What Restaurateurs Can Learn From Nashville Chefs

By: Lizzy Fitzgerald

6 Minute Read

Nov 09, 2017

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According to Nashville’s tourism bureau, more than 100 restaurants and bars will open in 2017. That’s an average of two a week! The number of restaurants in the area has grown by nearly a third over the last decade, and by 2026, hospitality jobs are expected to increase by 10.6%.

Kitchen management is one of the most stressful yet crucial tasks in a restaurant. After all, this is where the magic happens, and according to a report by Toast, delicious food remains the most important factor for guests when choosing a restaurant.

Great chefs, kitchen managers, and restaurant owners are successful because of their failures. They know know everything that can go wrong in a restaurant kitchen. Because of - or in spite of - that experience, they’ve perfected their systems and processes in the back of the house, increasing efficiency tenfold.

We asked when for their secret #1 tip for running an efficient kitchen. Here's what a few of them touched upon that all restaurateurs can learn from.


Empower your staff to fix the problems they see and develop ownership of their kitchen, stations, tools, etc.” - Brandon Chavannes, Executive Chef, Moto Cucina + Enoteca

“The most important thing in running an effective kitchen is creating a positive culture that enables your staff to take ownership of their role and be self-motivated.” - Andrew Whitney, Executive Chef, Virago

In an article by Forbes, they say that empowerment not only impacts the engagement of the team, but it also impacts productivity. One study found that 67% of employees are willing to give extra effort when empowerment is high, but only 4% will when empowerment is low.

In addition, when employees feel more empowered and more apt to contribute ideas, they’re no longer just an employee of the restaurant. They’re part of the solution.

Related Post: 5 Ways to Show Your Restaurant Staff You Appreciate Them

If your employees are happy and proud of the work they’re contributing to, it increases the experience for the guest as your staff will be committed to your restaurant. Your employees and your guests will be happier and more loyal to you.

In a May 2017 article posted on WUNC, it states that “it’s a good time to be a restaurant employee [in Nashville]” and that “owners are having a harder time.” If you can increase your employee retention with employee empowerment...well then it’s really a no-brainer.


“It might sound a little bit cheesy and obvious, but leading by example is the best way to run an efficient kitchen. Leading by example and showing them you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty as well - that’s always worked.” - Christopher Stallard, Executive Chef, Flyte

There’s nothing more frustrating than a manager that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Maybe he/she jumped ranks really quickly, or were grandfathered into the position from their literal grandfather, but it does nothing for staff morale if a manager is unwilling to learn how the job should be done.

If the manager can’t teach, the employee can’t learn. And if the staff know more than the manager, then it’s a recipe for disaster.

If your staff is unsupported by their manager, they will leave. And in a booming restaurant city like Nashville, they’ll have many options!

Related Post: 6 Tips and Tools to Increase Restaurant Manager Duties


“My number one tip for running an effective kitchen is having strong situational awareness. You need to be able to take notice of everything going on around you. In my kitchen if something burns on the stove it’s not only the fault of the person who put it on, but everyone in the kitchen. If you are standing by a pot and see it boiling but don’t stir it or turn it down, then you aren’t paying attention to your surroundings, and that’s a problem.” - Robert Grace, Executive Chef, Kayne Prime

You’re only as good as your worst employee on the floor.

One aspect of awareness is teaching awareness. Restaurants employees should never have an “every man for himself” mentality. If one of your servers is overwhelmed with their section, and the other servers don’t acknowledge or help, guest experience can be falter. For example, if drinks for Table 20 have been sitting at the bar for 10 minutes, and there’s a slew of staff members around chatting and not acknowledging something needs to be done, it’s very frustrating for the guest and the server.


“Have respect. Respect for your people above all; without them there’s no team. Respect for the food from beginning to end. Respect for the kitchen and the tools needed to achieve the unified goal. Without respect, there’s nothing.” - Jay Flatley, Executive Chef, Tavern

“To me the most important thing about running an effective kitchen is getting on the same level as your people and understanding what is important to them. Your love and concern for their well-being will transfer over into the food you serve your guests. It’s all about love.” - Shane Midnight, Executive Chef, Whiskey Kitchen

Respect should be so easy, but it can be hard to find and understand. Treat your employees like your most loyal regulars. After all, they are the ones in your restaurant every single day. Offer benefits and flexible schedules, and be understanding when it comes to sick days and emergencies.

Related Post: 6 Ways to Piss Off Your Restaurant Staff

Listen to your staff. Let them know that you hear what they’re saying. Learn about who they are; ask how their shift is going. Let them know if you think that they’re doing a great job, and don’t publicly yell at them if they’ve made a mistake.

Ask them what they may need some more help with. You have an employee that’s newly 21? Take the time to teach them a little extra about the drink menu. You noticed one of your servers had a particularly bad night? Check in and ask them what’s up. Notice that one of your staff member’s isn’t quite keeping up with everyone else? Suggest some additional training first before getting angry.

Treating your staff like human beings can go a long way.

My Advice?

I can agree with Jason's quote below.

“The best tip would be communication. If you communicate and listen to your team, you will educate them and have a more consistent product come from your kitchen.” - Jason Slimak, Executive Chef, Saint Añejo

What do these four things - empowerment, education, awareness, respect - have in common?


Empower your employees by encouraging them to share their ideas and listen to what they have to say.

Lead your staff by example. You should be able to step in anywhere to help support your staff; extra, extra points if you’re so aware of what’s happen that they don’t have to ask you for help.

And respect your staff. Learn who they are. Find their strengths and nurture them.

Opportunities for Education.

Want to hear the rest of the answers and learn how to keep your employees happy?

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