Look after your staff because healthy, happy staff are not only good for your soul but good for your business
Wander around the back streets of any big city and you'll see shadowy figures in chefs' whites and waiters' get-ups, clutching a cigarette in one trembling hand and a coffee in the other. They're imbibing the standard caffeine and nicotine diet that most hospitality staff use to keep themselves going through long, demanding days. But do you really want your staff to be sallow skinned with great bags under their eyes, wandering around like amphetamine-pumped zombies?
It doesn't have to be this way and some restaurants are blazing a healthy trail through the restaurant industry, leaving bright-eyed and bushy-tailed front of house staff bounding around the place, energetically in their wake.
At Fifteen they emphasise that a healthy lifestyle is a natural companion to fresh seasonal food. It all fits into the mighty Jamie Oliver brand. Along with subsidised masseurs and a chiropodist, they provide discounted gym memberships and feed their staff balanced meals.
"It's important to provide your staff with healthy food and encourage healthy lifestyles because if they are healthier, they work better," explains Sarah Duquesne, Head of HR at Fifteen in London. "All of these things make our staff happier and encourage them to stay."
It's important to have happy staff because the service industry in London is so big and lots of employers are vying for the same workers. Ben Warner, co-founder of Benugo, a chain of healthy eating cafes and restaurants, thinks that it is important to offer healthy benefits to attract and keep the right people and make sure they stay in shape.
"In our business, we start very early in the morning and staff are on their feet all day. If you don't have people who have a reasonably healthy lifestyle, they just can't do it. They get lazy, get to work late, take longer for their breaks and generally just don't do their job properly."
All of his staff have a free healthy lunch and discounted gym memberships, which many staff take up. In return, Warner says that his staff are motivated, hard working and barely take any sick leave. They also encourage them to play sports and run an inter-branch softball tournament.
Sport doesn't just allow staff to get healthier it brings out a host of other benefits too. Rohit Chugh, Managing Director of London's Cinnamon Club believes that their cricket team has improved communication at the restaurant and brought leadership qualities to the fore.
"When we last played one of the junior guys was captaining," says Chugh. "Sport's a good way to develop confidence and see which people can lead. One guy had just started when he joined the cricket club two years ago, he showed leadership potential and now he's Head Waiter."
Sport is also a great way to encourage people who don't like the gym. There's less pressure to look like a machine toned Adonis or lithe amazon, and more emphasis on fun. But what happens if somebody incurs an injury on the playing field or while serving? The Dorchester hotel in London offers an onsite Doctor every Wednesday for all staff and has a subsidised occupational health clinic. This is especially useful for any staff that are unfamiliar with London.
David Lowth, Head of HR at the Dorchester, says: "Coming to London, there are all sorts of things to get to grips with. It's reassuring for people to know they can speak to a doctor or nurse if they feel unwell." This may not be viable for smaller restaurants, but it can still pay to know where your local doctors surgeries are so you can help staff get registered. That way they're unlikely to moulder away in bed, coughing weakly when they could be whizzing plates to tables with a healthy flourish.
A restaurant is only as good as its staff and so having healthy, motivated and energetic staff can only be a good thing. It'll also help clean up those streets full of the caffeine-dependent living dead puffing on their ciggies, and make your neighbourhood, and restaurant, a more lovely place.