Tackling team wellbeing in foodservice and hospitality

For Chef and Entrepreneur Oron Franco, the wellbeing of a business comes from the wellbeing of the team: “You're only as strong as the most overworked person in the kitchen.”

Balancing your team’s wellbeing and your business helps to create a positive workplace environment where staff enjoy themselves and are motivated to do their best. 

"Overworked people don't last. If somebody decides they've had it, that's it and leaves in the middle of service - it's really hard to bounce back from that. You still have a dining room full of people to serve and you can either deliver, or you can’t. A kitchen is a team effort, we've got to stay in tune."

Six more chefs and industry experts share their perspective about the importance of looking after teams and how to support people during difficult times: 

Look after wellbeing to boost productivity

"Research suggests that greater sense of wellbeing is associated with greater productivity in the workplace and even greater increases in productivity over time. By taking time to promote a sense of wellbeing we're actually using it as a means to have better health and as well as even better productivity. So it's not something that is detracting from our ability to perform in the workplace, it's actually helping us to support the maximum performance that we can have."

Dr Jen Sumner, Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor, UCLA


Learning to spot the signs of someone struggling will help you support them

“Common symptoms to look out for include:

  1. changes in behaviour (for example, previously chatty employees might become withdrawn)
  2. finding day-to-day activities hard 
  3. a lack of motivation
  4. showing up late for shifts more often
  5. struggling to make decisions and prioritise
  6. fatigue or anxiety 
  7. increased errors (for example, getting orders wrong more frequently).

“It’s really important to remember that everyone experiences mental health in different ways. In fact, some people might not show any outward signs. Never make any assumptions about a person’s mental health and always look to have a one-to-one conversation with them first.”

  • Andrew Berrie, National Lead, Mental Health at Work at Mind 

If someone opens up to you, it’s important to listen

“A leader must be a good listener. You have to be patient and respect what it is that the person is trying to tell you. Because when somebody approaches us, it's because they respect us and they need something from us - and that is guidance. Listening first before we jump to conclusions is key to strengthening relationships.”

Chef James Khoza, President of The South African Chefs Association and Executive Chef at Sandton Sun Hotel



Remove the fear about being open about mental health

“Chatting in an anonymous forum is one of the best approaches that works for our staff. If they’re experiencing issues with their mental health or are feeling uncomfortable or uneasy about certain things, we have an anonymous chat where staff can share their views or look for advice and that is how we communicate about that. 

“We also have an open door policy - people can come to us at any time, so if there is any fear of not being able to cope with something, we as a senior team are there to assist, to mentor, to lead and to give advice if advice is needed.” 

Chef Mieshkah Solomons, Executive Sous Chef at GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World. Quote from a Take20 with Chef Mieshkah



Put in policies to encourage a healthy work-life balance

"Cross train your staff so you can rotate weekends off. It doesn’t have to be that you work a 12 hour day every weekend, every holiday. If somebody knows they're getting the weekend off in two weeks, you can make sure others learn this station and that station to cover that person. This way, you don't work harder you work smarter."

Chef Kimberly Brock Brown, National President of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and owner and corporate chef of Culinary Concepts, LLC


Nurture your team and watch them flourish 

“Leadership isn’t just about directing and making decisions - it’s about nurturing and looking after the 

mental health and wellbeing of the people you work alongside because that reflects in their work. If your team aren’t 100%, their work won’t be either.

“Show empathy and demonstrate genuine care. Whether that’s through time off or simply showing compassion, all of this will help support them on an individual level and help the wider team to thrive.”

Chef Chad Byrne, Executive Chef of The Brehon Hotel and Founder of The Hungry Donkey

Putting people first can make a real difference to their lives and to the success of your business. It builds stronger teams that last longer and perform significantly better. 

A good place to start is with regular wellbeing check-ins. We’ve partnered with Hospitality Action to create a free check-in template, which you can download here. There’s also our free leadership training, which includes a module on how to recognise and support teams through a mental wellbeing crisis at work.

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