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7 min read

In a kitchen environment, respect is important. Respect for the chef, cooks, dishwashers, and prep workers. Respect for menu items and their ingredients. This respect, or lack of it, will either create success for your restaurant or will be the cause of its demise.

Today, we are going to discuss what a well run kitchen looks like, and how to

go about improving your kitchen.

Empower Your Employees

As with any part of a restaurant, empowering your employees helps to build stronger teams and better organizational health. Many times it is hard to find good employees that work hard. It is definitely the case when all you offer is boring, monotonous jobs for poor pay. Give your employees something worth working for. Assign them a responsibility or ask them what area they would like to pursue. Then, work with them and train them to get there. As we will touch on later, every job in the kitchen is anyone’s job if it needs to be done. However, by assigning each employee a designated area of responsibility you give them the power and desire to do it well. You’ll inspire them to respect themselves, their coworkers, and the guest.

Respect The Process

Respect the process. That goes for both management and kitchen employees. Oftentimes managers or owners try to change prepping styles, menu ingredients, work flows, equipment, or plating techniques. These can all be necessary to improve speed, profitability, or ease of tasks. However, respect the process when making any changes. Determine why things are done the way they are before changing something. If you are an up and coming cook or chef, do not go in trying to change a bunch of ingredients to make a dish your own. Instead, respect the way the dish was originally created and appreciate its initial flavor profiles. If a cook has earned the right to put their spin on a dish, have them create a new featured menu item for the evening rather than adjusting menu favorites.

Respect The Guest

Speaking of the guest, respect the guest. They are why we are all here. The restaurant industry is one of the largest industries in the world and is home to some of the most amazing individuals. Show your respect for the industry by showing your respect for the customer. The restaurant industry is often looked down upon and we need to work together to gain the respect this industry deserves. That is why respect for the guest is of utmost importance.

It is harder than ever to please a guest. Expectations are high before a guest even steps foot into your restaurant. Guests expect their food out quickly, the way they want it, for the lowest possible (fair) price. Some customers abuse the dynamic, but it’s important to not let the bad customers make you dislike all customers. You don’t want someone having a small mistake on a dish and then posting all over the internet on how horrible your restaurant is. In the same way, don’t hate on all picky customers because one or two are self-entitled, inappropriate, or rude.

Make the guest feel welcome and don’t mock them if they don’t understand your processes. Guide and educate them, while being as accommodating as possible. Respect the guest and most of the time, they will respect you back.

Preform Special Requests Whenever Possible

Notice this header doesn’t say, when convenient, it says when possible. In today’s competitive landscape, more and more customers have food allergies, unique diet restrictions, special requests, or are otherwise changing a menu item that your chef or crew member worked very hard to create and perfect. When a customer changes a menu item with a request, it’s not only inconvenient, it’s almost a personal attack on the chef that created it. It’s someone saying your art sucks. However, true professional chefs, cooks, and managers realize they aren’t their to be right, they are there to satisfy the guest. The guest can order something that is less appetizing in your eyes, but if they love it, then it’s the right dish.

[Paul Sorgule recently wrote a great article on the 8 Traits of A True Kitchen Professional over at ‘We Are Chefs‘ if you care to expand on this topic further. It’s a fairly quickly and highly recommended read.]

Obviously, in the middle of a rush on a Friday night, some accommodations may not be possible to do without adversely affecting other patrons. However, as a rule of thumb, if you have the ingredients in the restaurant, accommodate the guest. There is no sense losing a guest because you had a quarrel over an extra pickle spear. Just give ’em the pickle (Hat tip to Tim). There is a great book written by Steven S. Little that I recommend your managers and chefs read called The Milkshake Moment. It focuses on managers and systems that inhibit employees from making customizations that make the customer happy, even though the accommodations are doable, often easily.

Lead By Example

No one in the kitchen is above any job in the kitchen. Everyone has their responsibilities, but if a job needs to get done, all of the employees need to work together to get it done. This is one of the main ways respect is earned and built upon. If you are the GM or head chef hop on the dish pit to help catch up. Your employees will know they can’t complain when you ask them to do it. Along the same lines, when a kitchen employee calls in sick or needs to be sent home a manager needs to step up. A GM or front-of-house manger that effectively runs the grill top, fryer, or God forbid, the point, it brings the entire organization into a closer bond. That is how you earn respect and how you lead by example.

Make accommodations for the guest. Call out employees that bad mouth guests. If the cooks don’t respect the guest, how can they get fulfillment out of their job? It becomes a chore rather than a creation.

Lead your employees, empower your employees, and they will follow you. They will respect you, fight for you, and most importantly take care of your guests. Your kitchen staff is a team and when they behave as such amazing accomplishments can be made.