Restaurant Growth Podcast

Leading the New Kitchen Culture with Adam Lamb

August 16, 2022 Adam Lamb Season 2 Episode 16
Restaurant Growth Podcast
Leading the New Kitchen Culture with Adam Lamb
Show Notes Transcript

The restaurant business is notorious for being a tough one to work in. And for decades, it has been. But we’re at an inflection point—and restaurant leaders are rethinking what it means to be a part of this industry right now. A better work environment is here, and for guys like Adam Lamb, it’s a long time coming.

Adam and I sat down to discuss his career as a chef, when he realized that things needed to change, and how he’s begun to do just that from his position as a leader. We also chat about what the new kitchen culture looks like, and how we can achieve it.

The Restaurant Growth Podcast is presented by 7shifts and hosted by DJ Costantino.

About 7shifts

Since 2014, 7shifts has helped restaurant managers schedule, evaluate, and communicate with their workforce. Our team is comprised of people who live and breathe restaurant culture and strive to help our customers simplify team management, every single day.

DJ Costantino:

Hey everybody. What is going on? My name is DJ and you are back with the restaurant growth podcast by seven shifts on this show, we speak with the best minds in the restaurant business to give you big insights and new ideas on how to help your restaurants grow. Adam Lamb joins us today. He's a chef with 30 years of experience and the host of both chef life, radio and line check podcast, where he helps chefs enjoy their career without sacrificing their health and wellbeing. We got to chatting about when Adam realized that the restaurant business needed to change what the new generation of chefs want. And it's not all that different from what the other generations wanted and ways to make your restaurant a great place to work. So without further ado here is Adam. Hey

Adam Lamb:

Adam, how are you today? I am. Excellent. Thanks Dominic. I really appreciate you. Uh, having me on the show. Really excited.

DJ Costantino:

Absolutely. Yeah, me too. Thanks for, thanks for taking the time out to come on. You know, I, I could do an intro of you, but I think you'd probably do a little bit of a better job than me. So tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got started in the restaurant.

Adam Lamb:

Sure. My name is Adam Lamb. Currently I run two podcasts. One is called chef life radio, and then one is called the line check. And just recently I have repositioned my coaching and consulting business, specifically around community communication and culture within the hospitality industry. You know, I started. In the industry, like many of us do, you know, I was looking for a part-time job while I was in high school and started washing dishes at, uh, the local restaurant, the big wheel in Hammond, Indiana. The reason I went there is because my dad who was a college professor would go there every morning for breakfast and sometimes go at lunch between classes. And so I think part of it was wanting to be closer to him, even though that didn't necessarily work right. But I hated the job for like the longest time I used to take like the. Really charred pans and stick 'em up in the popcorn ceiling, cuz I didn't really wanna work on 'em. Uh, until one Friday night I was walking past the kitchen and I just kind of caught something, caught me outta the corner of my eye. And I looked into the kitchen and there were two women that worked together. One was a large woman. Her name was AR Telia white. She had a gold tooth right in the front of her mouth. And uh, she used to sit there in the window and talk to all the customers and the other one, I, I never got her name, but she. As cold and severe as art TEIA was warm and welcoming. And what happened was is what I saw was this incredible dance that they were doing completely unspoken. They weren't talking to one another, but it was like a ballet that was happening in front of my eyes. And. Being an artist from way back, everything that was going on, the pans, clacking, the steam, the smoke, they were just doing this thing between them. That just transfixed me and I, wow. I liken it to what's called the dream of the dance, like how good it can be when everything works. Right? Yeah. And from then on, you know, I don't know whatever that is, but I gotta get something. Yeah,

DJ Costantino:

absolutely. Um, so where did you go go from there? You know, you kind of, I think maybe that, that seems like the moment where you maybe fell in love with the, with the business or, you know yeah. Maybe that kind of set you down the path that you, that you took. Did you go to culinary school? Did you start working in restaurants and what, what was the next step

Adam Lamb:

for you? Yeah, I didn't go to culinary school, um, to start off with, I kind of bopped around locally where I lived just right outside of Chicago and Chicago at that time was a huge Mecca for a lot of, uh, old school, Italian restaurants and the scene just kind of blowing up there. And so I thought if I could just get up to Chicago. Yeah. I could like make away. I tried to get out of the business and do other things. You know, I sold clothes, I sold shoes. I tried to do other things. And yet the business just kept calling me back. I felt like you. Part of the mafia, you know, they just, as soon as I out it pulls me back, absolutely. I got as far as, uh, a country club. Okay. Um, outside of Chicago and I couldn't necessarily see any way to make that jump by the way. That was the very first time I worked with a chef. Okay. Uh, and, um, it was a woman. and she visited upon me almost every single indignation and slight that had VI visited upon her in her career. So I became like the virtual whipping boy for right, for to take all the crap that she had been dealt. And I, right. Didn't even really didn't really piss me off. I just kind of, it just gave me an aha as to. What women in the industry had to go through at that particular time? Absolutely. And so I decided to go in the military. My dad thought that was the greatest thing in the world. You know, here, Adam, you're finally taking control of your own life. I'm like dad, they, they teach you to full underwear in four squares. Like that's not.

DJ Costantino:

The illusion of control made.

Adam Lamb:

Right? and if anybody who knows me knows that I broke against any kind of authority, always had kind of a rebellious nature. So that was like the weirdest choice for me to make. But I thought perhaps because I had some cooking ability, they would put me in a culinary school and I would end up cooking for, you know, general or whatever. Right. As it turned out, uh, as soon as I graduated basic training and then went to Denver Lowry air force base for my training. Specifically for culinary. They sent me right out to the missile fields in wonderful. All me South Dakota or air force base. Who's anybody who's ever been out there that was at the beginning of, uh, 24 hour B 52 bomb alerts. And that was a big B 52 base plus it had these missile silos. So you'd go out there for three days. The lieutenants would go down in the capsule and I'd have to cook for team 10 guys for three days on and three days off. And it was basically what they called the foil pack system. So it was all these foods that I had to pull out of the freezer. People would choose one from Colme and one from colo B. And the only thing I really cooked fresh was breakfast, which remains to this day, my favorite meal. But the, you know, the guys would go out and, you know, kill coyotes or rattlesnakes or whatever, and sometimes we'd bring 'em back and, and do a grill out. Yeah, so it was weird. It was a weird way. And when I got outta the military, I ended up right back at the same country club. Believe it or not just turned out. There was a terrible time in the United States for recession. Pittsburgh was a nightmare, which were, was my wife was from, and, and once we got back to Chicago, I kind of started jumping geographically, uh, and in complexity to more and more dynamic restaurants and ended up downtown Chicago. Opening up the very first Dick as restaurant in 1986, right after they won the super bowl. So that was pretty much a crazy, crazy time. I bet that's

DJ Costantino:

exciting, Mike, because like his restaurant.

Adam Lamb:

Yeah. And that was the eighties, right? That was the eighties. Yeah, that was 86 to 90. Okay. And then 1990, I found myself, uh, accepting a position in south Florida where I spent the next 25 years. Very cool. Yeah.

DJ Costantino:

So, you know, quite the career, quite the different stops and, and interesting perspectives. And I'm sure you've met a lot of interesting folks as well, um, and had a lot of great experiences. You know, something you talk a lot about now is kind of how to have that kitchen career. Without kind of sacrificing your yourself, you know, your wellbeing, your mental, physical health, um, because it is a very challenging industry to work in, you know, was there a specific moment in your career where you maybe you realized things have to change or, you know, I'm, I'm doing too much to myself. Was it more of a slow burn or like, was there like that aha

Adam Lamb:

moment? Well, the slow burn occurs kind of like frog in the beaker. So, yes. Um, by the way, I never got in an industry to create any particular type of. Culinary vision. Like I didn't have this idea of the type of food I was gonna make. What really attracted me to the industry was the people. Yeah. Like the community that existed within the, uh, within the operation and, you know, very much like Anthony Bordain, you could. Has he related, you know, you could, you could come from anywhere. Nobody give his shit, you know, it's Tarian. So if you can, if you can still hold down your station and produce 200 S exactly the way that they need to be done on a Sunday, you're in. Yeah. So having, having this community really meant a lot to me, and there was a moment. In the nineties, I was, uh, running a restaurant. The very first full service restaurant in a movie theater, uh, was right outside of Boca Raton. It was called, uh, movie co premier. It was so well done from the president's vision of the company all the way down to, uh, the floor plan, which, you know, I basically walked in that building and was still beams. And, uh, and project managed the thing outta the ground. So I was incredibly emotionally invested, but there was one moment where I walked in the general manager office and I was just smoking pissed. I was pissed at everybody. Yeah. And so I was back and forth in front of her desk, ranting and raving about, you know, this place sucks. My cook suck. My, so chef sucks. Uh, the people who come here suck everything and she just kind of sat there with a smirk on her face. And then she, till I was completely outta gas, and then she said, but Adam, don't, you see the God in what you do? And I'm like, what? Like, what do you mean, God, you gotta be. And she said, okay, so you go to the gas station. Now you pay at the pump. You don't even go inside. You go to the bank, pay the ATM. You don't even go inside. Yeah. In our current culture, there's less and less opportunity for people to interact. She said, what you do provides an opportunity for people to come around a table. Something that they probably haven't done in a long time and be in relationship with one another. Right. She. Can't you see, you know, how sacred that is. Mm. And I walked away from that meeting kind of scratching my head and going, well, maybe I've been thinking about this overall yeah. Not, not that I provided anything that was particularly holy in that moment. I mean, right. A lot of are pizzas, Caesar salads. Great, great steaks pastes. I mean, we did a very, very high quality job, but I didn't see it as anything more than something to survive. Right. And I realized at that moment that what I brought to the operation, uh, as a leader was immediately taken on by everybody else. So if I was in a shitty mood, everybody else is in a shitty mood. They get their heads down. They it's all asses and elbows and they're working really, really hard. But if I come in there and positive, Attitude. Right. Then all of a sudden people are picking up on me because they're so emotionally keyed to the leader position that they, uh, subconsciously start picking that up. And that's when I realized that I had an obligation far more into my staff than I did to the customers. And that's when things started really changing. Yeah. And. Not to put, to find a point on it. It's also when I stopped believing my own bullshit and realize that I, as a person, as a human being, as a man had my own work to do. Yeah. And if I couldn't get that stuff done, then it wouldn't matter. Goddamn thing. What happened inside the shop? And do

DJ Costantino:

you feel like maybe the way you were at that time was, was learned or, or influenced by the leaders that you had had? You know, you mentioned, you know, your first chef kind of put, put a lot on you mm-hmm that was unfair. And I'm sure what was put on them was unfair as well. Mm-hmm and that kind of like begets, uh, you know, a big cycle of, of kind of negativity.

Adam Lamb:

