Tundra Restaurant Supply is the leading distributor of food service equipment, supplies and parts to innovative restaurant concepts. In this blof you will find latest restaurant news, resources, recipes & more.
Making the perfect pie gets easier with this collection of must-have pizza supplies! Great pizza starts with delicious dough, so be sure to use your dough cutter for the perfect portions each and every time. Hate bubbles in your crust? Use the dough docker pre-baking to minimize bubbles from forming; then arm yourself with your trusty bubble popper while it’s in the oven to remove unwanted bubbles! You’ll also love how easy it is to achieve crispy crust perfection by baking your pizzas on this dishwasher-safe pizza stone which helps to distribute heat evenly. Finally, add the finishing touch to your pizza with some new shakers filled with your favorite spices and cheese! Hurry, this contest ends March 23rd
The restaurant industry has notoriously been a late adopter when it comes to technology. When your back office is still running a 1990s era computer with Windows XP, it’s OK to admit that technology may not be your strong suit.
That said, there are so many ways that technology can help the way you run your business. With real-time reporting and easy data collection, technology can help you uncover insights about your P&L and even help you run a more efficient business.
Let’s go over 3 ways you should be utilizing technology in your restaurant:
1. Manage Your Inventory
Inventory management feels lot like a balancing act; you’re juggling fast-selling items, slow moving items, and walk-in space all at the same time. But where it really costs you is when you find product sitting on the shelves for far too long. Sitting product represents invested money with no return.
Efficient inventory management is all about keeping a low inventory while still having enough to meet your needs. Low inventory levels makes for less waste, spoilage and theft—plus you’ll reduce your food costs because you’re buying less! Finding that sweet spot is easier said than done, however new software solutions can help you get closer to achieving it. Real-time inventory tracking lets you know what you already have and what you need. Plus, new mobile apps also help with vendor invoice reconciliation to increase accuracy and handle discrepancies.
2. Sharpen Your Purchasing
Once you’ve got your inventory management dialed in, it’s time to use that data for smarter purchasing decisions. Hopefully you’ve opted for accurate real-time inventory tracking, because you’ll be able to track trends over time and have better control over your food quality. Analyze your data to review popular menu items—what sells and what doesn’t? Make sure you regularly swap out old menu items that aren’t performing so you aren’t holding onto inventory for long periods of time. Additionally, do you notice any seasonality when it comes to products? For example, are you selling more ceviche during those hot summer days than in the chilly winter? Find out what you’re selling too much/little of, and adjust your purchasing behavior accordingly.
When you take a deep dive into your inventory and purchasing behavior you can really start to get creative with your menu. Test new concepts as menu specials to gauge customer reception. It’s also a good idea to build a close relationship with your purveyors because they might have off cuts of meat or other additional products that they’re willing to give you a great deal on.
3. Examine Customer Behavior
Data collection is where technology really shines, and now you can leverage data more than ever when it comes to understanding your customer base. Between online ordering systems, loyalty programs and reservation systems, you can acquire important customer data like average check size, visit frequency and much more. Actively maintain customer profiles to offer them targeted messaging (maybe it’s been too long since their last visit?) or keep track of special VIPs and other guest relationships so you can deliver personalized and over-the-top experiences when they come in. Reservation systems are also a great way to find out your average turn times and analyze trends over time. For example, restaurants who participate in promotional events like “Restaurant Week” on average experience faster turn times, which in turn allows them to set more tables in a night
There’s no such thing as gathering too much data on your customer base. Train staff to ask questions like “Is this your first time dining with us?” and “How did you hear about us?” and then make sure those answers are logged somewhere. Equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible for more effective marketing campaigns.
What happens when a kitchen fire strikes in your restaurant, or you’re in the path of a 1,000 year flood? The odds of these disasters happening to you might be low, but who cares about odds when you’re the unlucky restaurant that has to close for 10 weeks following a kitchen fire just a week into opening!
How do you recover?
Some disasters are big enough that it forces businesses to shutter. Other businesses view the aftermath as an opportunity for a complete reinvention. Ensure you’re the latter by having a good insurance policy to keep you covered.
