Even simple changes can drastically improve well-being at work.

The food industry is infamous for long hours, fast-paced kitchens, and high-strung chefs. Left unchecked, this pressure to perform can undermine the well-being and mental health of folks who work in catering and hospitality. 

This sentiment is echoed by The Burnt Chef, which found that 84 percent of food industry workers had experienced some form of mental health condition during their careers. 

Failing to protect the mental health and wellness of employees can have a dire effect on the productivity and well-being of your workers. Folks who feel burnt out are far more likely to call in sick and may jump ship to more people-friendly employers. 

You can retain your top talent and boost employee well-being by making a series of policy-level changes. These changes may require upfront investment but will yield higher productivity, lower turnover, and better staff buy-in. 

Gathering Feedback 

Before implementing changes, you have to gather feedback from your current staff. Your sous-chefs and Maître d’s can generate important insights and help you better understand employee sentiment at your business. 

When asking for feedback, give folks a chance to share their insights anonymously. Kitchens can be close-knit work environments, meaning employees may gloss over important issues if they fear the repercussions of their honesty. 

If you do happen to have employees who are headed out the door, be sure to ask key exit interview questions like: 

  • What do you feel the company is doing right and where do you think the company could improve?
  • What was your relationship with your manager like?
  • Did the company help you accomplish your professional development and career goals?
  • How did this position align with your expectations?

These questions can highlight the strengths of your current policies and will help you identify potential shortcomings. Try to stay away from kitchen gossip and consider keeping the employee’s direct manager away from the interview room. This will help the resigning employee be forthcoming without fear of reprisal later in their career. 

Use the feedback you gather to form the backbone of your new policies. This will show employees that you care about their well-being and are taking active steps to improve efficiency and safety at work. 

Enhancing Efficiency

Your best employees want to work hard and perform well. They’ll quickly become frustrated if unresolved issues stand in their way and will look for greener pastures if you fail to take action. 

Boost your efficiency without compromising on quality by embracing speed-scratch shortcuts. Using some pre-made products like sauces, aiolis, and toppings can significantly improve productivity in your kitchen and help your chefs focus on the products that bring consumers through the door. 

Speed-scratch products can also help you save money by cutting down on labor costs and raw materials. This can be reinvested into upgrades like energy-efficient fridges and bespoke utensils that suit the demands of your kitchen. 

If you happen to run a mobile business, you should retrain your drivers to improve efficiency on the road. Efficient drivers are far less likely to crash on the road and are more likely to keep a clean and orderly workplace. This is crucial when selling sandwiches and soft drinks to hungry workers on their lunch break. Real-time driver coaching can reduce fuel use by 15 percent, too, meaning you’ll save plenty of cash that could be better spent on benefits and perks. 

Benefits and Perks

A robust benefits package is key to running a happy workplace. However, the food service industry is infamous for providing underwhelming benefits packages. Things are particularly dire in the fast-food restaurant industry, where 87 percent of employees do not receive any health benefits from their employer. 

Folks are certain to resent underwhelming health insurance packages and will look for competitors that offer better perks, benefits, or pay. As an employer, you can easily boost well-being and increase employee retention by offering benefits that make a difference.

Use staff feedback to guide your decision-making when budgeting for new perks. You may find that your staff don’t care for gym membership but would utilize therapy sessions and yoga classes. If you’re unsure of where to start, consider offering some popular perks like: 

  • Specialist healthcare coverage; 
  • Retirement plans and planning advice;
  • Extended paid time off;
  • Student loan repayments;
  • Travel expenses.

These perks improve employee’s financial well-being and empower them to make healthier lifestyle choices. Folks who feel secure in a retirement plan may feel less stressed about the future and may experience higher loyalty, too. Covering travel expenses can free up funds for employees to use on hobbies outside of work that improve their work-life balance, too. 

Remember to track uptake when offering perks. The perks you offer resemble a meaningful chunk of your HR budget and need to have a high ROI. Survey your staff to find out if your benefits are improving your employee’s quality of life. If you offer perks like gym memberships, ask your partners to track uptake and keep track of how many employees decide to utilize the service. 

The food industry can be tough on employees. As a people-first employer, you can change that paradigm by offering relevant perks and improving workplace efficiency. Even simple changes, like teaching your food truckers to drive more efficiently, can drastically improve well-being at work. This will have a positive knock-on effect on productivity and help you build a happier workplace. 

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business, technology, and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or getting into the latest tech.

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees