Team Building

Ever wanted to do an unusual team building activity? Take your entire team to work in a restaurant for a couple of days or nights.

1) Unlike the corporate world, no one can hide. Anyone unable to do their allocated job properly will impact everyone else. Instantly and visibly.

2) Learn to practically support the weakest link in the chain. There’s no time for a 121 to discuss what the problem might be. And accept that you may have set them up for failure in the first place.

3) Manage pressure. Thirty guests are eating 3-4 courses. Each table group is on one of those 4 courses. And you can’t let them wait too long between courses. Let me call it ‘spinning plates’. You and your team are spinning plates for 3 solid hours of your 8 hour shift. The last 3 hours when you’re at your most exhausted. With no sense of time and place.

4) Observational skills. Know who has been served what. And seeing what comes back so you can spend the drive home talking about nothing but which dishes did and didn’t work. And how to fix them.

5) Agreeing on taste. Or making sure everything tastes as you want it to taste before it’s taken out to a customer. George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London chronicled how the more expensive the restaurant he worked in, the more fingers went into the food as the the waiter left the kitchen with it. We use teaspoons (it’s an open kitchen) and agreeing on taste is the most critical thing V and I do. We don’t trust our own tastes. Only each others. Now multiply this by a team of 7. How do you reach a consensus which is still amazing to taste?

6) Trusting one another. If you don’t trust someone, the dynamic between you sticks out like having badges on your front. So the question is, how do you build trust; make sure someone will complete a job out of your line of sight? And oddly enough, the key to trust, in our kitchen at least, is knowing someone has the natural ability to prioritise when under pressure. I’m running out of serving spoons, coriander for garnish and pomegranate seeds. And a table of 6 is about to get served their main dishes…

7) Ending the day. Sitting down together at midnight to eat and reflect. Reflect on the customers, the food and who did what well. Laugh and share stories. Make suggestions for the following day. Cannot underestimate how important completion and closure is for mental health and good sleep.

With our own, unintentional, team building activities (you can call it our daily job) we have identified a future chancellor of Germany, the purest soul, and a thinker who left V and I with jaws dropped. In our pressured but laughter filled environment, people’s true traits surface quickly. And you have to fix them quickly. Sacking someone is never an option. Because replacing them can be too time consuming and back to square one.

Let me repeat, you can’t hide at Food with Varinder.