Restaurant employees who work, eat and play together; stay together

staff meal 2


Most of us are aware of the positive correlation between job satisfaction and organizational commitment, but I believe many restaurant managers struggle with understanding what effects job satisfaction and how to actually achieve and improve it. Front-line restaurant employees often report high levels of stress, emotional exhaustion and physiological resource depletion (Han, Bonn, & Cho, 2015). It is normal to work long hours, with little down time and few opportunities to recharge.


After interviewing several 5th year hospitality students it was apparent that we had all experienced similar incidents in the workplace. We’d experienced high levels of stress caused by long days, demanding workloads and unpleasant social interactions with customers. We also felt that a great deal of restaurants have habituated into task-oriented environments. Where staff members simply come in to do their job and leave. The negative interactions with guests and the lack of organizational support are known to cause physiological resource depletion, affecting workplace attitudes and behaviors (Han, Bonn, & Cho, 2015). These factors when left unmitigated lead to high levels of turnover intention due to employee burnout.


Organizational support from supervisors and coworkers is proven to help reduce the effects of high stress caused by customer incivility (Han, Bonn, & Cho, 2015). When staff feels supported and cared for, they are able to better cope with stress thus diminishing the likelihood of staff burnout. The irony is that we are a business entirely focused on building relationships with people and creating amazing experiences yet it seems we have lost sight of the importance and effectiveness of developing strong relationships among our own staff members. Collectively, the interviewees agreed that the places we worked where managers ignored, or put off dealing will stress and staff burnout caused many of their best staff to leave, only to leave heavier workloads for fewer top performers.


That being said, we could all agree that there have been a handful of employers that left really lasting impressions on us. Each interviewee also indicated that they would return to that particular employer, or recommend someone to work there. What was most interesting about our discussions was that there never was a single grand gesture that affected the interviewee’s feelings about their workplace, but rather it was the ongoing mundane things that translated to strong appreciation and pride for their workplaces. Unknowingly, each of us described the leader-member exchange theory. This theory acknowledges the relationship between employees and supervisors where they reciprocate fair treatment from their managers by working hard, fulfilling manager requests and expressing these feelings through commitment to the organization (Kacmar, Andrews, Van Rooy, Steilberg, & Cerrone, 2006).


Strong relationships, trust and excellent communication amongst employees were all factors that positively influenced our job satisfaction and commitment to our employers. In each of the interviewees examples, the places they enjoyed working most had managers that facilitated opportunities for team bonding, and encouraged staff to develop social relationships that were deeper then just being coworkers. It was often noted that when managers encouraged staff to stay and grab a bite to eat or a quick drink after their shift the staff often stayed to hangout afterwards. Easily allowing the staff to become better friends and enjoy each other’s company inside and outside of work hours. The ability to stimulate dynamic friendships amongst staff is known to increase enthusiasm within the workplace. Employers that promote an organizational culture that focus on enjoying not only the work we are doing, but also whom we are doing it with are the ones hospitality grads are looking to build lengthy careers with.

Together we concluded that a simple and effect way of achieving these workplace characteristics is by providing meals for staff to eat together. Having designated break times, and offering nutritious food creates an intimate environment for staff members to get to know each other. By adding this other layer of communication, it opens up new opportunities to have sincere conversations and intensifies workplace transparency. A recent study indicated that when employees enjoy meals provided by an organization, it could increase individual job performance (feinstein, 2006). Knowing that most people in restaurants are working long hours and many consecutive days, providing food gives companies the ability to avoid the effects of mal-nourished, or starving staff.

