January is the time for resolutions, and mid-January is the time when they most often lapse. The gym kit goes to the back of the drawer, the wine comes out of the cupboard, the chips replace salad. And you know what? That’s probably fine. Whether you are trying to make a big and necessary change or whether you need to make small tweaks, you’re trying to make changes which will make you happier. But a cycle of extremes and pressure is unsustainable, setting you up for failure, guilt – and of course unhappiness.
So let’s ensure that the resolutions we make and the things we quit set us up for happiness long-term. That means cutting out the habits that contribute to our collective unhappiness, and replacing them with sustainable actions which truly improve our lives, and are supported in the long term by everyone around us. Leave the gym kit in the drawer if you like, but pick up the boxing gloves to stamp out those unsustainable industry attitudes – and let’s keep it going way beyond January, to make a true difference.
You told us the phrases you want to see ended in 2024. Here are our resolutions for the alternative viewpoints and positive actions that we want to see instead.

“That’s just how the industry is”


Ask how we could do better, as individuals and as an industry.

What would you like the industry to be like? How can we get there? Accepting norms preserves cultures which may only work for a few people, or may not work at all. It absolves bad players from accountability which means that abuse and poor practice can continue unchecked – and even excused.

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”


Let’s be empathetic, kind and considerate, both as employers and employees.

Pressure is a natural part of a busy restaurant, and it’s important to acknowledge and accept that. But abuse and bad practice isn’t. There’s no reason for one to follow the other. How can we support our teams and each other in moments of pressure, creating a balance which is neither ‘work-shy’ nor masochistic?

“Just power through”


Plan rotas more sustainably.

90-hour weeks can be seen as a point of pride for some people, but those who relish this are in the minority (and it may be masking other issues). For most people, excessively long hours will create burnout, denying employees a healthy work/life balance and deterring people from entering the industry. A culture of martyrdom or machismo when it comes to long hours is outdated and unnecessary.

“Time to lean is time to clean”


Acknowledge that breaks don’t denote weakness – they are vital for sustainable productivity and for employee happiness. Denying breaks will only increase staff turnover, which will have significantly more negative repercussions for a business in the long term than that 20 minutes ‘lost’ work.

If you already have a break schedule in place, there is a good workplace culture of those breaks being taken, but you find that an employee or colleague is taking noticeable and impactful pauses over and above those breaks, it’s important for a line manager to have an engaged conversation to investigate the cause and the resolution.

“I talk, you listen”


Let’s foster a culture of mutual respect.

Open communication and active listening on both sides fosters a positive workplace culture where employees feel valued and engaged, and managers are able to make meaningful change to individuals’ performance and lives.

“We’re a family”


Embrace the power of boundaries.

This phrase can be used to express the camaraderie which we love in our industry, but it can also be used to blur lines and create a culture in which loyalty is abused, work/life balance is ignored, concerns cannot be raised and individual growth is stifled. Boundaries allow clarity and agency, and distinctions around workplace expectations and power structures mean that people are able to set goals and feel correctly supported.

“You’re replaceable”


Focus on retention, not hiring.

Quite apart from the dehumanising attitude and poor logic (ongoing staff shortages meaning that every employee is more precious than ever), this approach just makes poor business sense. New hires create significant business expense in terms of training, a lack of staff consistency and an inexperienced workforce is proven to create reduced sales, and high workforce turnover will negatively impact culture and will result in diminished customer experience. In other words – it spells out a downward spiral.

“Why should I work to line your pockets”


Have more understanding of the businesses in which we work.

Owning and running an independent restaurant is for the most part an extremely precarious occupation – in this tricky trading environment the money is unlikely to be rolling in, and if there is money generated it is likely to come with significant stress, risk and pressures which employees do not experience. If however you are unlucky enough to work in a business where employees are unfairly treated and an employer is using money to the detriment of their workforce, you should leave. But for the majority of workplaces, empathy and understanding on both sides is crucial to bridge a damaging ‘us and them’ culture.

“Work on the business like it’s your own”


Create clear development plans.

Employees who have no stake in the business will never have the same drive or prioritisation as the owner for the same reasons as the owner – but that drive will be generated in other ways. Each employee should have a clear sense of the significance of their role in the success of the business, and each employee should benefit from clear career trajectories tailored to their own ambitions.

“The customer is always right”


Foster a culture of mutual respect.

It’s vital to acknowledge that we are in a service industry. That means we are here to provide a positive experience for customers. A failure to bear that in mind can lead to excessive egos and just makes bad business sense. But that doesn’t mean that we need to leave our dignity at the door, giving in to unreasonable requests or bad behaviour. Service should be an exchange of equals, which can be supported by great training to skillfully navigate tricky situations to ensure positive outcomes for everyone – and dignity for our workers.

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