By Erin Rice
Working with a food services provider is about more than just providing your employees with healthy meals to eat. It's also an incredible opportunity to increase the engagement of those employees by making your cafe the culture center of your organization. It's a chance to show them that you care about their health and wellness, which in turn positively affects their performance as well.
But delicious meals and incredible menus aren't willed into existence automatically. They're the product of a collaborative, supportive relationship between your business and the provider you've chosen to work with. Therefore, if you truly want to create better menus that have a deeper and more meaningful impact, you must begin by learning how to work effectively with the chef you now have access to.
Chefs Have More Responsibilities Than You Realize
Every time a chef works with a new business on corporate food services, they're essentially doing their job for the very first time.
All businesses are different, so there's no "one size fits all" approach to what they're trying to accomplish. They need to learn as much as they can about your business, its processes and its people so they can use their talents to offer support by way of healthy, delicious meals. By virtue of this, creating a menu is itself a time consuming process.
Having said that, chefs are also busier than you probably think. This is because creating those menus and even food prep are only portions of the activities they have to spend their time on.
In addition to those culinary responsibilities, chefs also have administrative ones, too. They're largely in control of how a cafe is being run and have a hand in making sure that all elements (including graphics and other signage) are coming together as they should. They also have a financial responsibility to their job. It's their duty to make sure they're not exceeding a set budget. During meals, they're always on the floor speaking to customers and getting invaluable feedback that can be used to improve things moving forward.
Working effectively with your chef requires you to understand all of this and do what you can to support it. By becoming more aware of what a chef actually does all day, you'll be able to better identify opportunities where you can genuinely lend a helping hand when you're needed. You'll have a better idea of what a chef is doing and why it's important, allowing you to help when it's necessary and more or less stay out of the way when it isn't.
Empowering Culinary Creativity Requires You to Enable It
More than anything, you'll need to acknowledge that chefs are creative individuals first and foremost. Instead of expressing that creativity by way of photographs or paintings, they're doing it with meals. Therefore, the best way to work effectively with your chef is to make sure they have the space necessary to leverage that creativity to your advantage.
This is true both in terms of "physical" space and with regards to the larger creative process. Don't assume that they're someone who needs to be directed. Doing so will only stifle that essential creativity. Instead, embrace feedback mechanisms throughout the day. Make sure that chefs have easy access to helpful, constructive feedback from the end users themselves. Resist the urge to try to influence your own food choices into the cafe. Instead, help your chef collect actionable, insightful reactions from your employees.
This will help your chef get what they need, so they can in turn put themselves in a better position to give your employees what they want.