This may seem like a strange question, but, having worked in, managed, and patronized many restaurants, I sometimes wonder if signing our work would make a difference. Signing what you do sends a very powerful message, “I made this, it is a reflection of me, and how much or little I care.”
Authors sign their books, songwriters proclaim their ownership of lyrics, journalists work hard to earn a byline, and artists always find a corner of each painting to boast, “This is my work.” Even potentially dangerous statements are made with prominent, “Throw care to the wind” signatures. John Hancock made sure that his signature was easily recognized by the British government when he, along with others, declared independence.
Cooks, on the other hand, remain anonymous. The exception might be certain chefs with a rising brand. They, ironically, put their reputations in the hands of those anonymous line cooks who actually prepared the food in a restaurant.
There are certainly many very competent, professional, caring cooks who consistently take ownership for their food, who are proud and passionate about doing things right, every time, for every guest. To each of those cooks I tip my hat, you are the backbone of the restaurant industry and the fuel that feeds the best operations in the country. It is the mediocrity that exists in far too many cafes, bistros, cafeterias, family style, and quick service restaurants that give me heartburn and make me shake my head. In these operations there may simply be a lack of knowledge, a lack of training, or far worse – a lack of caring. These are the restaurants filled with staff members whose commitment never goes beyond the paycheck. Does it have to be this way?
I wonder sometimes what happened to pride in work and what happened to recognizing people who do show a high level of commitment – a job well done? From an early age, human nature is focused on doing things well and hoping that others will recognize it. From that first finger painting in kindergarten that is proudly hung on a parents refrigerator door, to the smiles and pats on the back for a good report card, we thrive on something that we can sign as a true reflection of who we are and what we are capable of.
Whether we look for those paintings of ours on the refrigerator door, the framed diploma on a wall, or even the name and number on the back of a team jersey, people want others to know, “I did this, this is my work.”
What does your restaurant do to encourage consistently great work and reward those who make this part of their DNA? Granted, signing your work in a restaurant might not be practical, however, here are some simple PRIDE TOOLS that will help with cook commitment, visibility, and recognition:
- Every restaurant has a web page by now – make sure that you have a team page offering pictures and bios of your cooks, bartenders and full-time servers. What does it cost the operation to do this? Nothing.
- Assuming that all of your cooks wear professional uniforms that are provided by the restaurant, take the extra step and have the employees names embroidered on them. Not only does this create a sense of pride, but the ancillary benefits are that guests will be able to match a face and a name and this type of recognition may help your staff understand how important it is to maintain clean and pressed uniforms.
- Print business cards for your cooks. For less than $50 through VistaPrint, you can help to give your cooks a real sense of belongingness, a feeling of importance, and a sense of responsibility that far exceeds the cost of printing.
- Put the names of your cooks on the menu. After all, they are the ones who prepare each item, every day, for every guest. Again, what is the cost? The statement to the public is clear – these are the people who prepare your meal and as such have signed their work.
- If you have a restaurant newsletter, feature a different cook, bartender, or server in each issue. Interview them and paint a picture of their passion for food and how it reflects on the reputation of the restaurant.
- Part of the chef’s job is to occasionally, walk the dining room. This is a time to connect with guests, receive their feedback, and make that face to name connection. Next time, take one of the line cooks with you and introduce him or her to guests.
One of the most important messages chefs can send to cooks is that they should treat each dish as if they were signing it. Cooks should want and need to treat each plate as if it were being prepared for his or her parent or grandparent. Help your cooks to be proud.
In 2015, celebrate each cooks commitment to doing things right and give him or her a chance, a need, a responsibility to tell everyone, “I made this.”
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
COMING SOON: “The Event That Changed Everything”
A novel by: Chef Paul Sorgule
Coming in early 2015