The restaurant industry is notorious for turnover and burnout. I myself have reached that very crispy existence in my career a few times. Good news is that you can turn it around if you want. Bad news is that most people would rather play the victim and just fade away. It takes hard work and desire to change however, I promise you that it is well worth the effort.
These steps are the exact same one I have used to get more from myself and achieve increased satisfaction and happiness in my career and personal life.
1. For Christ sake…eat better!
Working in restaurants we are surrounded by fresh ingredients and outstanding food, yet so many of us eat like crap. Seriously, you need to stop that. When I was younger I did not treat my body very well. Let’s call it the “bad chef lifestyle” and leave it at that.
In the past five years, I have really started to pay attention to the fuel that I put in my body. I want you to start thinking of the food you eat as exactly that…fuel. You want to be at the top of your game then you need to start taking better care of your body by feeding it the stuff that will let it run at full speed. Good nutrition is the basis of physical and mental performance. Trust me, I have been there and now that I look back, I am amazed I am not dead. 14 hour shifts on your feet all day and not eating well will take it’s toll on your body as well as your mind.
We share our passion for cooking with others by preparing incredible food. It’s time you treated yourself just as good as your guests. If you do you will find that you have better energy and are not prone to the up and down roller coaster of blood sugar levels.
2. Get to the gym!
Do you see a theme emerging in this blog post? Yes, taking care of yourself need to go to the top of your list. I like to call it “self care”. The old saying that your body is a temple is very true. If you want to be a high performer then you need to get in some exercise.
I personally like to hit the gym in the morning before going to work. I tried to go after work, however after a 14 hour day in the kitchen the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym. I had about a 50% cancellation rate with myself when I tried to go after work. Not good.
Now I schedule it first thing in the morning. I call it “my hour of power”. Get my mindset straight for the day, look at my calendar so I hit the ground running. I also find that by working out first thing in the morning I give my body a really good kick-start of endorphin and neurochemicals that are better than coffee and Red Bulls.
3. Schedule vacations and really take them.
I know you can get some vacation time. You really need to get away from it once and awhile. All work and no play just makes you a grumpy chef or owner! Can I get a witness?
I used to love to tell everyone that I had not taken a vacation in years. It was my badge of honor at the time. Over the years I have come to appreciate seeing the world and getting an new view on life. I also now use “vacation time” to explore new restaurants and really get into some cuisine research.
It’s good for your team to run it for a few days without you. They need to grow too. Vacation time will give your team a chance to step up and show you what they can really do. You need to give them that opportunity.
4. Delegate or get people you can delegate to.
Going back to the vacation topic just discussed, I hear this excuse a lot: “I can’t trust my team!” Well, then here is my answer, “You either change your team or you CHANGE THE TEAM!”
If you cannot trust the people you have working for you, then why are they there?
Selection is one of the most important responsibilities you have! Getting the right people on your team, in the right position and playing to their natural strengths is not an option. You say there are “no good people” out there and I will say, “you are not looking in the right places”.
I have walked away from lucrative consulting gigs because the owner just would not get rid of the people who were 80-90% of the issues in the restaurants poor performance. If you do not care enough to cut loose the people who are pulling your restaurant down, then you are wasting my time and your money. I hate to waste time.
5. Get to bed and get some damn sleep.
I’ll admit that from time to time I look at the clock and yell, “holy crap, it’s 2am, I need to get to bed!”. The restaurant lifestyle is designed for us to be night walkers. Work all day and get home around 11pm or later. Then of course you just have to unwind a bit. Next thing you know it is 2am and you wondered where did the time go?
Here is an idea, trust your team! Give closing responsibilities to a member of your team. They feel valuable to you and you’ll get home at a better time.
Now the trick is not to waste that precious time and stay up all night. There is nothing good on the 300+ channels you have on cable, turn that crap off and read a damn book! Read something that captures your passion, whether cookbooks, business books or maybe you just want to escape into a great fiction. Do it! Then get in bed at a decent time! Your body and mind will be greatly appreciative for it.
6. Stop being the martyr.
Oh, whoa is me! I work all the time! I am so busy!
STOP IT! Hey, your busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy. Human beings tend to be busy. So let’s drop the drama and the playing the victim. That is a debilitating disease that can only be cured by one person. That would be you.
We bond to the chemicals our brain releases when we are happy, sad and just want to be the victim it kicks into high gear to give us what we crave. STOP IT! You are more than letting your emotions run wild in your head.
Here is a crazy idea. Try meditation. I know, I know…some fancy woo-woo crap! Actually it’s not like that at all. I have been meditating for 5 years now and it has been a game changer. Increased focus, reduced stress and decreased mood swings (which for a chef is huge).
7. Dump negative energy and people from your restaurant & your life!
There are such things as vampires. They are negative energy vampires and they will suck every drop of positive energy from you. I have been battling these creatures my entire life. It takes courage to fight these demons and there are more of them out there then you realize. Once you rid your life of these negativity vampires, your life will become so much better, brighter and happier.
If you allowed one of these vampires into your restaurant, then you need to get rid of them as soon as you can. They always cause way more damage then any skill they do bring to the business. There mission is to spread their negativity like a virus throughout your restaurant. They want control. They want everyone as unhappy as they are. In my own quest for happiness and a positive-based lifestyle I have had to make some very tough decisions in my own life. I have had to cut ties with friends and some family. It was not easy, however I am happier and when I see them from the outside, I see with clarity how really unhappy they are. Mostly with themselves and that is sad.
Burnout happens. I have been there quite a few times in my own career. Follow these tips and you can turn it around.