Anybody working in the restaurant business today knows that stress is part of the routine. If we didn’t thrive on stressful situations, we’d be in another line of work. It hones our skills and keeps us sharp. But while the capacity to prosper under pressure often makes us successful, stress can reduce productivity and create tension among staff members. So how do you find the right balance for you and your staff? These no-stress suggestions will help.
From the moment you arrive at work, pay attention to what each of your staff members is doing.
Are the prep cooks standing around chatting or busily working? Is the sous-chef managing the crew or in the office buried in paperwork? Are the tasks of the day on target for completion? Even if you won’t be serving guests for another three or four hours, get a handle on how the day is shaping up. If it appears that you are not geared up for a smooth opening, take action immediately to get back on track. A prompt response can counteract the snowball effect.
Set clear expectations for your staff.
During the interview process at Bistro Aix, we outline three core expectations: one, come to work; two, come to work on time; and three, do your job. These expectations may sound elementary, yet some staff members have difficulty accomplishing these basics. By expressing our expectations clearly at the onset, we have avoided stressful situations. There are no surprises. Employees know what was expected of them and where they have fallen short.
Take the time to develop logical systems and protocols for handling everyday operations.
Make sure the workspace and equipment is arranged with productivity in mind. Staff members who have everything on hand that they need to do their jobs are more likely to accomplish tasks quickly without stressing out.
Train your staff thoroughly.
Very few people—trainers or trainees—enjoy the training process, but shortening or eliminating this critical step can defeat an employee who may have been successful with the right amount of guidance. Create precise instructions for each task, and deliver step-by-step tutorials. Write your recipes down, and require cooks to follow them. Take a photo of each plate for the cooks’ reference. Clear directions give staffers confidence and allow them to do their jobs consistently.
Take suggestions from your well-trained staff.
They may be able to contribute ideas to help you streamline procedures. Staffers with permission to solve problems have ownership of their position and increased job satisfaction.
When a more complex problem surfaces, don’t be afraid to delegate authority.
Ask a dedicated staff member to spend some time investigating possible solutions. The appointee will likely take pride in this leadership role. Feeling as if his or her voice matters will likely increase dedication to the task. When you finally must step in to resolve the issue, you will have not only the information you need but the mental energy and free time to handle it well.
Evaluate each person’s responsibilities and hold him or her accountable.
Within any organization, success hinges on how well tasks are executed. Any staff member’s inefficiency will create stress for others. Don’t hesitate to shuffle staff positions to increase performance and reduce stress.
Respect your staff.
Giving respect maintains a productive environment and contributes to a smooth-running organization. Speak courteously, post schedules on time, and allow schedule requests. By remembering that your crew has a life outside of work, you allow employees to plan stress-reducing activities that they find enjoyable.
When someone does a good job, make it a point to notice.
Think of ways to show appreciation with dining certificates to local restaurants, discounts on dry cleaning, or book and magazine allowances. Use T-shirts and promotional materials from vendors and distributors as perks. A little gratitude enhances the work environment and encourages individuals to continue above-average performances. To thank the entire team, host an employee party. While it’s an expensive endeavor—closing down for a night, purchasing drinks, catering food, and renting equipment—it’s a fun way to decompress, and the gesture builds camaraderie.
Stress is not going to go away in this business. Luckily there are methods to promote healthy levels of stress in the kitchen. Creating a direct and supportive environment reduces stress and encourages staff members to perform their best.