It all comes down to culture, communication, and compassion.
More often than not there are way too many cooks, literally and figuratively, in the kitchen—behind the scenes, on the line, in the front of the house and basically all around. Even more so for a stand-alone restaurant concept attached to one of the most prestigious hotel brands in the world, The Ritz-Carlton. Add a partnership agreement with an established, internationally famous chef, and it could be off the charts complicated.
Below are three top directives I’ve learned through years of experience that can both help navigate the potential choppy, collaborative waters typically found in the restaurant industry, but use connections to help workflow efficiency and help build a solid, efficient team.
Communication is the key to success in any relationship and restaurant industry relationships are no exception. Kitchen culture depends on equally communicating both up and down the chain and our Chef de Cuisine, Vincent Giannini, is exceptional at properly communicating with his staff and front of the house teams, as well as with myself and Chef Richard Sandoval. This is often one of the hardest aspects of the industry, as team members from different areas are involved. It is imperative that both the back and front of the house are on the same page, in order to understand one another’s challenges.
One of the most important cornerstones of the foundation that we build our company on is a strong work culture. Throughout my career, I have found that the most successful teams in the industry have a strong, organic culture. This comes from building a team, or more accurately, somewhat of a family, that is heavily service minded and is genuinely customer oriented. It is so important to me to have a team that genuinely wants to be at work but also has a strong sense of comradery and are willing to help each other to keep the ship moving forward. I encourage a team that is led by leaders, not bosses. A strong culture is built by involving those ladies and gentlemen in the planning of work that affects them. This strikes the perfect balance of employees who are engaged in their work both at a line level and a leadership level. Creating a culture where no job is beneath one single employee is absolutely crucial.
The final key is compassion. I find that compassion, not only for your employees and coworkers, but for the customers, is something that is learned and taught. Most especially, in my two years as a leader at Aqimero, I have sought out employees who are passionate about the work they’re doing, the events they’re promoting, the cuisine they’re creating and have a willingness to grow. Additionally, having leaders that are conscious of the overall health of their employees, be it mental or physical, is something I encourage. An employee who is overworked and overwhelmed can’t help the growth of the restaurant, and it is up to our leaders to be able to recognize that on a daily basis.
Something that sets our team apart, as well, is our ability to provide our employees with insurance immediately, and we encourage employees to take advantage of this from the beginning. Throughout my career, I have found that Culture and Communication are unattainable without Compassion and I strive to teach to my employees the importance of this every day. The compassion fostered by my employees helps to build a strong culture, and with a strong culture, comes a strong sense of communication.
Consider the three C’s as the most basic of recipes. If followed correctly and adhered to consistently, the result will always be positive in terms of growth from a fiscal, team and personal perspective.
John Christinzio is Director of Operations for Aqimero located in the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia. He has over two decades of experience within multiple sectors of the hospitality industry.