Handling Egos in the Kitchen: Too Many Generals and Not Enough Soldiers


A kitchen staff is like a machine. Each cog in the wheel must work together properly to achieve success and effectiveness. On the other hand, when one piece becomes agitated, it doesn’t take long for the machine itself to malfunction and fall apart.

One common problem that tends to disrupt the staff and overall effectiveness of your kitchen is egotistical behavior from one or multiple employees.

When egos are inflated on a team, the results often lead to employee discord and loss in annual revenue. It is estimated that $1.1 billion on average is lost every year as a result of egotistical behavior in business. Self-centered attitudes can find a way to wedge into every meeting, interview, conversation and decision under your restaurant roof. This will create moments of poor decision-making and will potentially impact every component of your business, from quality of service to the bottom dollar.

Avoid a clash of the titans in your restaurant and implement these strategies to handling egos in the commercial kitchen:

Make Attitude a Consideration When Hiring Staff

The earliest way to keep the ego’s ugly head out of your kitchen is to keep attitude in mind throughout the hiring process. Does a prospective hire seem like a team player? Great, bring them on! Has he or she clashed with former employers or co-workers? Does this person struggle when working with others? If that’s the case, that individual may not be a great fit for your kitchen. Ask the job candidate to describe what teamwork means to them or inquire about how they approach an atmosphere of teamwork. Don’t forget to follow up with references and previous employers regarding the applicant’s work history as this gives a third party’s perspective on the individual.

Set Clear Responsibilities for Each Role

Structure your kitchen staff and assign specific tasks to each individual for an effective way to keep a clean and organized work process. This approach also reduces the possibility of one’s over-ambition or attitude to step on others toes. Make it clear to staff members what their tasks are, who they are to report to and the tasks expected from other team members. Coherent directives give everyone a clear view of how your kitchen operates and what is and is not appropriate from each staff member.

Communicate Effectively to Your Staff

One’s inflated ego can begin to take control when there is poor communication in the workplace. Eliminate the opportunity for someone’s ego to needle its way into your kitchen by being clear in your communication to your employees on every aspect of your business. This includes the responsibilities, as discussed previously, as well as any changes in the line, scheduling or other issues that have come up in the kitchen. Ensure everyone is on the same page and reduce the possibility of misunderstandings by communicating what you expect from each individual and what is expected from the team as a whole.

Bring Them Back to the Fold

If you’re reading this with an already existing ego problem among your staff, there are a few avenues you can take to put attitudes back in order.

  • Hold a mandatory team meeting to go over responsibilities, the chain order and to clear up any misconceptions within the kitchen. This meeting should be done before the restaurant opens for the day.
  • If the ego continues to be apparent from a certain staff member, address the problem with him or her directly and in private.
  • Should the behavior cease to change, then it may be time to consider letting that employee go.

Because poor attitudes can affect the workflow, profitability and overall vibe in your kitchen, taking pre-cautionary measures is essential to a successful restaurant. While the problem may arise despite your best efforts, addressing it early and thoroughly allows for the best chances at a quick correction.

Illustrations by the talented Roman Martinez for FSW


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