Restaurant People Love Pain – by Lindsay Wood, Founder of Restaurant Wings

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Sisyphus picLindsay Wood started creating fun, engaging restaurant training courses in 2011, and these days, you can find her program on She believes that people are at their best when they are serving others, and that includes the noble work of waiters, hosts and bussers. She loves teaching people in these so called “unskilled” jobs to excel and show off the best of humanity.

Restaurant People Love Pain

I began my online training business, in part, to take the burden of training off the shoulders of restaurant owners and managers. But one of the challenges that I didn’t foresee was the resistance some owners and managers would have to making their own lives easier.

This actually stands to reason: While your friends are watching TV on Saturday night, you are working like an octopus on Redbull to keep your restaurant afloat. Only a glutton for punishment would own a restaurant or manage a hotel. They aren’t the people who choose the easy thing, and they aren’t automatically willing to spend money where elbow grease might do the trick.

But in my experience, the best restaurant managers eventually conclude that pushing the boulder up the hill everyday doesn’t get them to where they want to be. They learn to improve the process with a little bit of innovation once in while, putting sanity just a little bit more in reach.

So, if you are still into the Sisyphus method, read no further. But if you are open to a little innovation, I’ve got a couple ideas.

When Are You Breaking The Rules?

Let’s start with a hypothetical: If the speed limit is 35 mph, how fast can you go before you are “speeding?” Technically the answer is 36 mph, yet none of us would claim to be speeding at that rate. Maybe 41 mph would be speeding, but slower than that is a bit of grey area. Still, if you were a bicyclist on the same road you might ferociously defend a 35 mph limit and not cut motorists any slack at all.

The moral of that story is that rules can be flexible, depending on the situation and perspective. When a restaurant gets a gigantic delivery, different people might look at it in different ways. An employee might see an-over abundance of goodies that can be modestly pilfered without crossing into theft territory – the rough equivalent of going 41 mph in a 35 mph zone. But if you are the owner, you probably feel like the stickler-for-the-rules bicyclist. The risk to breaking the rules are more consequential for you, and you wish people would just follow the law!

bicycleSeeing From The Bicycle’s Perspective

You see your restaurant from the bicyclist’s perspective, but your employees are probably seeing it from the car perspective. What can you do to get people out of the grey area and closer to the letter and spirit of the rules? First, you can remind them of the rules and the reason for them. You can help your team understand that restaurants aren’t banks. Profit margins are thin, product matters, and you and the other managers actually aren’t stockpiling money in a mansion on the hill.

This is such an important concept that I include a section in my online restaurant training courses about small profit margins and importance of squeezing every penny out of the product.

An Easy Deterrent

The other thing that you can do is give your employees a way to let you know if there is a problem.

I once worked at a small restaurant with a lead cook who routinely stole huge cuts of meat after the owner had left. And it made me mad: Here I was, working hard and buying myself modest pasta dinners with my small paycheck while this guy effectively stole his way into an unauthorized raise and ate like a king. I knew that I couldn’t tell the chef, who was probably in on it. And I couldn’t tell the owner either, because he always made such a point of pride out of allegedly knowing everything that happened at the restaurant, and I didn’t want to pop that bubble face to face. So I let it go on, but it did contribute to me leaving the restaurant eventually.

Ethics Suite is the accessible version of what all large, successful restaurants and hotels use for keeping employees honest and effective. You don’t need a huge chain before ethics issues start cropping up. But affording a traditional ethics hotline can be a stretch for most of us. Ethics Suite is the resource that you must use in your restaurant to save money, improve moral and prevent law suites.

Of course, the topic of ethics in your establishment is much broader and more important than I’ve had the time to outline here. For more information about how unchecked ethics problems could land you in court, read this important post from Ethics Suite:

For more articles (like How to Stop Babysitting Your Staff (as much)), extra tips and free downloads visit

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