5 Tips for Being a Team Leader, by Super Chef-Boss Susan Feniger

©Border Grill
By Susan Feniger Posted March 30, 2015

F&W's #FOODWINEWOMEN series spotlights top women in food and drink in collaboration with Toklas Society. Follow the hashtag on Twitter (@foodandwine). Here, star chef Susan Feniger shares five tips for being a good boss.

Who: Susan Feniger
What: Chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and Top Chef Masters alum
Where: Border Grill and Mud Hen Tavern@SusanFeniger 

There’s nothing more important to me in this business than connecting with the people who work for us. The thing is, the restaurant biz is all about people. Clearly creative, delicious food is a huge part, but the people coming to our restaurants and the people working with us side by side create the dining experience. I believe if the team in the kitchen and in the front work scared, feeling not respected, not heard—if they get yelled at and treated like they aren’t important and don’t have a voice, then the way they put out the food and the way the guests get treated will reflect this. My motto has always been that I believe people want to do a great job. Of course there are the exceptions to that, but in general, I really do feel this way. So, if I am there for each person, with an open door and open heart, willing to get involved, the customer’s experience will be elevated, and personally I feel fulfilled and satisfied. To me, being in the business has always been about learning and growing—about food, about our environment, about people. No matter whether it’s a dishwasher, a server, a prep cook, a GM, a COO—everyone has a voice with important things to say. If I am able, as an owner, to participate with the team, be a part of their spirit, give and get back from them, it’s incredibly rewarding. To me, life is about sharing in this spirit. The ups and downs, highs and lows, the involvement with the people who work with me, is something very special and makes up my amazing restaurant family. I can’t imagine another job as fulfilling as this one has been the last 35 years. That, I think, is unbelievable to be able to say.

1. Be authentic. Your team feels this. They know if you are being real and honest with them.

2. Be a listener. Your team has their finger on the pulse of what’s going on not only internally with their team members, but with the guests and what they want and need. Don’t think you know it all; you don’t.

3. Be respectful. Whether it’s the COO, CEO, GM, dishwasher, line cooks, executive chef, everyone is part of this team, part of the success. Without each one of these people and all the rest, we’d be nowhere. Together, they make your strength.

4. Communicate. It’s important to let people know what’s going on, both the good and the bad. Be aware of the right time and place to do this. If you need to communicate issues, do it privately and respectfully.

 

5. Be hardworking. I have always wanted to set the example of how I want our team to work. So if it’s for managers, I want them to see me in the restaurants, hands on, whether it’s bussing, cutting onions, talking to customers. I believe it comes from the top down: how we work, our attitude, our philosophy.

Related: 5 Lessons a Chef Would Tell Her Younger Self
9 Fantastic Recipes from Susan Feniger 
The Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink 

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