Establish a Successful Dining Program by Cultivating Engaged Employees

Creative Dining Employee Smiling Holding Vase With Flowers and Vegetables

The ongoing labor shortage has been a challenge for the hospitality industry, specifically dining. While many organizations put significant emphasis on their hiring efforts, it’s easy to overlook the assets we already have: our current employees. With a turnover rate that’s less than half the industry’s average, we know the success of a dining program is dependent on the knowledge and care of its staff. That all starts with happy, supported, independent employees.

Bill Yehle, a client manager at Creative Dining Services, knows firsthand what it’s like to enter our company as a new employee at a new account as it’s launching. Having joined Creative Dining in 2021, Bill has over 10 years of experience in contract sales running large national restaurant accounts. He currently runs a Creative Dining account based in Columbus, Ohio.

Since Bill is on-site, he has his pulse on the daily activities, energy, and satisfaction level of dining staff members at his account. From this experience, he was able to share some insight into the employee hiring process, and how happy, engaged employees help make Creative Dining programs so successful.

Foster Creative Freedom

When Bill launched a new account in June 2021, staffing for the firm’s dining program was one of his first responsibilities. During the hiring process, he realized that his account’s decision to make space for employees to be creative really set Creative Dining apart. Instead of giving each account a menu to follow each week, we leverage staff and their experiences to find creative recipes and solutions. 

For example, the staff at Bill’s account have input into their station’s menus every single week. While each station has their everyday staple items, staff have a lot of control over the specials each week. They’re encouraged to bring their own ideas, evaluate the ingredients the kitchen has in stock, and determine what additional ingredients they’ll need to order. Staff are also heavily involved in deciding the preparation, execution, and presentation of each dish.

“One of the biggest challenges our business faces is stagnation, with the menu and with the staff.  Running our operation in this manner doesn’t just encourage engagement, but requires engagement, and our team has embraced this mentality,” Bill said. “My belief is that our staff’s overall job satisfaction is greatly improved by having them be involved in the menu creation.”

There’s always room for people to take initiative and grow professionally and personally, which keeps employees happier and more actively engaged in their work. And this isn’t just true at Bill’s account. The proof’s in the numbers: in a recent employee survey, 94% of our employees said they bring their best to their job every day.

Prioritize Good Culture Fits

“The culture Creative Dining curates is infectious and I am so thankful to be a part of it.”

– John Trolli, Executive Chef

Even when there’s a shortage of potential hires, it’s vital to hire individuals who fit your organization’s culture. It’s one thing to state what your company’s values are, but it’s the employees on the front lines who must demonstrate those values.

At Creative Dining, we’ve noticed that employees who share our values during the hiring process are far more likely to stick around for the long-term. That’s why the first thing Bill looks for in a new hire is a good culture fit. Bill claims that it’s relatively easy to teach an employee how to run a cash register or properly prepare food. It’s harder to teach someone how to be a team player, to think critically about a solution, or find a creative way to use an ingredient.

True culture fit determines whether an employee will be happy in a certain work environment and whether they will increase the overall efficiency of the team. It’s important to have employees that share the same values, like innovation and creative problem-solving.

Offer Professional Development

“Companies always tell you a lot of things about who they are and what they are about and most are not able to meet those expectations. My experience with Creative Dining since day one has been extremely positive and the truth in advertising is spot on. The support has been wonderful and I am excited to learn and grow within the company.”

– Jamie Muntean, Service Manager

Offering employees the opportunity to try new roles or learn new skills keeps them interested in their work. The staff at Bill’s account provides cross-training opportunities for all dining employees, adding variety to their work schedule, and keeping them engaged. We rotate employees through stations every 4-6 weeks to provide ample opportunity to learn, apply their new skills, interact with new customers, and meet different coworkers.

Bill has seen firsthand the negative impacts that a stagnant role can have on employees. “With most places, it’s like Groundhog Day,” said Bill. “The repetition of tasks breeds complacency, which can be really detrimental to morale. However, with Creative Dining, employees can grow any way they want.”

Where Engaged Employees Work, Success Follows

Since Bill’s account opened, he and his team have striven to emphasize our employee-first culture through our hiring process and beyond. Intentionality around providing flexibility, room for creativity, and professional development for all Creative Dining employees is one of the greatest things that sets us apart. We’ve found sustainable success with both clients and employees that share our values: Integrity, Creativity, Flexibility, Sensitivity, Family, and Sustainability.

Bill summed it up best: “I’m more than happy to advocate for us because I truly believe in what we do, and we back up what we say.”

Are you looking to jumpstart a successful corporate dining program? Interested in joining the Creative Dining team? We’d love to hear from you!

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