And start with a contingency plan.
Create a Contingency Plan
Contingency planning should not only be part of your disaster prevention but also a normal component to regular business activities. With a contingency plan you can prepare for not only large-scale disasters like kitchen fires, but also smaller incidents like a broken walk-in or electrical outage. A contingency plan means that you’re always prepared for the unexpected, and staff is ready to tackle any challenge, no matter who is at the restaurant that day.
When developing a contingency plan, first identify risks and prioritize them based on likelihood. Business-critical operations will vary from business to business, depending on your unique needs. Are you a quick service restaurant with a broken broiler that specializes in burgers? Or are you a sushi restaurant facing a broken display case and a serious food safety issue? Risks like spoiled food and broken equipment are just as important to include as a grease fire in the kitchen.
After you’ve outlined potential risks, define a process. Who should be notified when disaster strikes? Include seemingly obvious instructions, for example if there’s a threat to employee and customer safety, ensure they exit the building as quickly as possible. Empower your staff with simple, clear operating procedures so they’re ready to face disasters head-on.
For more information on developing your own contingency plan, click here.
What You Should Do After a Kitchen Fire
More fires start in the kitchen than any other place in a business or home. The speed at which a kitchen fire can spread makes it extremely dangerous. Working with gas ranges inherently increases your chance of a fire, which is why following a regular maintenance schedule is key to preventing a fire; check your gas hoses for any fraying or tearing and check for loose connections which might allow gas to seep out (we like the durability and reliability of Dormont gas hoses). Another item to have on your maintenance schedule? Hood filters. These handy parts filter out grease and other contaminants in the air before they make their way into your ductwork. Hood filters should be replaced every 6 months ago to effectively filter the air and keep you safe.
But what happens when a kitchen fire strikes your business? Depending on the severity of the fire, you could be looking at days, weeks or months of closure. When emergency officials declare that it’s safe for you to enter the space be prepared to get dirty. Grease fires leave a heavy scent of smoke in the space, and even though a surface may look clean, chemicals from extinguishers and/or fine particles may still be on surfaces, utensils and more.
Food and beverages that were located in or near the fire should immediately be thrown away. Not only does smoke contain harmful ingredients, but firefighting chemicals are extremely poisonous and cannot be safely washed off of foods. Even food stored in refrigerators are questionable because refrigerator seals are not tight. And sorry to say, even food preserved in cans and jars can be spoiled due splitting or cracking under extreme heat. For more about food safety after a fire, click here.
Don’t be afraid to call on professional help. Professional cleaning and restoration companies can assist you with proper sanitization of equipment and utensils. Also call upon electricians to review wiring (and prevent other risks) and HVAC techs to inspect your ducts to avoid long-term issues.
What You Should Do After a Flood
I wish I could say that just water damage itself is all you have to consider in a flood, however, there’s much more you have to be concerned about. Once large floodwaters have receded and city officials deem it’s safe to enter your property, come prepared with a shovel. That’s because your first step will be shoveling away as much of that contaminated mud as possible; floodwaters contain a lot of mud, insects, refuse (which carries bacteria and is the source for serious illnesses like Cholera, Typhoid, Hepatitis and more) and in some cases, small animals. And since water penetrates everything, you could be facing long-term issues of mold and mildew which won’t manifest themselves until weeks, months or years later.
In addition to tracking down local electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs, contractors and more to inspect your space, be sure to start disinfecting every surface from front of house to back. Sterilize your flatware, dinnerware, pots, supplies and replace items like disposables, fryer paper, and other paper products.
Finally, don’t forget to replace every single water filter in your kitchen. From your ice machine to coffee maker, you will absolutely need a fresh water filter in place once your equipment has been adequately cleaned and sterilized.
For more information on flood clean-up procedures, click here.
What You Should Do After an Active Shooter Situation
From schools, to music concerts, restaurants and more—these days you (unfortunately) can’t overlook the possibility of an active shooter in your restaurant. With flood or fire most of the damage done is physical, and things like ranges and ductwork can be replaced.
But with an active shooter, the problems you and your staff will face in the aftermath will take more time to heal.
Firstly, check on your personal wellbeing in addition to the wellbeing of your staff. Everyone processes traumatic events differently, so do not expect employees to tackle grief in the same way as you. Give employees the opportunity for time off as needed, and consider leveraging local counseling and support resources for staff. Make these services available to employees who may need more help during difficult times.
Once you’ve evaluated the mental health of you and your staff, get your business ready for customers again by repairing damage as needed. If the budget allows, scrap and remodel as much as you can within the space lest you remind customers and staff of the horrific events that occurred. When you’re ready for service, consider hosting a grand re-opening party with proceeds benefiting the community and victim’s families.
Prix fixe menus have long been a staple in Europe, but it wasn’t until the 2009 recession that we really saw them take off in the states. Typically offering a 3-course combination consisting of an appetizer, entrée and dessert, the prix fixe menu was initially employed to draw in customers during a sluggish economy. Since then customers in the states have become more familiar with prix fixe menus, with many relishing the chance to enjoy special dishes not ordinarily seen on the menu or just happy to score a good meal on a night out.
For chefs and owners, prix fixe menus are a great marketing opportunity to bring new customers in the door, exercise some creativity, and even use it as a “tasting” opportunity for new additions to the regular menu. Prix fixe menus also work well for special events and holidays that almost guarantee a busy night—not only does it ease the pressure on the kitchen, but did you know you can turn more tables as well? When you take the guesswork out of ordering, customers can make faster decisions on their dinner.
Does a Prix Fixe Menu Make Sense For You?
First things first: Should you offer a prix fixe menu in your restaurant? Let’s be honest, in some cases a prix fixe menu is little more than a fancy combo meal. There are benefits to offering a prix fixe menu in your restaurant, including accurate estimates for your price per head and more efficient kitchen service. However, keep in mind that some prix fixe menus might scare diners away who don’t want to make that initial financial commitment or prefer freedom of choice while ordering.
Ultimately you have to consider your objective with a prix fixe menu. Is it to increase your price per head by slightly raising the guest check size? Is it to drum up business on traditionally slow nights? James Beard Award Winning Restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine, hosts a regular, special Monday night prix fixe tasting menu at half the cost of their regular prix fixe menus; they often book out weeks in advance.
There are many ways that restaurants to incorporate a prix fixe menu at your restaurant, and choosing the right approach will be key to its success:
Prix Fixe Only
There are only a handful of restaurants that can pull off an entirely prix fixe only menu option for diners. Typically those restaurants have attained a high level of notoriety (think The French Laundry) and have become destination-style restaurants who’ve obtained the notoriety for prix-fixe only menus.
Prix Fixe for Lunch
Fine dining restaurants who are popular in the evening but want to drum up their lunch service may consider offering prix fixe menu. Diners who might find your restaurant too expensive to visit at dinner will jump at the opportunity to visit at lunch, which could be less than half of the cost of your dinner service.
Prix fixe Alongside an A La Carte Menu
Offering both a prix fixe menu and your a la carte menu might dispel customer concerns, but it could prove challenging for your front and back of house to execute. Should you choose to offer both menus, consider making your prix fixe menu a limited offering of your regular a la carte menu to minimize strain on the kitchen.
Holidays and Special Events
Holidays like Valentine’s Day or special events like Restaurant Week are guaranteed to be a busy night of service for all involved. During these occasions a prix fixe menu can go a long way to streamlining orders and helping the kitchen execute dishes consistently. Additionally, prix fixe menus also help you turn more tables because there’s far less decision-making that customers need to do. As a result, you may find yourself being able to accommodate a third turn over the course of the evening.
Menu Planning and Pricing
So you’ve decided to offer a prix fixe menu at your restaurant—great! Now’s the tricky part: what are you going to feature on your menu? Prix fixe menus take many forms. You might use a prix fixe menu as a limited offering of easy-to-execute dishes on your regular menu. Or maybe it’s an opportunity for your chef to get creative with new ingredients or test out potential regular menu additions. Whatever you decide, make sure that it makes sense for your brand and concept, “I believe with my whole heart that you have to represent yourself,” says Chef and Owner of D Bar, Keegan Gerhard.
