I often get asked, “Chef, how can I motivate my staff to track their food waste?” It’s a good question, and one that comes up often. My simple answer usually is “You can’t.” I am a firm believer that you can’t motivate, but you can inspire. Motivation vs. Inspiration is a well documented topic and one that often leads me back to heated debates I used to get into when I served as the Dean of Culinary.
Culinary leaders and chefs often fail to understand a simple fact of human nature: people are intrinsically motivated beings. My students enrolling into culinary school were ALREADY motivated. When I was a working chef, I realized my kitchen staff would come to work for two reasons: to earn money to support themselves and their family and to make a difference in the lives of who they cook for. Motivating others is an outside-in approach to leadership that is not sustainable over time because people don’t need motivation. They need inspiration. Inspiring people is an inside-out approach to leadership that is entirely self-sustaining, as people strive to reach their fullest potential, whether in be in their personal lives, or their workplace.
My move to LeanPath was one of inspiration as I saw the work that LeanPath was doing to reduce food waste. One of our core values is - We are passionate about solving food waste - and it reads:
“Food is a precious resource. We are here to make a lasting impact in our world. Reduction helps ensure food is available to hungry people, natural resources aren’t wasted, and we’re combating the critical issue of climate change.”
For me, this is inspirational. It’s visionary. It’s the “Why” we are doing what we do. It aligns with an end goal. Motivation, although useful, is also short sighted it looks for the feel-good moment to keep going.
So back to the original question, “how can I motivate my staff to track their food waste?” The answer is, you can’t, but you can INSPIRE them, and here are 5 ways to do that:
1. Lead by example.If reducing food waste is important to you as a chef, show it it your actions. Order smart, prep efficiently, and be conscience of the food in the kitchen and treat it with respect. Track your waste and mentor others to do so, learn better repurposing techniques, write efficient menus that have room to utilize leftover product. Make it part of your everyday workflow!
2. Discuss food waste and your reduction efforts with your staff daily.Don’t let it be hidden, make it transparent to everyone that reducing food waste is a priority.
3. Don't just talk in pounds and dollars saved, highlight the huge environmental impact.
LeanPath Trackers show the environmental impact you have in terms of water saved, Co2 emissions reduced, and gallons of fossil fuel use avoided. This is the WHY we track.
4. Make sure your team understands upstream and downstream waste effects.
Enlighten your team to the bigger picture of food waste. This isn't just about keeping food out of the garbage/landfill (the downstream, which is definitely important) but it's also about respecting all of the resources it took just to get that food to your kitchen (the upstream impact).
5. Become an Advocate for Food Waste Prevention
If you want your staff to care, then like all great changes, it begins with you.
As the old saying goes “Managers motivate, Leaders inspire.” Be a leader that truly cares about the workplace, about your staff, about meeting the goals both culturally and financially of your restaurant, and about our impact on the environment.
As chefs and culinary professionals, we are poised on the front line to combat food waste and inspire those we work with to do the same. Inspiration is about knowing when to guard what’s important and when to lean into life for the bigger picture of what you value and want to create. Working towards an inspired future changes everything.