Cultivating Staff Culture

There’s a reason that many businesses now require applicants to conduct a phone interview with an HR representative for one primary purpose: assessing fit within the company culture. What is culture? Think of it as that feeling you get when you walk into a business. Are people smiling? Does the environment seem tense? Do you notice people dressed up or are they dressed down? Is there a lot of conversation happening or is everyone relatively silent. All of these observations say a lot about your company culture, and brand—and ultimately it’s positive brand perception that’ll be a huge driver in your ability to attain quality talent and grow your customer base.

Hire the Right People

Part of the hiring process for your business should include a culture-vetting process. At Tundra Restaurant Supply, cultivating the right culture has always been a priority for us (Love dogs? Great, because we have lots of them in the office.) The right personality fit makes a world of difference when it comes to the day-to-day. Spend the time to get a feel for your applicant—what do they like to do outside of work, what are their hobbies, do they have a passion for the restaurant industry or cooking in general? You’ll find that hiring people who have a genuine passion for what you do (and aren’t just looking for a job) will translate into a better fit for the team because they’ll actually be happy to come into work.

Passionate people might equal productivity, but similar personalities also means a better frame of mind. It’s a fact that some people just work better with others, and in the restaurant industry happy diners is truly the product of a solid team effort. Better to spend the time initially in finding the right candidate than settling on someone just because they can carry a tray of food. A dysfunctional team is inherently broken, and you might not have the time or money it takes to get that team back on track.

Prevention is Key

Let’s state the obvious, working in the restaurant industry is no picnic. Between the late nights, long hours, and often tight quarters, it can really affect the way your employees act and feel; and that translates into unreasonable and irritable behavior. After a while those small interactions with coworkers build up, resulting into an epic confrontation of cringe worthy proportions. The best thing you can do is to avoid the blow out altogether—check in with staff individually and see how they’re doing. Employees will appreciate your genuine interest in their wellbeing and hopefully they’ll confide any issues they might be experiencing; whether there are issues at home or perhaps a conflict with a fellow coworker, your objective is to identify potential areas for concern before the situation escalates.

How to Tackle Conflict

The thing about people is, we’re unpredictable and emotional beings. Despite going through the steps of hiring the right people or checking in with staff regularly, employee conflict will still occur. There’s a reason we refer to the “front of house” and “back of house” in a restaurant. The front of house is customer-facing, and in this space the restaurant wants to make the best impression possible. There’s no quicker way to mar that impression than for employees to fight publicly in front of diners.

If a confrontation occurs in the workplace, don’t panic. Instead, consider the best way to de-escalate the situation. Separating the employees is the first step, then take the time to meet with each individually. I’d even suggest getting another manager to sit with you so you have a different perspective, and witness to the discussion.

The biggest thing managers overlook when it comes to employee conflict is how it affects the rest of the team. Conflicts (particularly the large ones) send shockwaves to the rest of the team, leading to gossip or even cliques forming. You can either A) ignore the conflict (not recommended), or B) tackle the situation head-on. Find a quick moment to address all of the employees (front of house and back); discuss the issue concisely and matter-of-factly, and then make it clear that it isn’t something you are planning to dwell on nor do you expect anyone else to. By approaching these issues directly you communicate that your restaurant will not tolerate or condone this type of behavior. Hopefully your staff can get back to work and the whispers will subside.

For more tips on handling employee conflict in front of customers, check out the National Restaurant Association.