5 Ways to create a more engaged team

Creating an engaged team takes dedicated time and effort. However, the benefits can mean higher levels of staff retention as well as a team that is functioning at their optimal level.

This month we looked at various strategies that chefs and restaurant owners have used to develop a culture of team passion and participation.

1. Prioritising mental health means staff are empowered

“The mental well being of our team is important to us. We implemented a ‘traffic light system’ where staff need to rate their wellbeing before each shift, this way we are able to provide them with the support that they need to get through the day.

We have seen that the hospitality industry can have an unhealthy work-life balance. We wanted to have our own restaurant where we could create more structure for our staff, and ensure that they could still have a life outside of work. By implementing and prioritising a mental health policy across the company, we hope to reduce the stigma around mental health conversations within the workplace and create a space that changes the culture of the hospitality industry.”

Luciana and Sebastian Pasinetti,
Owners of Oko

2. Understanding your team allows for diverse contributions

"I know what it feels like to learn a new culture and language in a foreign country, to start a new life, to swim in lanes adjacent to the mainstream. The majority of our team have also been foreigners who have had the same journey to Paris as myself. I attribute that to the common understanding of our differences.

I am a gay, Asian-Canadian chef in Paris, but the intersectionality of my differences gives me cultural understanding for those who work in my kitchen.

Especially as an LA-inspired kitchen, our team must be as diverse as our menu, as LA is a melting pot of cultures. Diversity to us is not only a celebration, but the necessary representation demanded in the world today.”

Gene Ho,
Chef and Founder of Homade

3. A team that is holistically equipped can thrive

“It’s important to get your teams’ mental health, wellness and physical being together again. And this is something that I realised is missing in the culinary world. We have sanitation, safe-serve, butchering, we have all these programs, but we don't really have anything about body/mind/spirit. And to me, understanding the journey, the jungle of the kitchen, the different people, the different cultures, how do we respect one another, how do we coexist - once you have given your team the skills, watch them shine, watch them become an ambassador to your brand.”

German Lam,
Executive Chef and Founder, Glam Foods

4. Open communication invites your team to participate

“I know I didn't always feel heard when I was a part of a team, so I think that really made my style of management the way it is now. I want to be heard and I want other people to be heard as well.

I didn't feel like I knew everything so I was willing and open to asking my crew, “what do you think?” I ask them to come up with suggestions for some new seasonal things, and everybody gives ideas - because I want them to feel empowered. 

It's important to me that my team can feel like they can come to me with ideas and suggestions, but also the leader, the manager has to be receptive enough to take it.”

Kimberly Brock Brown,
Executive Chef and President of the American Culinary Federation


5. Prioritising time with your staff creates team connection

"We keep family meals simple, tasty, and with a purpose to take the edge off our hungry staff and to tell them: we do this because we appreciate you.

We first started the family meals to build camaraderie between all our team members. Our conversations could be something as simple as ‘what did you do last night’ or as complex as someone's love life; what's happening in the near future for restaurants; or just a few minutes of quiet time before we go to our nightly service sequence.

Sometimes it's nice, because with all of the hustle and bustle, we also often forget to take time to enjoy the company and just spend a little time with each other during one of our only quiet times of the evening.”

John Plymale,
Chef at Porcini


By implementing systems that encourage a healthy work/life balance and promote employee participation, it is possible to build a team that is happy to be at work. A team that feels valued and engaged, will actively contribute towards the success of the business.

Our free online leadership programme offers further insight on how to create a culture of passion and commitment. Sign up today to learn more.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, as we share more stories and tips from kitchen leaders who are committed to creating and sustaining #fairkitchens.