Yeah. I think, um, one of the biggest lies. We took on. And I say we, as the generation of chefs that I came up with was that because it was done to us, that's, that's the way things were done and that's how we needed to treat others. Right. So, because we were shamed and, and I like to say, um, trained shamed and conditioned to be a certain way, to be tough, to suck it up sunshine, to never complain, to never want anything outside the box, because. To be Frank. One of the things that one of the other pivotal moments for me was when the millennials were starting to come into the workplace, I wrote an article called are the millennials making the hospital industry worse? Yeah. Uh, because a lot of people were complaining about the fact that, oh, they want this, they want that da, da, da. And upon reflection, I realized that they only wanted what we wanted at one point in time. Right. They had. Minerals to stand up and say, this is this, these are my values. And this matters to me. Whereas when I was coming up, I looked around and realized there's no point in me even speaking my mind or asking for what I wanted, because I just knew it was never gonna come. Right. So for a lot of the older guys, I think, or the older chefs pissed them off because here, these guys are gonna get away with what they actually wanted. And so this whole conditioning happened. On the line elbow, elbow. So I'm a big fan of saying culture starts right. Where you're at elbow to elbow with the next person. Yeah. And if there's not an, if there's not a clear intention about what that culture should be, then by default, it becomes kind of, uh, Lord of the flies, so to speak mm-hmm So, because someone had been trained shamed and conditioned, they're gonna turn around and train shame condition. right. One, one of my ver I actually heard my very best. In a kitchen, say this to one of his line cooks about, um, about the fact that they had no honey mustard sauce. On their station. Uh, and he said, I'm gonna come to your house. I'm gonna burn it down and I'm gonna salt the earth so that nothing ever grows back, you know, kind of like a biblical proportions right on the line in front of everybody. And while everybody's just kind of looking down, this person has got their eyes big as plates, and I'm like, uh, man, there's, there's gotta be a better way to do this. Gotta be a better way to do this. Yeah.

DJ Costantino:

Yeah. And I think too, like that, just, that makes me think of like a hell's kitchen kind of thing. Yeah. It's like people would, you know, that's what they think. It's, it's kind of funny, but it's like, is this funny?

Adam Lamb:

Like right, exactly. I mean, I think, you know, Gordon Ramsey has come, you know, he developed a shtick that we sell to the networks and he's created this empire of his, um, but it's predicated on a lie, which is, you know, you can great and bring down other people. And very often the people that need to do that are the ones who weren't feeling secure within themselves. So Absolut. First thing I needed to do was actually get clear on what I brought to the table and what I could do very, very well and then look around and see where those complimentary pieces were and invite them in underneath the tent. And not to think that there was a time in my career where I could not say, I didn't know anything. Right. I had a, I had a food and beverage manager who came and said, okay, I'm gonna need this report on Monday in Excel format. It was a Friday afternoon. Right. I said, uh, I don't know. He says, well, you better learn. Right? So I sat in my office for 36 hours and basically taught myself Excel in order to produce this document, because it was culinary career suicide to admit that, you know, you didn't know how to pull sugar, or you didn't know how to peel a Tenderloin or any of these things. Whereas now a smart leader knows that he doesn't have to have all those specific skill sets, but he has to be able to, you know, pull together a team. That has those full compliments and learn from one another because that's really where the juice is. Right?

DJ Costantino:

Exactly. Yeah. And like making and you have to understand, I think, and, and this is beyond the kitchen though. Um, but especially in the kitchen, as a leader, understanding what your weaknesses are, right? Yep. And like, if you, you know, you can't be good at everything. Right. And I don't think you can't just say, oh, well, these are my weaknesses. Let me let. Hire people to, or find people that, that make up for them. Um, but to a certain extent, you have to know that, you know, this is just something I'm not gonna be good at, or maybe not my natural inclination and I need help and find someone that can help with that.

Adam Lamb:

One of the, one of the most powerful books I read just in the last year is this book called who not how it's based on Dan Sullivan's work, strategic coach. But basically it says that as soon as you start thinking about how you're gonna get something done, That should be an instant indication that you need to find a who to get it done. So when you start, when you start looking at your crew, like, how the hell am I gonna get this done? Because again, as the apex predator and the very small aquarium as the executive chef or the general manager, the pressure is on you in order to create the results. Right? So very often I would take that on as I need to figure out how to do. And for a long time, I was completely not interested in, in anybody else's solutions because it had to come from me, uh, for good or ill. And to be honest, there were a couple times where it fell squarely on my shoulders and I had to take the hit and, you know, find another job. But, you know, thinking that way, believing that way for me, shut off. So many other possibilities that I think now exist. In a lot more open landscape where people can put their hands up and say, okay, I don't know how to get this done, but we together have to get this done. Anybody got any ideas? Right? Which is also one of the kind of main drivers of building this internal community of having. Transparency vulnerability in front of your crew, you know, using your experiences to allow them to speak about theirs. Because very often nobody's gonna put their hand up. If they think they're gonna get their heads chopped off, that's the right. That's the poppy syndrome and it still exists. You know, when I say my generation of chefs, there's plenty of chefs out there, young and old who are manag. Under this idea that it's gotta be their personality as opposed to standards. So there is still a lot for a lot of us to learn. Absolutely.

