As perks go, the restaurant family meal is one of the more distinctive benefits only restaurants can offer. In many ways, it’s a perk that sums up why restaurants are such a great place to work.
Working in a restaurant is not just a job, but membership to a tribe with its own traditions and social expectations. No one working in a cube farm gets to sit down every day with their workmates to break bread – and more tellingly, most wouldn’t want to.
I recently discussed family meals with Drew Smith, the General Manager of Uchi Dallas. Having worked his way up the ranks, he’s seen family meals from every direction. He’s learned that family meal is more than just feeding the staff, it’s a moment to bring his team together to form the kind of bonds that make working in a restaurant so much more intimate than most other jobs.
What are some of your staff’s favorite family meals?
Ramen is always a hit – or any hearty soup for that matter. Some other big hits are Chicken Korma with scratch-made naan. Breakfast day is also really popular whenever it comes up. Typically, the family meals that attempt to showcase something unique or different are usually big hits with the staff.
What considerations do you make when making family meals?
We like encouraging the staff to use family meal as an opportunity to try something new or different from what we do in the restaurant. We also use it as an opportunity to utilize our products to their fullest extent so we can minimize waste. It’s also a great learning opportunity for new and upcoming chefs, for chefs to teach cooks techniques and dishes that usually would not be part of our menu – not to mention a creative outlet for those more seasoned vets.
Why serve a family meal as opposed to letting staff members order from the regular menu?
Because we begin dinner service for our guests, fully staffed at 5 pm every day, there isn’t an opportunity for the staff to eat off the menu before their shift. We serve family meal around 3 pm, which is a time that naturally lends itself to taking a break from station prep, allowing us to come together to enjoy some food with each other. Beyond family meal, all staff members are welcomed and encouraged to enjoy the menu with their staff discount on their off days.
Do you have any traditions around family meal?
On the days that we have the monthly front-of-house staff meeting, two or more members from that side of the house volunteer to cook family meal for the entire staff that day. This is an opportunity for the FOH team to show the BOH team some love by preparing a meal for them. It is also a rare time where the entire team is together which is always special. We also typically host potluck style meals around the holidays recognizing that we are very much like a family. When we do these the entire staff is invited in to enjoy the meal even if they are not working that evening.
Family meal is a central part of creating a strong culture in a restaurant. It brings together staff from both sides of the house in a context that allows for the sharing of ideas, jokes and war stories. To paraphrase an old saying ‘a restaurant that eats together, stays together.’
What are some of your favorite family meals you’ve enjoyed at your restaurant? Leave a comment or hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!