Pricing your prix fixe menu will be similar to the way you approach you’re a la carte menu. Keep in mind however, that if you offer a la carte items on your prix fixe menu customers can and will directly compare pricing to determine the value of the prix fixe menu, and whether they are getting a good deal or not. Generally, customers who order from a prix fixe menu are waiving their freedom of a la carte by limiting themselves to your selections, so make sure you’re giving them the value they’re looking for.
If you’re concerned about the price point of your prix fixe menu, consider upsell opportunities. Wine pairings compliment prix fixe menus extremely well, particularly when marketed as a curated experience by your chef and Sommelier or bar manager. Offering additional menu items (like more expensive cuts of meat or shaved black truffles) for an additional supplement can also help grow your check. For those offering a prix fixe menu alongside an a la carte menu, try to avoid plates that require the most touches; this will help minimize room for error. As 5280 Food Editor, Denise Mickelsen shares, “[Diners] don’t need a fancy plate, they need a well-executed plate.”
And don’t forget dessert. Historically desserts have the lowest margin simply due to their price point. That’s why Chef/Owner Andrea Frizzi of Il Posto prefers to leave dessert off his prix fixe menu knowing that those who want to share a dessert at the end of the meal will do so if they want it.
Promoting Your Prix Fixe Menu
Everything from the décor, to service and food in your restaurant is a marketing opportunity, and your prix fixe menu is no different. Make your prix fixe menu shine with tantalizing descriptions that’ll make customers drool, “People want to read yummy food words” says Mickelsen. Not only will your menu entice customers to take a chance on you, but it’ll also help you stand out during events like Restaurant Week when you go head-to-head with hundreds of other restaurants.
And don’t forget to measure your menu success! In addition to checking in with guests and gathering feedback about the meal, make sure you give customers a reason to come back again. Hand out cards promoting your next restaurant event or maybe a free cocktail at brunch. If you leverage a reservation management system, check and maintain your customer profiles. You can offer targeted messaging, learn their average check size, visit frequency and much more. It costs more to attract a new diner than acquire repeat business, so train your staff to ask customers if they’ve dined at the restaurant before and save that customer data.
Contrary to popular belief, employees have no “right” to dress as they please at work.
For the most part, the foodservice industry has historically been more relaxed when it comes to personal attire, piercings and tattoos (hello, show me a chef who doesn’t have a tattoo). But back of house staff and those in the front of house who are customer facing might be subjected to different policies concerning dress and appearance. Whether dealing with food preparation, or taking orders from customers, employers may set forth specific guidelines to meet food safety requirements and overall brand vision and mission goals.
And that’s where you can open up a whole can of worms when it comes to civil rights protections. Discrimination is always a hot topic here in the states, and poorly written and implemented policies (or no policy at all) could really cost you a lot should anyone ever decide to take you to court.
Confused about the gray area concerning employee appearance and attire? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Todd Fredrickson of Fisher & Phillips LLP recently tackled these issues during his session, “Breaking Bad Behavior: Employee Behavior Do’s and Don’ts,” at the Colorado Restaurant Show. Here are some of his tips for protecting yourself should you ever get taken to court.
First Things First, Have a Written Policy
Written company policies are always the first step to your defense should you face any discrimination lawsuits. Policies are an effective way to thoroughly outline company standards and requirements, and if you require (you should) every employee to sign off on receiving a copy of the policy it can offer you additional protection.
When drafting your policy, Fredrickson suggest that you consider the following:
1. Clearly Communicate Your Branding, Image, Values and Mission
Before you establish appearance or uniform guidelines, it helps to have a policy that articulates your specific brand, image, values and mission. Fredrickson emphasizes that you can be as specific or general as your business “culture” permits, but take care not to inadvertently draft policies that could discriminate a class protected in Title VII. For example, some fine dining restaurants may forbid visible tattoos and require employees to cover them up either with clothing or makeup in order to maintain a certain image. However, that “image” may fall short in protecting you should you choose to discriminate against an individual based upon religious considerations, like a headscarf.