DJ Costantino:

What do you mean by that? Like personality instead of standards, like, did this person needs, I'm not gonna get like, you know what I mean?

Adam Lamb:

It's, it's, it's a, it's a perfectly fair question. Yeah. So typically, and I'm not gonna paint with a broad brush, so I'll just speak about my experiences when I would hire people. Very often I would hire people who, who mirrored my thoughts, my beliefs, my actions. And so I'm using my personality in order to motivate or inspire them. Right. As, as opposed to hiring a broad class. Of individuals who are skilled at certain positions, almost like putting together a basketball team or a football team, you know, who's gonna play in what position and then using the standards of the operations in order to manage. Right. Okay. So you you've been late twice this week. All right. So you remember when we did orientation and you signed off on all these papers, one of which was, you know, you promised not to be late, right. Or have excessive tar, do you remember signing. Uh, yeah, I remember so. Okay. So then is there anything I need to understand about what's going on this week? That you've been late twice? Like giving them an opportunity to talk about what's going on outside of it. And then if they're like, no, a lot of times what ends up happening is they'll just cop to it and like, yeah, I fucked up. I'm sorry. And that's an opportunity for them to become more mature and own their actions. The repercussions that come out of those actions, because ultimately what you're doing is impacting the people that work next to you because now they gotta take on extra work. So that's what I mean about managing by standards versus dude, what's up, man? You know, you're letting me down. Well, you're not letting me down. You're right,

DJ Costantino:

right. Yeah.

Adam Lamb:

Come on man. Like. It's it's, it's, it's a subtle difference, but it's incredibly important, especially when you start scaling up in your career and you're now instead of managing three or four people, now you're managing 20, 30, a hundred, right. Because there's no way to do that by personality because everyone will have their own opinion about you.

DJ Costantino:

Right. But, you know, I mean your opinion, I think of the standards, you know, if you don't, if you don't like how things are, are run that way, you know, it's a little bit different. It's not

Adam Lamb:

personal. That's right. The standards are non-negotiable. This comes in directly to, you know, the work that I'm doing right now. And especially with Jim Taylor from benchmark 60, is that the only way that a community? So a bunch of people come together to let's say, work in a kitchen. That's a crew. That's a bunch of people who have their own individual motivations around being there. Yeah. In order to grow that crew into something more cohesive, you have to build them into a team. My friend Jensen Cummings, love to say, don't call me, don't call this. Don't call us a family. We're not a family. Because to be Frank, you know, there were shit that went on in my family. They would never allow in a professional organization. Right. But there's all kinds of, uh, enabling or, you know, walking away from problems or all that kind of stuff that happens in a family where if we're a team, we stand for one another. Right now the deeper cut of that is how to grow a community is by coming together and saying, these are our core values. Yep. And, and the organization has to answer four things. What's our, what's our food philosophy. Yep. What's our service pH. What is our proposition, as far as the customers and what's our proposition, as far as the employees are concerned. Yeah. So if you can answer all those and they must all be answered, or Mike coaching is always, you know, you need to come up with adjectives that elicit some type of emotional response. You can't just say, uh, well we believe in truth, no truth in what, right. So it's a deeper cut. Once you have those established from a management standpoint, then there's another meeting with the associates and say, okay, so. What do you guys believe in? What do you think is important? Should you be able to be able to raise a hand in a meeting and not feel like you're gonna get a head cut off these types of things, and then there's a negotiation around, okay. So what do we together stand for? And the community is always brought together. Any type of community is always brought together by shared values. Yeah. Principles and that kind of stuff. Now you've got people who are bought. Understand what not only the mission is because the mission is always gonna be, you know, to provide the best service possible. But then how do you actually do that? So by assembling these pieces together and agreeing on them or. Let's say there's somebody who can't agree. Can we at least come to consensus? Right. That it would be a good thing if we can do this. exactly. But at least, at least, at least now they've, they've had a voice. Yeah. They've had an opportunity to, to speak their mind, which are all valuable because maybe someone comes up with something that, oh shit. That's right. Oh my God. Let me put that. So, um, that's how I envision focusing on the internal community. Just as much as focusing on the external community that comes in and pays their money.

