Close quarters, long hours, high stress levels and expectations of perfection can create a challenging environment – made even more challenging when your team is not working in unison. 

For a kitchen to produce exceptional food, teams have to be in sync. In-fighting, confusion and inexperience can lead to difficulties retaining staff and a poor customer experience. 

However, teams that work seamlessly together don’t just happen. The #FairKitchens Code uses 5 values that are common in effective teams to emphasize the importance of creating a positive kitchen culture.  Hear from our UFS South-Africa chefs how they interpret the values in the code and give advice on how they help their team work together. 


TALK OPENLY  - about how you are all feeling 

Teams that communicate effectively complete projects more quickly and efficiently than those who don’t. Effective communication also allows team members to understand their roles and the roles of their teammates, and fosters empathy, understanding, friendliness and confidence.

Chef Tebogo Ramatsui, Chef at Unilever Food Solutions says:

“As the Head Chef, clearly defining roles and setting clear expectations is vital to building a slick and efficient team. Thoroughly explain scheduling procedures, processes and procedures. Keep your staff informed of all developments and always get their feedback on how things are working. I quite like morning stand-ups, where we discuss people’s concerns in an open and constructive environment. It’s also good to share personal victories and congratulate team members on a job well done. This type of environment can only foster an open, honest and effective team.”


EXCITE PASSION - and remind yourself and others why you love what you do

Well-trained employees are effective employees. If you want a Chef to perform well, you train him to master the culinary techniques that he needs for the job. However, we often forget about the emotional aspects of the job.

Chef Mary Worthington, Unilever Food Solutions Chef, says:

“In my experience, it’s important to teach every employee about how they contribute to the overall guest experience. Making the dishwasher feel important to the team is a way to make them feel important, needed and necessary to the success of the team. This makes them feel more invested in the success of the operation. When all your employees see the big picture, they are all likely to feel a part of the business, which is hugely important to its success.”


ACT AS ONE - to support each other and stay connected 

You’re not going to run a successful business or kitchen on your own. No man is an island, and to be a success, you need people to help. That’s why it is so important to establish a culture of mutual respect in your kitchen.

Chef Heidi Heckmann, Chef at Unilever Food Solutions, says:

“When a work environment feels like a family, employees will always do more than expected. When people feel valued, appreciated, heard and respected they will go above and beyond for their employer. In my experience, a kitchen based on an ethos of respect will always outperform a kitchen based on an ethos of fear or humiliation.”


MAKE TIME - to do something you always wanted to do

Working in the food service industry is tough, and all Chefs realise that long hours are part of the job. However, it is also important to realise that long hours and late shifts with no relief can wreak havoc on employees’ physical and emotional well being.

Chef Danielle Venter, Chef at Unilever Food Solutions, says:

“If there is one way to sap an employee’s motivation and passion, it’s to expect them to work long hours with no break. It’s so important to encourage a culture of balance, where employees take scheduled breaks to refresh and recharge. They then return to the kitchen full of energy, passion and focus – which is exactly what you want from your staff.”


SAY 'GOOD JOB' - for the small things 

Once you have an employee who is trained and experienced, the last thing you want to do is see them leave the business because they feel stressed or unappreciated. Think of ways you can reward your staff to keep them feeling engaged, motivated and happy as recognition leads to retention. 

Chef Pinky Linah Maruping, Chef at Unilever Food Solutions, says:

“Rewarding staff doesn’t always have to be monetary. It can be a call out at a group meeting, where you highlight and praise the good work of a staff member. It could be something as simple as an afternoon off. The point is to recognise and reward staff members who are performing well. Let’s face it: everyone wants recognition!”