positive, safe, happy work environment. Smile at your staff frequently and praise them when they deserve it. Solicit staff suggestions for continuous improvement, and portray an approachable attitude so that your employees feel they can communicate freely. Ensure that you are properly staffed to ward off burnout, and allow ample opportunity to take a break when needed, and to take time off when necessary.
Enlist the help of professionals.
Stress management is an ongoing issue in the foodservice industry, and it always will be. However, this monster can be tamed. If stress levels are impeding progress in your operation, take immediate steps to improve the problem. One of the most successful strategies is to enlist the help of professionals whose job it is to teach people how to conquer the stresses in their lives. Yoga is one of the most beneficial methods of relaxation. Tai Chi and other exercise programs are proven stress busters. Meditation/relaxation coaches help people learn to cope through deep breathing and other techniques. Lifestyle coaches show people how to achieve balance through organization and prioritization.
One of the most important things to remember during stressful situations is to keep your sense of humor. A positive attitude will make a big difference in the eventual outcome, and demonstrate your maturity and command of the situation. Yes, stress is contagious, but so is a positive attitude.