KEY POINTS:
* Well motivated staff are more likely to go the extra mile when the pressure’s on
* Your head chef may be able to provide an insider’s view of your workplace dynamics
* Empathising with staff concerns and building camaraderie is key to ensuring an incentivized workforce
* It’s important to get behind staff and encourage them to
learn new skills and participate in professional events and competitions
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ONE OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES faced by foodservice operators is the high turnaround of staff, both back and front of house. This makes it more difficult to ensure consistency of food preparation, presentation and service, as well as requiring you to spend extra time and effort in training new employees to get them up to speed.
On the other hand, those operators who are able to retain staff over long periods not only minimise the above hassles, but are often also able to ensure a more productive and happy working environment.
It’s no secret that well motivated staff will be incentivized to perform at their best and go the extra mile in those high-pressure situations often encountered in foodservice — such as catering for big functions, coping with back of house emergencies such as suppliers not delivering on time, or dealing with rude or unreasonable customers.
Keeping your employees incentivized requires you firstly to appreciate the skills they bring to their jobs, both front and back of house.
For those restaurant owners who have come to the foodservice industry without a lot of background knowledge, hiring a well-experienced chef who has worked their way up in the industry can be a big help, as they should have a good understanding of foodservice workplace dynamics.
Committed chefs who are involved in professional associations like the Australian Culinary Federation are likely to be motivated to keep standards high and be across relevant staff issues in both front and back of house.
Treating your chef as a trusted business partner can put you in a strong position to benefit from his expertise and inside knowledge of how to make your business work at its best.
Club Perfect Ambassador and champion pizzamaker Simon Best, co-owner of Augello’s restaurant in Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is a keen proponent of this approach.
Simon is not a chef by trade but having worked in hospitality since 1988 has spent a great deal of time around chefs.
At Augello’s he’s had the same head chef for 13 years and the same restaurant manager for eight.
“I started off running front of house but spent a lot of time in the kitchen and was guided by the excellent chefs we had,” he recalls.
“Not only did I get a sound understanding of the principles of good pizzamaking, I also gained a broader appreciation of the skills of the staff in both the kitchen and front of house.”
Simon says that being able to empathise with staff concerns and issues on a day to day basis is very important.
His strategy was to ensure that whenever possible his chefs and cooks had plenty of scope for creative experimentation.
“In the kitchen we have 15 staff and it’s imperative to keep everyone stimulated. So I give them free rein to develop new specials and work on new menus.”
Simon ensures that the work that goes into producing new menu items is a team effort.
“Keeping staff incentivized is terribly important. But if you’re fortunate enough to have strong staff retention, it frees you up more to work on the other areas of the business.”
Team-building and camaraderie is key to this approach, and open communication plays an important role too.
If you want to build a loyal team, you need to be as upfront with staff as possible, especially with regard to contentious issues like casual rosters. No one likes having their work hours cut back unexpectedly, but if you keep track of seasonal fluctuations and other trends which affect customer patronage, you’ll be able to let prospective employees know what to expect before you hire them.
It’s also important as an employer to be supportive of your staff’s efforts to learn new skills, such as encouraging chefs and apprentices to participate in professional competitions.
The local chapters of the Australian Culinary Federation regularly run these events and they can be invaluable in facilitating peer networking and providing an opportunity to see what the competition is up to.
You may be surprised how much difference participation in these events can make, not only to your staff’s creative edge but also to their job satisfaction.
It can also bring you a powerful bonus — if they become an award-winner, you can use that as a valuable promotional tool for your business. You could invite reporters from the local TV news or newspaper to write up a story on the win and put announcements up in-store ... you might be surprised how much new business that may bring through the door!
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