Six ideas for creating a kitchen culture people don't want to leave

2021 has been a tough year for hospitality, made all the more challenging by the ongoing staff shortage. While these problems aren’t new, it’s clear we’ve reached a tipping point. According to new research from Medallia Zingle, nearly 2-in-5 workers want to leave the industry within the next two months. We need to take action now to keep current staff happy and healthy - and bring new talent into the industry.

With this in mind, six chefs and experts share what they do to look after their people and how to build a strong team culture, year-round:

Treat onboarding with the same importance as recruitment

“Just because you’ve found someone for the role, doesn’t mean you can breathe a sigh of relief. You can lose your new hire in the first 3-6 months depending on how you treat them.

“Give them a plan of what they can achieve in that period, and be available to guide them every step of the way."

Andy Aston, Head of Wellness & Nutrition at BaxterStorey and Wellness Ambassador for The Craft Guild of Chefs. Catch up with his Take20 from earlier this year here.


Offer your staff fair hours 

''Our kitchen staff works a maximum of four days a week. When the team is feeling under pressure, we limit the number of guests.

“While many have problems recruiting new staff, we receive lots of applications. In the interviews we hear that our working conditions and 'fair hours' have a unique reputation.''

Ankie Janssens, Co-owner of Mr Sammi Bistro Bar

Use your feedback to set people up for success 

"When giving feedback, use your words carefully. Try to find the best things that they have done first and leave the others for last. You can't just state a problem, you have to find a solution together.

"If you ask a person to do something they are not capable of, they won't do it. Then they will feel they have failed and you will feel it too."

Iliana De la Vega, Chef-owner at El Naranjo Restaurant


Share wins among the team to build a strong culture

"It seems very simple but we get emails and comments from customers all the time and we share them with the whole team.

"Adding a brief note that directly connects how this behaviour links to the company culture - and doing that regularly - is really helpful for maintaining that culture in your team."

Matt Johnston, Regional Operation Manager at Foodtastic


Your team members are your partners

"A big part of solving the shortage problem – which was an issue before the pandemic too – is how to move people away from being seen and treated as a commodity to shaping a restaurant job into a career. 

"That means providing people with pathways and asking them what they need to be happy and what they need for an education."

Tristan Grier, Co-owner of Harvest Newrybar


Embrace diversity and learn from each other 

"An inclusive team culture means recognising everyone can learn from each other. It doesn't matter about your experience, it doesn't matter about your age."

"I learn every day, be it from a supplier, be it from a staff member, a junior member. We've all got different experiences to draw on."

Chef Coo Pillay, Executive Chef, Protea Hotels by Marriott



At #FairKitchens, we believe there can be a brighter future for hospitality. Our community brings people together to connect and learn from each other, sharing inspiration and advice from those who are leading the way. Let’s make positive change, together - in 2022 and beyond. 

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