From the Restaurant Kitchen – Rules vs. Guidelines

When does your staff need a long list of incredibly specific rules, and when can you trust in their innate professionalism to make the right call based on your guidelines and expectations?

My team has a RULE that raw meat can never be on the same board as veg. But we have a GUIDELINE that we prefer not to accept Euros (we’re in a country that doesn’t use the Euro but is surrounded by countries that do).

If I see a cook toss a raw chicken thigh onto a board where he’s shredding lettuce, there’s no excuse in the world that protects him from the fire and lighting I’m about to rain down on him.

But when a tourist comes straight to our food truck from the airport and she only has Euros on her, my staff isn’t going to make her walk away hungry. They know that I might not love accepting foreign currency, but I really hate disappointing customers because of slavish adherence to arbitrary rules.

This dichotomy shows up everywhere in our business:

  • Do you insist that your kitchen crew wear hairnets, or do you trust them to come to work properly groomed?
  • Do you use transparent trash cans to monitor waste, or have you instilled the “NO WASTE” mantra into your staff for so long that they wouldn’t dream of throwing out usable product?
  • Does your floor staff have a script of how to greet each table, or do you trust their charisma and instincts and let them improvise?

There’s no right answer.

Rules can make excellent guardrails for a fast food joint with a young staff and a high turnover rate. But there’s no faster way to demotivate an experienced, professional crew than by not trusting their judgement (sometimes).