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An unexpected way to boost employee engagement

September 2, 2014

By Andrew Shakman

What is perhaps the single most dangerous thing in your restaurant? An employee who doesn’t care.

A restaurant’s success is inherently tied to how satisfied and engaged your employees are. Employee satisfaction has a ripple effect: if the chef in the back is disgruntled, that negativity will get passed to the server, and from the server onto the customer.  In fact, in a recent Forbes article, employee engagement was referred to as “the wonder drug for customer satisfaction.”

So how can you turn the employee who doesn’t care into an engaged member of the team? How can you elevate that engagement across your entire team? The answer may surprise you: start tracking and monitoring your food waste.

Now I know you must be thinking, ‘Huh? My employees would freak if I told them they had to track all the food they throw in the trash! Sounds like a big dissatisfier.’ I hear that quite often. But in this case the conventional wisdom isn’t accurate. After a decade helping foodservice operators implement daily food waste tracking, I’ve seen front-line teams transform before my eyes countless times. Here’s why daily tracking changes culture for the better:

A foodservice employee tracks food waste using the LeanPath System.
  • It gives employees purpose-driven work. Most restaurant employees fill their days with mundane tasks: mop the floor, wash the dishes, serve the food. By focusing on food waste and reducing the amount of food that gets thrown out, they are making a difference beyond the walls of the restaurant. This work matters.
  • It gives employees something to be proud of. When do you think your employees last went home and talked to their family with positive conviction about something new they did at work? Asking employees to contribute to your food waste solution elevates their impact, in their own mind and the minds of their families.
  • It gives employees something that they are uniquely positioned to do. In most cases, it’s not the managers that drive significant reduction in food waste. It’s the line cooks that know the ins and outs of the operation, and probably have many solid ideas of how you can reduce waste, but they’ve never specifically been asked.

The concept behind food waste monitoring is simple: employees record everything that goes into the trash and meet regularly to review the data and discuss ways to prevent that waste in the future. Automated systems, like the mobile tracking application and reporting software from LeanPath, make the process quick and easy, and even have built-in gaming features to make it fun.

Employees need to feel connected to their work, and motivated that they can make a difference. Most restaurant employees pinch their pennies at home and are very careful not to waste food. These values can easily translate into the workplace, if they see that the managers and owners are taking a stance, monitoring food waste, and asking them to be part of the solution.

Andrew Shakman is the founder, president and CEO of LeanPath, a technology company providing food waste tracking systems to the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.


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