2. The Burden on Each Gender Should be Equal
When creating your uniform and/or appearance policies, make sure the burden on each gender is equal. Keeping policies gender-neutral stand up better if you find yourself accused of discrimination against a protected group identified in Title VII. For example, Fredrickson suggests that while prohibiting “revealing” or “provocative” dress at work is acceptable, do not provide gender-specific descriptions (eg, skirts that are deemed “too short”).
Differences related to items like nail polish or jewelry are acceptable, but they need to be appropriately justified. For example, those working in the kitchen may be required to refrain from nail polish because product could chip off into the food and create a safety hazard for customers.
3. Safety Could Trump Religious Protections
Title VII protects any kind of religious discrimination and harassment in this country. So while you may dictate a uniform or dress code at your establishment, you are still required by law to make appropriate accommodations for employees. That means that long beards or a Sikh Dastaar (a type of headgear important to Sikh culture) are protected by Title VII. Translation? If someone takes you to court over a policy that does not make suitable religious accommodations, you’ll probably lose.
But working within a commercial kitchen can be dangerous, particularly while operating heavy machinery like slicers, floor mixers, ranges and more. Potential conflicts could arise while accommodating employees’ religious beliefs surrounding safety; loose clothing like certain headscarves could be caught in equipment and pose a serious safety risk to the employee themselves. In these instances, communicate with your employee directly if you foresee potential conflicts and ask them if they are able to fulfill the requirements of the job. Always be sure to include all job requirements in listings and to go over them in full during the interview before hiring employees to ensure that individuals are aware of what the position entails.
4. Basic Grooming Standards May Be Enforced
That last thing you want a customer to find in their food is a stray hair. That’s why it’s commonplace for employees to wear hair and beard nets to prevent cross-contamination. In most cases you can also require neatly-trimmed beards, but take caution with your language and enforcement.
But what about body odor?
Understandably so, discussions about person hygiene rarely go well. But if you’re working directly with food that is served to customers it could become a serious safety issue for your business. A tactful approach to body odor is to focus on the way it impacts work accomplishments. For example, if other employees cannot work with or collaborate with this employee due to odor issues, that employee may want to reconsider his or her hygiene. And if it becomes a persistent problem, refer to your company policies.
5, Implement a Dress Code the Right Way
When it comes to enforcing a dress code, don’t leave it to supervisory discretion. Doing so could increase your risk for a discrimination lawsuit since each supervisor may have a different opinion on what is acceptable or not. Should you or another manager believe an employee is in violation of your guidelines, always rely on your prescribed policy which should have already been communicated to employees.
When you talk to employees directly about non-compliance, do it with some sensitivity. Offer the offender a chance to correct violations rather than face disciplinary action immediately. If the behavior consistently becomes a problem, then pursue next steps.
Typically, offering specific examples and solutions might help provide more guidance than merely referring to “inappropriate” dress in vague terms.
Take care to spend time writing your policy. It wouldn’t hurt to have a lawyer review your policy before publishing to check for incriminating language or loopholes you missed.
Cozy up on a chilly evening with a bowl of soup that’s simple to make and tastes delicious! The best thing about a broccoli cheese soup is that you can easily customize it to your liking. Young varieties of Gruyère impart a nutty, almost creamy texture while Gruyère that’s aged longer will have a more assertive, earthy flavor.
The easiest way to blend this soup is within the pot itself. Immersion blenders (like this one from Hamilton Beach) means less work transferring ingredients and faster cleanup times.
1 T olive oil
½ cup milk
½ chicken stock
½ cup low fat cheddar cheese
½ cup Gruyère cheese
¼ an onion, diced
1 head of broccoli, roughly chopped
1 T butter
3 garlic cloves, minced (Did you know garlic has great antiviral properties?)
