Ask anyone who has worked a kitchen job and they’ll most likely tell you the same thing; it’s not as glamorous as movies, TV, or social media makes it out to be. The hours are long, the schedules are tough and the kitchen becomes your life. Feeling passionately about creating food is a necessity for many people working in the foodservice industry. If you don’t have that fire inside of you, wanting to creatively expand how you think about food, it’s hard to keep up with the heat of the kitchen, so to speak.
Laurens Defour, CEO of Les 3 Brasseurs, is working to increase loyalty and passion in the foodservice industry, as well create a better work environment for kitchen employees.
Restaurant life is hectic and demanding, and while businesses like Les 3 Brasseurs are trying to help fix this, in order to retain employees and recruit talent, there isn’t exactly a band-aid solution to solve this issues instantly.
According to Defour, “there is no quick fix, each company will choose its strategy according to its own needs. Les 3 Brasseurs have chosen to work around a key theme, passion: the passion of the job, the passion of good eating and the passion of the customer.”
There is no restaurant or hotel that is immune to labour shortages in the kitchen. The hustle and bustle of a kitchen can result in high turnover rates for the foodservice industry. Defour explains that the working conditions for kitchen staff are unattractive, in addition to the long and unusual schedules. “No wonder the industry is struggling to find recruits willing to train or to retain the existing ones,” says Defour.
To combat this, Les 3 Brasseurs is aiming to build loyalty and commitment. “Above all else, we put the passion of the profession at the top of fundamental values which are the basis of our profession and that we sometimes tend to forget because of an endless race to reach the performance of our industry,” says Defour.
It may seem that employee retention would come down to supply and demand; the restaurant offering the highest salary will win the labour game. However, this approach doesn’t always build loyalty; another restaurant might move into the neighbourhood in six months and offer just a little more – how many employees would jump ship for this newer restaurant?
“Above all else, we put the passion of the profession at the top of fundamental values which are the basis of our profession and that we sometimes tend to forget because of an endless race to reach the performance of our industry,”
Les 3 Brasseurs has chosen to take the approach of instilling passion in their employees in order to foster a culture of commitment, loyalty and pride in the work that they do. They have taken the direction of “recruiting passionate people and inspiring those currently working with them through the love of work that is done well.”
Being able to maintain a roster of talent via motivation is a challenge, however, “in small and medium-sized businesses, a sense of belonging to a business is essential to keeping employees. This pride of belonging is also a way to make people accept more difficult working conditions.”
It’s important to note that while a commitment to the job is important, it is balance that will lead to a happier team. You must be able to offer something the competition either cannot or is not willing to offer. Les 3 Brasseurs has come up with a list of things they are trying to implement to build this passion to the job, as well as loyalty.
A “balance between personal and professional life, by proposing more flexible schedules,” is one key element. They are also looking to offer opportunities for people to improve their skills by offering not only proper training when starting the job, but the chance to earn diploma certificates, as “continuing education secures, values and retains employees.”
And certainly, having pride in the work you produce, whether you are part of a chain restaurant or a five-star dining experience, is key. Les 3 Brasseurs offers events that promote the fresh produce that they use and the chance to visit the farms and producers that supply them, as well as take part in the harvest, allowing staff to work hands-on and understand all that goes into the making of the food they work with. Dedicated staff do not want to “simply open a bag of frozen product,” but rather cook from scratch and put their skills to work.
When asked why someone would choose his restaurant over another, Defour says, “the economic profitability of a company does not always make it possible to be able to pay certain levels of wages and to offer a plethora of advantages. One must reconcile the financial aspect with the human aspect, to find the right balance especially for a network like ours, which currently has 19 restaurants.”
He also points out that each business offers it’s own variation of benefits so while it is hard to stand out from the competition, “it is the sense of belonging that we can create vis-à-vis our brand, taking precedence even over the financial benefits.” It takes time to change an industry that is very much set in its ways.
However, “results in terms of reduction of turnover are already perceptible, cooks are more committed, more proud of what they cook and serve our customers, a feeling of practicing their profession, a sense of work” can be found in their employees. Defour says it best, that “the employee is at the heart of the company on a human scale.” And your employee is your greatest ambassador. “For this, we know that we can also count on our current cooks, and for some that have been in our company for ten years and who are our best ambassadors. They will allow us to accompany this transformation and new vision of the job at home.”
It is an ongoing task that has proven to yield positive results thus far, though Defour points out that “the road is still long, but we are convinced that putting the job forward through the pride of a job done well and around good taste will help to retain our employees and attract new ones, it is for us a step in the right way.”