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6 Ways to Improve Employee Well-Being

A happy face is almost a prerequisite in the front of house. But as an operator, you’ll really come out ahead if those smiles are genuine, and not just for show.

When employees are happy and taking pride in their jobs, they’ll be more  productive. And they’ll stick around, keeping labor woes at bay. Here are some steps operators can take to improve workplace well-being and help employees stay healthy, motivated and performing at their peak.

1. Encourage family meals

At least once a week, and usually more often, schedule time to eat together. “Have each of the cooks take a turn being in charge of the meal. When posed as a challenge, it becomes more exciting,” says Jovan Djokovic, Business Resource Consultant for Sysco Eastern Wisconsin. “Tell them you have all these great ingredients and their task is to do something healthy, like a big salad they can be proud of.”

2. Get outside

Life in the kitchen can be active, but that activity usually occurs within about four square feet. As weather permits, make time for outdoor fun. “Do morning stretches or take a walk,” Djokovic suggests. “You could even organize a ‘server Olympics’ with other restaurants in the area.”

3. Get on a water kick

Djokovic says. “Encourage staff to drink water. Ask your cooks who can be the most creative with the ingredients you have on hand. Add lemons and cucumbers to water, and keep refilling all day.”

4. Say thank you, often

Create and foster a culture of gratitude. “Employees need to feel appreciated,” says Benjamin Groeger, Chef and Culinary Specialist for Sysco Arizona. “When they know you’re grateful, it motivates them to do their best.”

5. Don’t forget the little things

Rotate your cooks from station to station so they can cross-train and feel more empowered in their daily work. Groeger recommends inviting industry experts to come in and speak on special topics such as wine, charcuterie, ethnic cuisines or food safety.

6. Know when you truly need to intervene

If you get the feeling or hear from a coworker that one of your team members is struggling with a serious issue, such as alcohol, drugs or depression, don’t waste time. Take him or her aside. “There has to be open communication,” Groeger says. “Say you are concerned and offer help. Refer your employees to counseling if you see that they are clearly having problems. It’s not an inquisition; it’s real care for another human being.”