4 ways to create a culture of care at your foodservice operation

Keep employees engaged and content on the job with these ideas from restaurant operators.
Portillo's VP of Learning and Development John Isbell speaks to the crowd at the National Restaurant Association show.
Photo: Benita Gingerella

The Great Resignation has left foodservice operators scrambling to not only find ways to attract new employees, but also keep the ones they have. During this year’s National Restaurant Association Show, several operators revealed how they’re focusing on mental health and career advancement to keep staff happy on the job.

Here are four ideas they shared around promoting a culture of care within your team.

1. Have employees set goals on day one

At Buffalo Wild Wings, new employees are encouraged to plan out their goals from day one as part of the onboarding process

“We walk our team members through how to create a personal goal and a career goal,” says Vice President of Training Rachel Richal. “And a career goal can be something that has nothing to do with our business, but we want them to know that if it's to be a nurse, we are here to support them through their education to be a nurse.”

After creating their goals, employees write them down on a Buffalo Wild Wings sauce bottle, which is then displayed on a wall in the restaurant.

2. Start a charitable fund within your operation

To help employees who may be struggling, the team at Portillo’s created a charitable fund called the Heart of Portillo’s. Money is raised by Portillo’s employees through one-time donations, paycheck donations and different fundraising events such as a 5K run says VP of Learning and Development John Isbell.

Employees going through a rough time are then invited to apply to receive financial assistance through the fund.

3. Think of wellness as a wheel 

Wellness requires a holistic approach, says Kelly McCutcheon, vice president of people at Hopdoddy Burger Bar. As operators look to begin a wellness program for employees, she recommends using a wellness wheelwhich illustrates different types of wellness such as physical, emotional and financial, to figure out what programs and resources to provide to staff.

“Anybody who has ever had a financial crisis in their lives knows the toll that that can take on you mentally, right?,” she says. “So in order to be proactive with mental wellness, start with physical wellness, social wellness, emotional wellness, financial wellness, etc.”

4. Leverage your team

When Hopdoddy was looking to provide more health and wellness resources for employees, the chain turned to Hopdoddy workers themselves. 

“We have a chef who's super passionate about fitness,” says McCutcheon. “He created a couple of fitness videos that we shared with our team. We also have an accountant who is also a yoga instructor, so she created some mindful meditations that we were able to share out. Embrace that many hands make light work.”


More from our partners