Take your beverage menu to the next level with the Vitamix Drink Machine Advance® Commercial blender. This blender boasts a powerful 2.3-HP motor for long-lasting durability. Great for the smoothest smoothies, this commercial blender can tackle any busy night behind the bar.
Restaurant Wars is probably one of the most anticipated episodes of any season of Top Chef. In Restaurant Wars, chefs are tasked with creating a full restaurant concept all within a 24-48 hour period. Projects that take years to accomplish in the real world are given a tight timeline, forcing a team of chefs to collaborate on concept and menu, and deliver it all flawlessly during a real restaurant service.
What could go wrong, right?
From competing egos, to technical challenges, to training a new front of house staff, to assuming the dreaded Executive Chef position (which almost always guarantees a trip home if your team loses), Restaurant Wars isn’t for the faint of heart.
So when given the opportunity to help contestants with their supplies for the challenge, we were more than ready to oblige!
You might have seen us on last night’s episode of restaurant wars for Season 15…..right HERE:
Here it is again:
OK, so maybe you didn’t catch our 1 second of fame during the show—don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you.
Though we wished we had the opportunity for more screen time to showcase how we helped the cheftestants, it was great to have an opportunity to spend time with the chefs given many of us have been longtime fans of the show. Eager to leverage local companies in many of the challenges featured in season 15, Top Chef wanted to partner with a well-equipped local supplier for help in providing much-needed restaurant equipment, supplies and more for the highly anticipated Restaurant Wars challenge.
Tundrites ready for the Top Chef Arrival. From left to right: Rachel Shaw, Oscar Lopez, and Rogelio Diaz. | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Did you know that Tundra Restaurant Supply has been in Boulder for 24 years? Throughout that time we’ve developed long-standing relationships with many local restaurants and emerging restaurant chains. In fact, our humble roots started in restaurant parts, with the idea that we could help restaurants save on costly service calls with just a little DIY. At Tundra, we like to do things a little differently. Because many of us hail from the foodservice industry ourselves as chefs, general managers and even service technicians, we understand the challenges facing restaurants firsthand. Our founder, Michael Lewis, promoted having “ways” and not policies, and with that in mind created our list of values that adorn our walls to this day.
We’ve since expanded our catalog to provide our customers with a robust selection of equipment, supplies, disposables and more from the industry’s leading manufacturers—in fact, we have more than 13,500 products in stock at our Boulder warehouse alone!
And all of it was made available to the chefs.
As Seen On TV
It almost didn’t seem real until we saw those BMWs roll into our parking lot. The doors opened and the adrenaline hit us all like a wave. Beyond learning about a red and a grey team, we were given no other details about types of supplies needed or restaurant concepts or even the number of chefs that would be arriving. The chefs were ready, were we?
It was an artistic display of controlled chaos. The ultimate in controlled chaos.
Two teams of chefs raced up and down the aisles, shouting questions to team members while simultaneously ordering products from Tundrites—sometimes it was difficult discern between the two! Camera crews followed contestants eagerly, while a horde of producers and assistants stood in the wings. From picking up meat grinders, to food storage containers and glassware, our team was ready to help them pick up everything they needed for a winning concept.
Tundrite Rachel Shaw helping Chef Adrienne Cheatham pick out glassware. | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Chef Bruce Kalman with a full cart. | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Chef Christopher “Chris” Scott shopping for essentials. | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Chef Bruce Kalman | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Our showroom only displays a fraction of what we carry in stock. That’s why we had a full team of Tundrites working hard (and fast) to track down everything the chefs needed—down to the last steam pan.
With their Tundra bags in hand, and carts stocked, the chefs left almost as quickly as they came.
Chef Christopher “Chris” Scott | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Once everyone had everything they needed, we could all lighten up a little.
Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Tundrites Rachel Shaw and Natalie Fauble pose with Malina Karel | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
Chef Adrienne Cheatham and Chef Bruce Kalman pose with Top Chef fan Malina Karel | Photo Credit: Ruben Karel, Tundra Restaurant Supply
It’s a shame to hear about the inexcusable sexual assault allegations recently hitting the news.
But it’s even more of a shame that a lot of people already knew about it and simply let it continue.
