“Held hostage” by staff

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by Emcel, May 15, 2019.

  1. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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    Hopefully I’m posting my question in the correct forum/thread. I’m looking for some management advice. I’ve been in the industry for 30 years. Like many of you, I worked my way up in the kitchen. Although I went to culinary school (about 25 years ago), My education came from a hands on life experience of keeping my mouth shut, my ears open and my eyes wide. I’ve recently moved away from fine dining and was somehow lured into a corporate structure. The kitchen is very PC, and the cooks are not only not as skilled as I’m used to, but they have absolutely no passion or interest in food. It is as though they feel that I should be grateful to have them there. Honestly I have no idea why they even decided to start in the industry. I would blame it on the millennials, but I have a mix of old and young. Every time I try to drive them harder they threaten to quit, call out sick, underperform, etc. when I started with the company, I basically got rid of all the old staff and rebuilt the kitchen. I’ve gotten used to just picking up the slack myself, but they continue to take advantage. The new staff is falling into all the same habits as the old, and I am constantly exhausted, angry, and frustrated. I know this is my fault, but I cannot rebuild again! They have taken my power and are holding me hostage! I’ve seen this at some fine dining establishments, but never to this degree. Should I give up and move on, or can I still fix this? Ideas appreciated. Thank you
     
  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    First things first. You are working in a corporate environment. What did you expect? Vested employees who actually give a s--t about their work product? That's like jumping into a lake and believing that somehow you're not going to get wet. This is not to say that all corporate restaurants are like that. I'm sure there are some where the kitchen staff actually cares about what they are doing.

    Second, who is "they"in terms of who took your power? Your employees? Management? Why can't you rebuild the staff again?

    All of this academic, in my opinion, especially if management has told you that you cannot rebuild the staff again. The only thing left for you to do is look for other work. If you no longer have the authority to fix what is broken in the kitchen, there's no point in being there.

    Its that simple.

    Good luck. :)
     
  3. Emojitsu

    Emojitsu

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    Maybe I've just gotten lucky, but I've found the millennial argument is BS anyway. Many (but of course, not all) of my Millennials outperform my older and generation X staff :p Of course I have some older employees that bring more to the table in terms of experience and work ethic, and some Generation X cooks that are passionate knowledge sponges. But then I also have older employees that just sit on the clock for as long as they can get away with, and some Millennials and Gen X that are just as bad. But writing off an entire generation isn't a smart move, especially when they make up more and more of the work force.

    That being said, sgsvirgil was spot on about it maybe being time to move on. Maybe back in to non-corporate kitchens where you're more comfortable? Especially if your talents aren't being appreciated. You have to look out for your own interests, especially when no one else will. Good luck
     
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  4. someday

    someday

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    Thank you. Millennial's get a bad rap...I've met and worked with just as many lazy, incompetent and entitled older employees as I have younger. But I digress...

    Could you expand on this line of thinking a bit? How does a politically correct kitchen affect the overall performance of the employees?

    That seems like a bit of a red flag to me, to be honest. Are you upset that you can't yell, scream, belittle, engage in inappropriate workplace behavior (innuendo, harassment, etc) in order to get your message across?

    If those are the only tools in your management toolset, I can understand how you are having difficulty managing your staff.

    So you started with basically a whole new kitchen staff, and somehow they are doing all the same bad things that the previous staff did? Did you not instill a training program, have standards, clearly defined roles, job descriptions, recipes, etc? You had and opportunity to rebuild a kitchen the "right" way, and yet somehow everything went back to the old way?

    That sounds like a complete failure of leadership. I like that you acknowledge "it's your fault" and take responsibility, but honestly you sound clueless about how to run a staff without yelling/screaming (I'm assuming).

    My advice would be to:

    Standardize job descriptions and tasks/stations. Everyone should know what they are responsible for and how to achieve those goals. <--- it's hard to hold someone responsible for doing a job if there isn't clear, concise communication on what that job is. When disciplining someone you can also point to specific things in their job description that they failed to do (I'm writing you up because you failed to get to work on time for 2 shifts this week, or I'm writing you up because you didn't follow the recipe for "X" and what you produced doesn't meet our standards). Clear communication of expectations is paramount to good management.

    Recipes for each item, again for accountability and standardization.

    Kitchen wide daily tasks that need completing (putting away deliveries, weekly cleaning tasks, etc) and assign them daily

    Make yourself visible and available to talk to.
    Employees will sneak around and try to get away with things if they think the chef will yell and belittle them instead of offering solutions and constructive feedback. If I mess up a batch of tomato soup, and the response from the chef is to yell/scream/throw a tantrum, the next time I mess something up I'm going to try and hide it so I don't get yelled at. But as a manager, if you offer solutions (OK Tom, it's only 4:00 so you have time to remake that soup. I'll wash the lettuce for you while you get the new batch going. We have to find a solution because this is the second time this week you burned soup and that's not acceptable--let's talk before you leave about what went wrong and steps we can make to make sure this doesn't happen again) you'll get better results from most people.