Staff meals: Fat Duck

Naturally, the first thing we considered was the costs associated with providing meals for staff. Fortunately, in most cases the restaurant is already dealing with a significant amount of produce with short shelf lives that can be repurposed into exciting and delicious staff meals. We also want to note, that we are not suggesting you simply serve the menu items to staff for free but rather provide them with an always changing, exciting staff meal that reduces cost and eliminates excess food waste. A recent restaurant study determined that roughly 18% of edible food is wasted in restaurants. This waste could be from a number of different sources including; food that was stored improperly, food that was discarded in the preparation process, items that were incorrectly prepared and thus could not be served and lastly cooked food that was leftover after service (Von Massow & McAdams, 2015). Not only does this food get wasted, but also the energy required in cooking the food as well as its disposal can accumulate significant indirect costs. By redirecting these food items, and repurposing them to produce a staff meal of sorts you will be able to reduce waste, and the many costs that follow. As mentioned, all of this food still remained edible for humans but likely due to quality control measures and freshness guarantees this food never made it in front of a guest.


As the price of food increases, and our sense of food security decreases society is steadily becoming more conscious of how unsustainable and unnecessary excessive food waste is. Consumers are responding to restaurants that are attempting to manage their food waste, in the future this will likely lead to increase in market share (Von Massow & McAdams, 2015). With this in mind paired with the recent study results that show an increase in productivity levels up to 20% when staff felt they were adequately fed, gives even more reason to put at minimum that 18% of food in front of your staff members in some creative way. (feinstein, 2006)


It is also important to factor in the costs you are avoiding by providing meals and implementing designated break times. By encouraging staff to take their breaks at the same time they have the opportunity to strengthen their social network. Staff meals will leave them nourished, helping relive fatigue, increase productivity, and reduce food waste.

Staff is also able to break up their day, and can potentially leave an incident like a negative customer interaction in the first half of their day. Employees can take this time to get supervisory, or coworker support, which is proven to help defuse negative effects that lead to burnout, while strengthening deep acting and job satisfaction (Chen, Sun, Lam, Hu, Huo, & An Zhong, 2012). Deep acting is the ability to feel a specific emotion that you are thinking about; this technique is regularly used throughout restaurant services in order to have consistently pleasant guest interactions. The inability to achieve deep acting can cause serious emotional depletion.


Knowing that turnover rates in the U.S restaurant industry continue to remain north of 60%, translating to roughly $30,500 in indirect and direct costs shows the tremendous value of having a stable work force (Kacmar, Andrews, Van Rooy, Steilberg, & Cerrone, 2006). An organization that is conscious of their employee’s health, well being, and level of support they require will drastically reduce employees intent to leave. The ability to be conscious of these matters requires a high level of communication. Which is why we propose, sharing meals together often will help improve employee commitment, engagement and ability to cope with stress.


Providing staff meals should not be a costly burden for employers, especially alongside the positive trickle down effects it can offer. As mentioned before, when you share a meal with someone, it is a new layer of communication that goes beyond simply co-workers. It is going to increase productivity for your business, while keeping staff healthy, motivated and cohesive. The purpose and benefits of providing staff meals lead us right back to creating elevated levels of job satisfaction in order to increase commitment to your organization. We all know that turnover is a costly affliction, by implementing small changes that staff respond to in a meaningful way, can help you retain and develop some of your best staff members.


Works Cited;

Chen, Z., Sun, H., Lam, W., Hu, Q., Huo, Y., & An Zhong, J. (2012). Chinese hotel employees in the smiling masks: roles of job satisfaction, burnout, and supervisory support in relationships between emotional labour and performance. International Journal of Human Resource Management .

feinstein, A. (2006). A study of relationship between job satisfaction and organizational commitment among restaurant employees. CH restaurants .

Han, S., Bonn, M., & Cho, M. (2015, Oct). The relationship between customer incivility, restaurant frontline service employee burnout and turnover intentions. Journal of Hospitality Management .

Kacmar, M., Andrews, M., Van Rooy, D., Steilberg, C., & Cerrone, S. (2006, Feb). Sure Everyone Can Be Replaced…but at What Cost? Turnover as a Predictor of Unit-Level Performance. The Academy of Management Journal .

Turen, U., & Camogiu, A. (2015). Perceived Quality of Meal Service provided by organization and job performance of employees. Applied Research Quality of Life .

Von Massow, M., & McAdams, B. (2015). Table Scraps: An Evaluation of Plate Waste in Restaurants. Journal of Foodservice Business Research .




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