Develop Struggling Team Members

Joined Jun 3, 2013
Hi guys,

I'm struggling with a few people on my roster that I would prefer to develop rather than replace. They have qualities of employees that I want to keep on staff, however their skills aren't quite there.

For Instance i have a broil cook, he can cook and knows his temps...except when its slammed. He gets in his own head, doesn't have the confidence and shuts down during busy spurts.

On slower days he does just fine, when we get large parties, myself or others have to bail him out. He will stop selling food and look like a deer in headlights.

How can i help him build confidence?

I have another young cook. He has been in every station in the kitchen and just doesn't seem happy anywhere we place him. One of those people how carries on about needing 40 hours, but will complain about doing anything extra than his specified workload. He is reliable, and will do anything i ask him to, even if he's not thrilled. When it comes to helping his teammates though he will watch them go down rather than stepping in.

Im good at teaching people how to cook, techniques, how to set up mine, working clean and organizes thats all relatively easy.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Joined Mar 1, 2017
If your grill cook literally shuts down and stands there like a deer in the headlights when the kitchen is busy, why do you want to keep him? Because he does ok when its slow? That's not really a reason to retain him.

The only question that matters here is whether or not you believe he can come around. If he shuts down during high stress situations, that's not something that a chef is qualified to remedy. That's sounds more like an emotional or mental health issue.

In any case, if you are determined to try and rehab this cook, you have to find out why he shuts down under stress. The only way to do that is take the issue head on. Sit him down and have a talk. Ask why he shuts down. Learn his methods and see if you can't develop a system that helps him be more efficient.

As for the other guy that watches his team crash, you should seriously consider getting rid of him. He is one of those employees that no matter what you do, is toxic and is always counterproductive to cooperation. They destroy morale and cohesion which is a death sentence to any kitchen brigade.

Good luck. :)
Joined May 30, 2019
Both sound like they have personal issues that only they can correct.
Questions for you..

Have you set the expectation for acceptable performance/behavior with your entire staff?

Do you have re-occurring one on one's with each staff member to talk about their specific "opportunity" to improve and then provided them with what they need to improve, coaching, tools, books, etc.?

If you've done all this and they still don't get it then the only thing left is to start the accountability process, documenting each occurrence with company approved documents. Doing this will either get them moving in your desired direction or will get them moving out the door. With out the proper pressure applied, people will not change.
Joined Feb 18, 2007
How long have you worked with them? Did you hire them or inherit them? Do you think there are learning disabilities, or maybe anxiety issues in play here? I've found that every time I hire a new person I have to rethink how I write production lists based on how they process information. When your grill guy starts to get busy, he shuts down because he probably doesn't know how to organize the influx of tickets. Show him how to do that in the moment - how to organize the work flow - what to do first, next, etc (and repetition is key to learning a new habit and it takes time. It doesn't happen in one shift. You might see some change after a week. It takes a while to learn a new task.) Maybe the other guy has probably been screwed a bunch of times and now knows it's better to hold back than help out; does he ever get in a situation where he needs help? How does the team respond when he needs help?
Joined Sep 21, 2001
I believe the best thing to do is have an honest discussion one on one with each of your cooks. Tell them your concerns and let them tell you what they believe they need from you in the way of support so they can work at the level you need them to perform. This isn't about them as people, it is about their place in the kitchen and if they are capable of doing what the job necessitates.
They need to find their desire to be committed to working with you and learning the skills and methods of your kitchen. Respect goes both ways!
If for some reason they don't believe they have what it takes or the desire to work with your team? Then maybe they should think about moving to someplace that inspires them and let someone who would be inspired to have this position take their place.
Good luck!!
Joined Sep 17, 2018
I would keep the first guy for a little while longer with some training and ditch the second. The first one seems like they have the ambition, just not the skills set, which can be taught. But even there, there are limitations and in the end this is a business not a charity and it is nothing personal against the employee. The second may be reliable, but will only be bad for you in the long run. Just because someone is reliable or good at their job doesn't excuse being the toxic element in a kitchen that can harm other employees work experiences. If they aren't happy with all the changes you have tried they will never be. Some people just love to always complain and be unhappy at work.
Joined Dec 23, 2004
Is the broil guy young or new to your place? If he knows how to hit the temps but can't handle the pace it's probably something that will work out with some time. Speed is the last component and relies on repetition. If he's fairly new just give him time to acclimate to the line.

The second cook probably requires a sit down/heart to heart. Ask him if he's happy, and if not try to see why not. Is there something going on outside of work? Is there something [reasonable] you could do to make his job more rewarding? Bitching about "extra" tasks is a red flag to me since there really aren't any extra tasks in a kitchen. I would just keep the lines of communications open with him and discuss it with him. As an aside I would also note that people have a different 'thermostat' for happiness. It may just be his personality, something that's not likely to change without a lot of time and effort.
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