Sadly for many, the news of these transgressions was not surprising, nor was it specific to one single industry. Far from being immune, it was only a matter of time until allegations within the foodservice industry became published, as commercial kitchens have always been notorious offenders—notorious, because everyone seems to be aware of rampant harassment and no one ever wants to do anything about it. The so-called “toxic kitchen” culture is hardly a surprise to most who has ever worked in a restaurant, and has even been referenced as a means of weeding out the labor pool because some just wouldn’t be able to cut it in that environment. (Though given the labor crisis the foodservice industry is facing now, it’s more important than ever to cultivate a supportive and, more importantly, safe environment to work in.)
And amidst all this, I’m still wrapping my head around the defense of one restaurant owner who claimed to be unaware of a space above her restaurant dubbed as the “rape room” in recent allegations. Seriously?
But there is hope in all of this. Not all commercial kitchens have so-called toxic environments, and you do have control over what happens in your restaurant. To echo the sentiment of Anthony Bourdain’s latest commencement address to new graduates, “The quality of life has to, has to, improve,” he says “As chefs, as leaders, as employers we are going to have to address this in a serious way.”
A Little Lesson About Law
Sexual harassment has long been outlawed in this country. Formally addressed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this law is designed to protect individuals in all industries from discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
Todd Fredrickson of Fisher & Phillips LLP recently spoke on this topic at the recent Colorado Restaurant Show during his session title “Sex, Drugs and Tip Pooling” (a title he admittedly chose to pique interest and get butts in the seats—it worked). Creating a safe environment is one you should do simply because it’s the right thing to do. But,if ethics alone won’t get you there, then consider your pocketbook. Title VII violations can come with hefty court costs, lawyer fees, and damages.
Do I have your attention now? Let’s get started:
1. Create, Post, Distribute and Communicate an Anti-Discrimination Policy
First things first, you need a printed Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy. If you’re starting from scratch, first do a search online for a basic template that you can work from (it’ll save you a lot of time). Having a clear policy in place outlines your stance on what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and can protect yourself should the case go to court. Consider a zero-tolerance policy on anything to do with Title VII violations.
That said, simply having a policy in place isn’t enough. Be sure to print and distribute copies of your policy. Fredrickson strongly recommends having employees sign a receipt of acknowledgement stating that they’ve received one. Also post your policy in a public location (like a bulletin board in the breakroom) so employees always have access to it.
Communicating your policy to employees is more than just making it available. Consider annual or semi-annual group and individual policy reviews to ensure that all employees are aware of what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior. One-on-one meetings ensure that employees have the opportunity to discuss concerning issues with you. Conduct regular training with managers on the policy so they know what signs to look for and how to act accordingly when presented with a complaint.
2. Take Complaints Seriously and Conduct a Prompt Investigation
One of the worst things you can do when facing an allegation of harassment is to ignore it. Not only would I question your moral compass, but this behavior can open you up to liability in court. When faced with any complaint, take it seriously, no matter how valid you think the complaint is. In fact, countless studies have proven that only 2-6% of all allegations reported are proven to be false. Conduct interviews with the accuser and accused (separately), and any other character witnesses who might have more information to share. Keep your investigation confidential, and once you’ve reached a conclusion communicate the course of action to your accuser and accused (separately). If you find that harassment has indeed occurred, take steps tailored to that situation. Frederickson stresses that while termination is not required, be careful of minimizing the consequences that might appear to trivialize the situation.
3. Enforce Your Policy
“Say what you do and do what you say.”
It’s a little ridiculous that this needs to be stated, but given industry leaders like restaurant owners, chefs, producers and news anchors seemingly condemn this behavior on camera only to be guilty of it for decades makes one seriously question their integrity. (Seriously Lauer, how did you criticize those guilty of harassment all these years with a straight face?)
Creating a safe environment where harassment isn’t tolerated starts with you. Treat employees respectfully and shut down any behavior or attitudes that aren’t in line with your company policies. It really just boils down to one simple rule: Just don’t be an asshole, OK?