If there’s one thing that corporate office culture can learn from restaurants, it’s the importance of a good staff meal. Staff meals, or family meals as they’re so often called, are paramount to the culture of many restaurants. From world renowned restaurants to small mom and pop diners, kitchen and front-of-house staff make it a priority to sit down for a team meal before every busy dinner service.
But we’re not talking about grabbing something quickly, taking it to a quiet corner and scarfing it down solo, either. Some of these family meals are as legendary as the restaurants themselves. There’s even cookbooks about many of the dishes. Time, money, thought and effort went into them. So why go to all this effort?
A brief look at staff meals in restaurants
Our first great example of legendary staff meals is at LA’s famous Bestia restaurant. This is one of the hardest places in the country to get a reservation. Bestia is an italian restaurant that’s only open for dinner and is considered some of the best homemade pastas, pizzas and charcuties in the U.S. In order to eat lunch there, however, you have to actually work there.
Every day, the entire kitchen and restaurant staff sit down for an award-winning style lunch. Sometimes, meals are made from leftovers to avoid wasting food. But other days a different chef makes whatever they want—from traditional family recipes to new ideas for menu items they had. Some of these meals can take hours to prepare and the ingredients are ordered in specifically for that particular staff meal.
Of course all of this costs time and money. But it’s worth it for them. “For me, family meal is the thing that sets the day,” says Ori Menashe, Bestia’s executive chef, in an interview with HuffPost. “If family meal isn’t great, people don’t feel good.”
At Chez Panisse, Chef Alice Waters also prioritizes family meals. And we’re not talking about a quick bite before service either. Over 30 of the most renowned chefs, office employees and team members sit down and share three family meals a day. For them, this is a time to bond and show appreciation for one another, something that is fundamental to the Chez Panisse’s culture. If they have kitchen leftovers they use them, but they make it a nice meal, as if it’s being served to the public.
According to England’s The Fat Duck head chef Jonny Lake, making a big deal of staff food helps build team morale and raises standards. “From a chef’s perspective, if you don’t care enough to put up good-quality staff food, what does that say about you?,” he says in an article to the Guardian.
What can other industries and companies learn from restaurants?
Sure, restaurants are in the business of making food. This is a chef’s chance to make something new, inspire the staff and get creative with new menu items. But not every restaurant prioritizes staff meals. So what if it’s not about the food?
For Bestia’s executive chef, “it’s about creating an environment that’s like a family, where people are sitting down together, joking and laughing and talking. I’ve worked at restaurants without family meal, and it’s not the same. When my shift ended, I just wanted to get out of there.”
Most businesses (some restaurants included) view staff meals as a necessity during a long meeting, shift or work event, rather than an added benefit. It’s too often viewed as a costly inconvenience. Especially when staff is only legally required the time to consume a meal. But what if team meals didn’t have to be a costly inconvenience? And what can we learn from those restaurants that choose to offer sustenance for employees and are reaping so many other benefits?
What if staff meals serve as a team building opportunity? After all, this is how many of the world’s best restaurants communicate with their teams. It’s how they set the tone for service, strengthen relationships, encourage conversations and inspire creativity. What if companies in other industries did the same?
Chef Wylie Dufresne at WD-50 in New York once said “I don’t think everyone here is the best of friends, but for the most part I think they’re friendly. So if you can’t make good food for your friends, how can you make good food for strangers?” The same could be said of any product or service offering.
Here at Foodee, we believe that teams should eat great meals together. It strengthens the relationships and company culture, keeps employees well-fed, energized and productive and gives them a chance to restart and refuel for the day. And because we understand the love and care that so many local owner-operated restaurants put into their dishes (and staff meals), we only partner with them. We work with local restaurants to create custom menus and deliver their delicious local eats to companies for any meeting, event or staff meal.