This is another time when we can rely on what we know about human nature and what keeps people whole: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I once again turn to the wisdom of Abraham Maslow as a guide through this difficult time, a crisis unparalleled in modern times.

Those of us in the restaurant industry are in shock at the speed and severity of destruction to the core of our businesses. Everyone seems to be gasping for breath and starved for direction. While we may not know what is next, how long this will last, or what we will look like in six-months or a year, we can depend on human nature and how we all approach dramatic challenges.   History has shown that Maslow’s understanding of this human approach is always applicable. So whether you are an owner/operator, manager, chef, or hourly employee let’s look at this reality and how we might learn from it moving forward.

[]         SURVIVAL

The first reaction of all who face a crisis situation is to think and act internally. We have an inherent need to protect ourselves and those closest to us. We gather, quickly reflect, and act in the best interest of those parties – this is part of our DNA. Parents protect their children and siblings, children protect their family members, especially those who are most vulnerable, friends protect friends, and so on. Those who are outside of this “family” are far less important in those initial moments of a crisis. We will do whatever we can to protect our own health and wellbeing, and that of those who have earned the family label. As giving as people may be, until this group is safe, nothing else matters.

As owners/operators, managers, and chefs – if we have served the role of leader well then our employees will think of us as part of that family. If we have not, then the safety and staying power of the restaurant is of little importance to the employee aside from the loss of a paycheck. If we hope to keep a core team together through crisis and be able to lean on them through eventual recovery then we must view them as family and treat them in that manner.

Do what family members do: be concerned, communicate, offer to help where possible, be sincere, and reassure them that the restaurant will be there when this crisis passes. A weekly touch base with all employees goes a long way: a call, text, email, card in the mail, FaceTime, or even a Zoom video meeting with your team every so often will keep that family feel in place.

[]         SECURITY

This is where government comes into play. We trust that in lieu of an immediate vaccine and end to quarantine – the government will do all they can through loan deferrals, unemployment benefits, rent controls, and medical assistance to help everyone get through this. When crisis strikes – government organizations need to step up and citizens need to feel as though those in the administration have their backs. We watch everyday as this unfolds and hold our breath until we are comfortable that this will happen. Owners and the organizations that they belong to need to invest their energy in ensuring that our government steps up to the plate.


Feeling part of something special, something that is larger than the individual, something that people can wrap their arms around and invest their time in is critical to peace of mind and a desire to stay engaged. When we treat our employees like family, then they feel as though they belong as a member of that business. When professional groups rally behind the needs of their members then employees feel as though they belong as a member of that organization, and when government steps up and does everything in its power to help citizens then there exists a deep-seated pride in being an American.

When belongingness exists then hope of recovery and future wellbeing feels certain. This is an essential step in moving forward and building trust.

[]         SELF-ESTEEM

When we isolate from others – self-doubt begins to creep in. “What am I doing with my life?” “Is what I am doing really important?”, “Why did this happen?”, are questions that will seep into a persons feeling of worth. It is critical that communication with employees focus on the importance of the work that cooks, chefs, servers, bartenders, etc. are involved with. What we do IS IMPORTANT! We are responsible for not only nourishing our guests, but also providing comfort, a way to gather and communicate, a place of celebration, and a time to forget our problems and laugh, and a reward when it might not otherwise exist. Your employees will see just how elated guests will be when they are able to return to their neighborhood restaurant and take control of their lives again.

Help your employees feel great about what they do and the role that they will play in the recovery from this crisis.


This is the time to start conversations with your staff members that go beyond their jobs. What do they want to do with their lives, what are their dreams, what skills and talents do they have beyond food, what inspires them and makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning? Know what the answers are to these questions and make it part of your responsibility to help them reach those dreams. This is what leaders do, this is your assignment while we “shelter in place” and think about what might come tomorrow. This is how you keep a team together.



Harvest America Ventures, LLC

www.harvestamericacues.com BLOG




  1. Joel Wincowski Avatar
    Joel Wincowski

    I love reading all of your messages and newsletters, very thoughtful and helpful.
    Keep them coming and stay healthy.

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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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