    Try and find out what motivates your employees. Is it money? Food/cooking? Identify one or two that you can mentor and can (hopefully) become your "key" personnel. If you have 1 or 2 core workers, who you have a good relationship with, who are aligned with your vision, it can work wonders. They can help you hold others accountable (peers holding peers accountable is amazing and often means more than managers doing it) and give you feedback about what other employees are thinking/feeling.

    Good luck!
     
  5. foodpump

    foodpump

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    As that scraggly-haired “musician” once sang, “ oh the times they are a changing”.

    Here’s the million dollar question:
    “Why should I become a cook?”

    The pay sucks, the hours suck, and some server with less than 1 week’s experience will take home more money in tips that night than the cook earns for that shift.

    So why bother? Everyone wants to be a server.

    For arguments sake, let’s say you went to culinary school straight out of high school. Busted your butt in school, what would you earn at your first place of employment? Minimum wage? You’d be thirty by the time you paid off your student loans and still earn sh*t wages.

    So my prediction for the hospitality industry in N.America? Based on 30- odd years in the kitchen, in Europe, in Asia, as well as running my own businesses?

    Unless cooks can make a decent living—unless the whole tipping mess is abolished, cooks will be harder and harder to find than an albino gopher in the coming years. Basically, only two types of establishments will thrive: Those with strong family ties who can source their own labour, and those who offer a truly unique product and dining experience. Red lobster and Olive Garden will be no more.....l

    Of course, the Europeans have an apprenticeship system—not only for cooks, but for servers; operator’s licenses for restaurant owners, they fended off the ( inferiorily idiotic) N.American tipping system, set wages for the industry, and can manage to attract new apprentices to their industry.

    Would that, could that, ever happen here?
     
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  6. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I was going to respond this am but had to leave for work and planned to respond afterwards. Now I'm home and I see Someday has beaten me to it. I may have worded it differently but the message would have been the same.
    The problem is not the staff.
    On an up note, I faced a similar problem several years ago when I moved from restaurants to an institutional environment. But I quickly realized that despite the staff's lack of training, discipline, etc. they all did the job. Did they do it with the same dedication and passion I would have? No and the poor employees got weeded out. But as Someday pointed out so well, performance expectations were presented and expected to be followed. Clear, concise and direct. And in a matter of fact way, not emotionally.
    Keep in mind that much of the general atmosphere can be created by expecting objective criteria to be followed. Objective criteria like Serv Safe was developed for exactly this situation. An employee may or may not know how to clean a tenderloin or make a good hollandaise but they can be quickly taught temperature guidelines and sanitations controls. Wrap it, label it, store it.
    Most important, if they see you doing something right, they will be more inclined to do it right.
     
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  7. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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  8. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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    Wait...
     
  9. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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    WOH, there Participation! I never denied responsibility! I accepted it wholeheartedly and in fact reached out for help. I also know how to create an Excel spreadsheet and “make people accountable”. I’ve ran successful kitchens as well as this one that is failing! I asked for a little advice (beyond that of which is offered in a 30 min. online management course) and all you did is belittle me. I understand that you are very sensitive concerning words like “millennial” or PC, it’s to be expected.
     
  10. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    it would seem that your answer is contained in the above quote. The situation is a multi layered one, so the answer is not exactly in the words so much as in the sentiment expressed by the words.

    Sometimes it is best to move on, just be sure to pack the lessons learned from this scenario in your luggage. Probably not the course of action that I would take, but then I am stubborn, my reactions would be different, and the situation would be different because different people have different styles and approaches, so hence different results.

    Probably not what you are looking for, but that is the best I have at the moment. Unless actually there to observe and delve into all the complexities involved, any solutions offered would be merely lip service.
     
  11. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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    Actually, this is the least clouded and best advice I have seen here. If I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall day in and day out, we’ll then I guess it explains the bruise. Thanks
     
  12. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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  13. jcakes

    jcakes

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    If you hired this new crew, what criteria did you use? If you have a production list of what needs to be accomplished, and assign tasks to staff, they either get the job done or not. Making changes, creating a team is going to take time - you have to undo the bad habits they've fallen into and model the habits you want them to have. If *you're* frustrated and unhappy, you will have a much harder time fixing this.
     
  14. chefross

    chefross

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    I've been in this situation, and really the only thing you can do is move on.

