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Whistle While You Work

Whistle While You Work

The Moral of the Story is Morale

The foodservice kitchen environment can get pretty heated, and we’re not talking about heat generated by ovens and ranges. Especially during peak times when the pressure is on, tempers can flare and sometimes get the better of even the most even-tempered professionals.

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

The British motto, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” hits the mark during combustible moments back of the house. When someone displays behavior that is out-of-line, it accomplishes nothing positive. The fact is that we are all human, we are not perfect and we all lose our tempers and misbehave from time to time. When we are guilty of this, the important thing is to make amends, apologize and take steps to ensure that the behavior is not repeated. Yes, good manners do still matter.

With the incredible staff turnover in the industry, it is critical to consider the morale in the kitchen. No one enjoys showing up for work with a pit in their stomach, dreading a hostile atmosphere. Restaurant Inc has compiled several strategies to consider that just might have your staff whistling while they work. Studies have shown that a happy, contented staff reduces turnover, increases productivity and actually adds to an operation’s bottom line.

Put Me in Coach – I’m Ready to Play

There is a reason why so many companies use the sports team analogy when encouraging their staff to work together cohesively. In sports, each player knows their position, has learned the plays and they all contribute to the success of the game. In your kitchen, make certain that everyone has the adequate training, knows what is expected of them and develops a winning attitude through your excellent coaching. Create a training manual with job descriptions for easy employee reference. Let new hires know that you are available to them to answer questions and provide guidance. Foster team spirit. Show your team that you have their back. It’s a win/win proposition.

Foster an Atmosphere of Balance

Medical professionals agree that stress can be a killer. It can also sabotage efforts to achieve good working relationships and a staff’s sense of well-being. Balance has to start at the top. If restaurant owners, head chefs and managers are stressed, they are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and other physical ills, and to lose their cool. Neal Fraser, executive chef/co-owner of Redbird and several other operations in Los Angeles, is a highly respected and successful entrepreneur. When Restaurant Inc interviewed this culinary superstar who beat Cat Cora on The Food Network’s “Iron Chef,” he had just returned from a long bike ride. He stressed the fact that the only way he can operate so successfully is through work/life balance. He spends quality time with his wife and children, socializes with friends and enjoys puttering in his kitchen garden.

It’s a smart move to examine your own workload and that of your employees. If anyone is being pushed too hard, make sure they have the opportunity to recharge their batteries to prevent burnout.

Reward, Recognize and Respect

06 01 whistle while you work 1Have you ever noticed how dogs respond to praise and a pat on the head? They get all excited, wagging their tails and making satisfying noises. You’d swear you can see them smiling. People respond to positive feedback with similar excitement, body language and smiles. Here are several easy-to-implement proverbial pats on the head:

  • Institute an “Employee of the Month” program to reward performance excellence. Frame their picture for all to see and give them a bonus – which could mean event or movie tickets, dinner for two, or even an extra day off. Highlight this employee achievement with mention on your website and through Facebook and Twitter.
  • Recognize those staffers who go that extra mile or do the right thing when they think no one is looking. A great way to do this is to praise them in a setting that includes their kitchen peers. They will feel extra proud of themselves, and other employees will be motivated to act in kind.
  • Offer the opportunity for career development and advancement within the operation

Sometimes, it is necessary to call employees on the carpet for poor performance. Show them respect and allow them to save face by pointing out shortcomings privately. Do this at the end of their shift rather than at the start. Give people another chance to redeem themselves. They might turn into valued contributors to your success.

Get Social

06 01 whistle while you work 2A great morale booster is to foster friendship and enjoyment among the staff. When employees have a sense of camaraderie and enjoy each other’s company, they will naturally look forward to coming to work. Chances are good that they will also want to pull together in harmony for the success of the operation. Here are some ideas:

  • Sponsor an employee sports team. Some options include volleyball, bicycling club, bowling, softball, darts, dragon
    boat competitions or any number of runs and races that occur each year.
  • Host an all-employee special event once a year — A holiday party, 4th of July ice cream social, harvest hayride, family day at an amusement park, etc.
  • Sponsor a worthwhile charity or cause that everyone can get their arms around. Encourage your staff to volunteer. One example is Race for the Cure, in which pledges of support for breast cancer research and a cure are made. On a designated day, everyone either walks or runs together on a well-organized route. People naturally feel good about themselves when they contribute to society. As you and your team run together for this incredibly worthwhile cause, you will also build camaraderie and forge a team.
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