How restaurants can rediscover the human factor

How can the industry lead when it comes to treating staff well? This was the subject of the latest Academy seminar, which sought to understand how restaurants could rediscover the human factor.

Taking part was one of the world’s best chefs in Andreas Caminada, of three-Michelin-star Schloss Schauenstein in Fürstenau, Switzerland, and one of its most progressive restaurateurs in Brian Canlis, the third-generation owner (alongside his brother Mark) of the Canlis restaurant in Seattle, USA.

The human factor in restaurant teams saw both present their philosophy for managing staff and nurturing talent, and their experiences, successes and challenges in short presentations, followed by a discussion and Q&A session with the Academy Members.

According to Caminada, who opened Schloss Schauenstein in 2003 with just four members of staff (it now has over 60), “You as a boss-owner have to live the values yourself as a role model. It’s about humanity, it’s about respect.”

The Swiss chef also talked about his Fundaziun Uccelin: founded in 2015 it pays for young chefs to travel and work around the world for six months, as a way of giving back to the industry. “We want to give young talents wings,” said Caminada.

For Canlis, the mission statement of his restaurant, which opened in 1950 and has recently been enjoying its most successful period, is simple: “Our hope is to inspire people to turn toward each other.” For him, caring about the welfare of the staff is as important as the food or the service. “We use a philosophy called ‘True North.' I’m going to assume the best thing about you,” he said.

Both also discussed how very different work legislation in Switzerland and the US impacts the human factor in their respective restaurants and how they go the extra mile to ensure they are happy places to work. And how sometimes you must learn to let go of your best people if they want to explore new opportunities.

“Tell me why [leaving] is the best thing for your life. If you can convince me, I’ll support you 100%,” said Canlis.

The seminar continued the Academy’s educational program for the academic year; the purpose of which is to help nurture the next generation of game-changing culinary talent. Recent seminars have focused on new job perspectives for chefs, and how to work with local producers and manage a locally-focused food chain (with chefs Ana Roš and Manu Buffara). The seminars are available exclusively to members of the Academy’s private Facebook group.