How to Create a Safe Atmosphere for Your Restaurant

Jessica Elliott

Jessica couples her 24 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience with meticulous research to deliver insight into technology, operations, and marketing topics. Her optimized copy helps companies engage their audience while strengthening their communication with clients, employees, and management.

Whether you own a new restaurant or an established eatery, developing and maintaining a safe and inclusive restaurant culture for your staff isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of policy. Instead, it’s an ongoing effort that, when successful, results in better hiring and retention rates along with a boost in workforce safety, health, and productivity. 

In Forbes, David Williams, the former CEO of Fishbowl Inc., says, “A supportive work environment recognizes an employee’s desire for work/life balance, honors promises of flexibility and reinforces the trust relationship between manager and employee.” Strengthen your business and protect your restaurant staff using inclusive hiring, training, and management practices while constructing a supportive culture.

Friendly waiter serving a diverse group of restaurant patrons

Develop inclusive policies and processes

Employee handbooks help safeguard your staff and restaurant from harm by providing transparent guidelines. But, a manual with legal jargon doesn’t translate into a document that supports your restaurant staff. Create a handbook that clearly defines:

  • How your hiring process embraces a diverse workforce based on skills, not gender, race, or culture.
  • What steps you’ll take if unsafe activities occur.
  • Whom your employees can talk to about work or personal issues affecting their job performance.
  • Why staff safety and a culture of inclusion is paramount to your restaurant brand.

However, not everyone will read or adhere to your handbook. That’s why it’s essential to make an ongoing effort towards creating and sustaining a positive and open environment. 

Train your restaurant staff

Training is an opportunity not only for skill-building but also to repeat and enforce your safe workplace policies. In USA Today, Janet Lowder, president of Restaurant Management Services, says, “Employees need to know there’s an open-door policy.” 

From the words we use in daily conversations to how we delegate tasks in the restaurant, creating an inclusive workplace requires continuous training and oversight. Reiterate your message by developing education programs that cover sexual harassment, including how to diffuse situations with customers and report issues to management.  

Monitor your restaurant environment

It’s challenging to create a safe and inclusive atmosphere if policies differ by shift or crew member. To avoid a disconnect between words and actions, restaurateurs work to:

  • Eliminate cliquey behavior which excludes others.
  • Help others recognize and stop gender bias. 
  • Encourage positive language that is open and respectful regardless of circumstances.

Build inclusivity into your restaurant culture

Create a safe work environment by communicating your mission and values using inclusive language throughout your marketing materials and internal documents. OpenTable provides a free poster with its guidelines for promoting a safe atmosphere: 

  1. Uphold a zero-tolerance policy for harassment of any kind.
  2. Treat one another with the same hospitality as they treat their guests.
  3. Listen to one another with care, compassion, and respect.
  4. Grow the team with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
  5. Cultivate a professional environment always.

Restaurant owners who create a safe and inclusive atmosphere for their restaurant staff will help empower employees, develop loyalty, and protect marginalized team members. Christa Quarles, CEO of OpenTable, says, “No matter who you are or your role in a restaurant, whether you work in the kitchen or front-of-house, everyone deserves a safe seat at the table.”

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