The world of restaurants has proven to be one of the most difficult industries to work in, with only the most passionate and dedicated ultimately making it a lifelong career. Executive Pastry Chef Paola Velez and restaurateur Micheline Mendelsohn share the important ways one can nurture their employees to ensure a safe and productive work environment.
Remember that it’s a people business before all.
“To me it comes down to really being respectful and treating your employees how you [would] want to be treated.” —Micheline Mendelsohn
Look to them beyond the job description, but to who they are as a person.
“We [Sunnyside Restaurant Group] do have some policies in place, but we pay more attention to the individual, what their needs are and what they can bring to the table.” —Micheline Mendelsohn
Create growth opportunities to entice and reward them.
‘’[People that] start off with you in a certain position and grow through every position; they really know your brand and they really know the customers. It makes sense for us as owners to look at them and say okay we can work with you on this, you’re really good at this and this is what’s going to help get [you] to the next level.’’ —Micheline Mendelsohn
Strive for a supportive and flexible work environment.
‘’In the industry, we have perverted what it means to be a kitchen family… We have to stop abusing our workforce and we have to start making pathways for their health and work life balance. It’s the only way, as an industry, we’re going to move forward.’’ —Paola Velez
Give them a chance to impress you.
‘’If you let go and find the good in people, it will come back to you…. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to get burned. Stuff happens. It’s a restaurant. But overall, you will have a better enjoyment of your work if you just ease off people and let it flow.’’ —Micheline Mendelsohn
Be transparent about who you are not only as a leader, but also as a human being.
‘’At the end of the day, owners intrust me to caretake their operation and then employees entrust me to take care of their livelihood. So I make sure that they know who I am and where my shortcomings are so they don’t feel offended [by my actions].” —Paola Velez
Reevaluate the ways in which you communicate criticism.
“Overall, if someone is doing something that you don’t like or that’s wrong, I think you [should] talk to them face to face in a normal voice. It helps their mental state and also your mental state.” —Micheline Mendelsohn
Be receptive to feedback in order to effectively lead your team.
“[I] have an open door policy. You can talk to me anytime of the day and tell me where I went wrong so I can adjust my management styles to your needs.” —Paola Velez
Let people express themselves.
‘’Allow your managers to come up with their own ideas and listen to [your] employees’ thoughts. It builds a very cohesive team [that is] able to move forward and make that experience just so much nicer for everyone that walks through the door.’’ —Micheline Mendelsohn
Publicly acknowledge those who deserve it.
“Folks know who’s back [in the kitchen] now. I make sure to name names and give that credit where it’s due. They feel this responsibility of knowing that this is also their product. This is also their name and their legacy in the future that will continue on after we all part ways.” —Paola Velez