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COVID-19 Food Worker Vindication

COVID-19 Food Worker Vindication

A Texas court ruled in favor of the foodservice worker. Two weeks ago, the …Hillstone restaurant group made the decision to not allow its employees to wear a mask. And the company had every right to make that call. But, in doing so Hillstone made a significant statement, whatever you do, don’t damage the brand even at the expense of the people depended upon to deliver the hospitality and service. What Hillstone did is an example of a deeper underlying toxic culture of the foodservice industry. It’s a negative feedback loop. It goes like this. Get’em young in say fast food or the poolside snack bar at the country club. Keep them focused on customer service, upselling, and increasing volume. Avoid any semblance of work-life balance, upward mobility, or a living wage. Hey, it’s just a part-time or summer job anyway. It’s something to get you through college until you get a real job. So, the industry has a way of indoctrinating the young into a toxic culture that either pushes or pulls. This culture pushes some away from the industry and its mechanized industrial modes of the 19th century. Leading most to do something different with their lives. For others, this culture pulls them into an almost barbaric, debauchery of self-inflicted pain under the notion of paying dues, climbing the ranks in hopes of one day becoming a world-renowned Chef. It is the pull side of the industry that enables decision-makers at restaurant groups like Hillstone to think it is okay to disregard the health and well-being of its staff. Their decision drew attention from well know chef David Change, who tweeted about the decision. It’s the pull side of the culture that makes it so difficult for the industry to keep staff.

According to the CNBC article,

“Rosemary Batt, chair of HR Studies and International & Comparative Labor at the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations, said decades of fast-food industry efforts to standardize and “routinize” jobs — take the skill out of them — has been intended to create turnover-proof jobs. “If you lose someone, it is not a real cost, because they are so easily replaceable. ... The industry has thrived on this HR model of turnover-proof jobs for many years, because they could get away with it,”.

Hillstone did not get away with it. According to The Dallas Morning News, Judge’s Order Allows Hillstone Restaurant Group Employee To Wear Face Mask To Work. It took litigation by a female employee to get the decision overturned. We should applaud this person and those with the courage to advocate for themselves and others. There is a growing shift in consciousness within the foodservice industry that says this is enough. This treatment is crazy. Foodservice workers are asking who, what and why are we making these sacrifices for? Avocado Toast,? In my culinary career coaching session, I provide tools for food service workers to apply that help improve culture in toxic work environments. For example, I guide food service professionals through the “Define Your Purpose Process”. This process helps the front and back of the house staff establish their “why”. As the industry evolves to be more diverse, inclusive and centered on its people its important for the current industry professionals to understand, set, and manage personal expectations of food service employment. At the end of the session foodservice professionals have a clear vision for their career, know how their role contributes to the company culture and how they can make daily contributions to shift the culture in a healthier direction while increasing the bottom line of the business. As we emerge out of the pandemic we can be thankful for the industry leaders that get it and are making staff health and well being a priority. At the end of the day putting people first is just good business. For more articles or to schedule a coaching session for your staff visit

#workforcedevelopment #chefstalk #foodindustry #covid19 #

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