What is the most valuable resource in the hospitality industry? Read Emma Underwood's latest blog

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th March 2018

What is the most valuable resource in the hospitality industry?

In her latest blog with The Staff Canteen, Emma discusses how caring and nurturing your team is an absolute must.

Cooks Chefs Food Restaurant Kitchen 2623071
A simple 'great job' goes a long way...

More than just a job

The most valuable resource in our industry is people, and sometimes knowing how to properly take care of them is difficult. For many of us, working 60 plus hours a week, this isn’t just a job - it’s our lives. The responsibility in making sure that these lives are truly and thoroughly cared for is huge, and something that really shouldn’t be taken lightly.

We have all heard the horror stories of bullying within kitchens and restaurants, of young chefs fresh out of college full of aspirations for their future, only to find themselves turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressure.

For those of us in positions of management within this industry, our roles are not just to make sure everyone does their jobs properly, but to ensure their minds and bodies are healthy in the process.

A changing industry

It is true that the industry is changing, many of us are starting to acknowledge how damaging the long hours, high pressure and low pay can be and acting upon it. It is true that the industry is changing, many of us are starting to acknowledge how damaging the long hours, high pressure and low pay can be and acting upon it. 

4 days a week
It is not uncommon now for kitchens to insist on a 4-day working week for their chefs, it was the model that Gary Usher installed in Sticky Walnut 5 years ago when he realised that a restaurant full of tired and unhappy chefs was only ever going to be counterproductive. A restaurateur I spoke to recently has limited their opening hours to just 8 services a week so that none of the teamwork more than 45-hour weeks. 

These are examples of restaurants that operate on the luxury of a business model that can support such measures, and not everyone is lucky enough to have the financial freedom to run their restaurants in such a way.

Emma Quote 2 March 2018

Leading by example
The answer then, to support and care for a team that is dedicating such a huge chunk of their lives to your business, is to focus on always providing as much positive mentorship and support as possible. Leading by example is always essential, as is positive reinforcement. You don’t even have to be a restaurateur, head chef or manager to be aware of this: we all have duties to care and support for our colleagues. The way we speak and interact with one another is vital to well-being within our workplaces. A simple ‘that was great’, can easily make someone’s day.

The TMRW Project

Realistically though, we don’t all have the means to support our colleagues. The pressures within restaurants are so huge that care and mentorship can often get lost. It is important to remember, therefore, that the restaurant industry is such a massive community, and that support and help can come from all over. For example, The TMRW Project, which is run by Anna Susan Masing, Dan Doherty and myself, runs a series of mentorship initiatives and talks to help guide and support people within the industry (www.chefsoftomorrow.co.uk).

Some of the best advice I’ve received in my career has come from people I have never worked with, and you should never be afraid to reach out.

Blog by Emma Underwood, General Manager, Where the Light Gets In

Emma Underwood blog image
Emma Underwood

Emma Underwood is the general manager of Where the Light Gets In, based in Stockport, having previously worked at Burnt Truffle in Heswall, part of Gary Usher’s ever-expanding restaurant empire.

Emma started working with Gary in 2012 when she joined the Sticky Walnut team as a waitress before moving to the sister restaurant, Burnt Truffle as the restaurant manager.

Emma is also a co-founder of the TMRW Project along with Anna Sulan which was set up in 2015 as part of their Chefs of Tomorrow dinners.

The project acts as a platform for people starting out early in their career to help them grow, learn and connect with each other.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th March 2018

What is the most valuable resource in the hospitality industry? Read Emma Underwood's latest blog