    Think about it people...all your advice about managing, organizing, planning, documentation, means absolutely nothing when an employee with a "who cares" attitude looks you in the face and says..."Go f___ yourself."
    What can you do.
    I took over a corporate college food service where the employees did mediocre work. I followed the corporate rules and tagged these people with oral discipline, write ups, suspensions, and finally termination. All done by the book. Yes...lots of paperwork and computer work, but well worth it because I got a kitchen with people who cared about what they put out and were happy.
    It does work but diligence is key.
     
  15. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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    Ok people.... seriously! Every single one of you have given me nothing but absolute crap advice. I know how to do the documentation and the production lists. And I know how to write people up for tardiness, nonperformance and insubordination. I know how to create prep lists that are both thorough and make people accountable. Yes I took a job with a shitty fucked up company and yes I fucked up by asking you all for advice! All but two of you have been completely arrogant and dismissive! Oh no! I swore! Shocking... I know. I would like to point out that as I write this....I am not angry or yelling. It is clear that none of you have been in a predicament where you have had to open at 4 in the morning and work until 11 pm running every station in your kitchen every day of the week and then go home and complete all the office work you didn’t get done! All that paperwork bullshit is just fine and fucking dandy but it sure doesn’t work when you’ve got shitty people! So why don’t I just quit? Do any of you have families or bills or kids? I think it is absolutely despicable that I reached out to a bunch of “Chefs” and the only advice I got was to follow through with paperwork! You all should go manage a Starbucks for fucks sake! By the way... I’m swearing so that I will get kicked off this forum because it’s the only way to fucking unsubscribe!! Now all of you go back to trying to figure out what flour to use or why your croissant dough is over proofed. I have advice for you..... read a cookbook, figure out the science and get you ass in the kitchen and fucking figure it out! That’s what Chefs should do! Fuck you all very much. This has been the worst mistake!
     
  16. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    If this is your worst mistake, then you are way ahead of me. :~)

    A keyboard solution from this side of the screen by anybody for your situation, is going to be fluff at best. The situation is way to complex to be solved with a few keystrokes.

    Being the chef of a corporate kitchen is a Sisyphean task.

    The employees and you feel like the character, Phil Connors, in the movie "Groundhog Day". It is time to have a sincere heart to heart talk with Rita and explain the situation.

    Cue "I Got You Babe".
     
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  17. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    I think me and a few others asked the only questions that matters that you did not answer. Why can't you scrap the kitchen staff and start over or at least weed out those that are not performing?

    From your profanity laced tirade, it would seem that the problem with your current situation is not limited to just an under performing staff. You came to us asking for advice, remember? You have received some very good advice in response from some very knowledgeable people. Because you didn't like or agree with that advice, you told us all to f--k off.

    Ok.....so, let me give you some more advice.

    The first golden rule of leadership is that you are responsible for everything that happens on your watch, including shitty, under performing "millennials." It is your job to motivate them, train them and get them to do what they are being paid to do and meet the standards that you set. Period. Case closed. Pissing and whining that just because they are millennials they can't be trained or have poor work ethic is just a poor excuse for your failure as a chef to train them. If the members of your staff cannot be trained and meet your standards, they get fired. End of story. If that is something that is not allowed or a power that is not within your color wheel as head of the kitchen, then, your options at that point become extremely limited.

    Your first step, my friend, in straightening out your assed out kitchen is to identify and correct your own deficiencies and shortcomings and accept the fact that your 25 years of experience is not a substitute nor does it make up for a lack of leadership.
     
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  18. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    I have been chef of a more than one corporate entity so I am familiar with environment. One place was a hotel and my position was executive chef. After running through all the proper procedures, channels, documentation, etc., as well as some off the radar attempts of my own, with the long tenured breakfast cook (who at one point looked me square in eye and said "I have been here long before you and I will be here long after you are gone), I came to the conclusion that his termination was the solution. Corporate told me that I could not fire him. My solution,... I moved to the Caribbean.

    That mentality is not strictly limited to corporate environments though, I have encountered eerily similar situations in small independent operations as well. The only place that I have been assured of being free of that mentality was in my own restaurant.
     
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  19. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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    Hmm.... possibly the worst advice so far! Good, get angry. At least you’ll know you’re alive! The funniest thing about your post is that you are offended by the word millennial. Very telling. Oh yeah, fuck off while you are at it! There’s a difference between not following good advice, and receiving crappy advice! I’m not sorry if I offended your delicate sensibilities, but in all fairness my goal is to be kicked off this forum! JCOTC, never intended for this all to be so fun, but it’s becoming more so with every reply!! Lol!!!!
     
  20. Emcel

    Emcel Banned

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    Thank you! Very respectful and thought provoking. I really appreciate it.