DJ Costantino:

Absolutely. And I think that's like the biggest focus, you know, of your work. And I think maybe where the industry needs to probably put in the most work. I think that's of those four things that you've mentioned, that's probably the most neglected part of the industry. Yeah. So, so curious.

Adam Lamb:

They call them value propositions. Right. So right. All of a sudden I saw start seeing this thing pop up called an EMP, which is an employee proposition. Okay, cool. I get that right now. They're using a little bit different lingo, but it's the same thing. And I started actually years ago by creating a covenant, just a written document that goes in with their onboarding paperwork. That specifically relates what the company. Is offering in exchange or what the associate, the employee or whomever is willing to provide. And if there's anything that gets to be talked about, that's the time to talk about it because we wanna make sure that everybody's clear that listen, we're gonna provide you, uh, clear and consistent. Feedback. We're gonna make sure that you have clear and consistent communication. We're gonna make sure that you have a clear career path. We're gonna make sure that you know, where you need to go in order to get to a particular position. Like one of my favorite jobs to ask, or one of my favorite questions to ask during a job interview is like, okay, so you got this job. Where what's your next job? What kind of skills do you think are necessary there? And let's work on those so that when you leave here, you are fully skilled in order to be able to get that position. I mean, that's pretty juicy by anyone's standards, right? Yeah. To have someone admitted to your own growth. Yeah, absolutely.

DJ Costantino:

Cause I mean, that's acknowledging what's gonna, this. Person's not gonna stay with you forever. I mean, maybe they will. Right. But that's, I mean, what's the chance of that, but if you can make that positive impact on them and kind of, uh, appreciate the time that you have together. I think that's really valuable. So, so you're advocating for, you know, a lot of people say, you know, bring your core values and tell them to your team, but you're advocating that this is something you really need to be developing with the team together. Not, you know, handing it down from, you know, your, you know, ivory tower. Here's our, you know, here's our stone. These are our commandments.

Adam Lamb:

I did that. I did that at my last position, which I was the director of dining for, uh, an upscale, uh, retirement community here in Asheville, North Carolina, where I live. Uh, and we had about a year to work on this before the pandemic hit. And then the shutdown. Yep. Which I, I don't know of anybody else that was managing the expectation of 650 residents, all of whom were at a hundred percent positivity of being able to catch the disease. But the other 120 staff that you know, were coming in and out of the facility. So that was. That was quite a time, but you know, I went to this program out in Vegas, uh, called money and you, it was fantastic. I knew it was gonna be a good program or good training because the first two days I was completely pissed off and then on the third day I started crying and then by the fourth day, the trainer was up to me. You go kind of like, ha gotcha. Didn't I right. But, but I created all these rules based on a win-win psychology came in, had a big meeting, had everybody sit down. Okay. So these are the things, da, da. and for a lot of the employees who had been there for a long time, because they have history with say HR or upper management, you know, some of those opinions weren't changing because again, I didn't bring everybody underneath the tent to say, okay. So what do you think is important? Because unless we're bringing them into the conversation, then it's just, uh, it's, uh, it's an echo. Where, you know, I'm convinced da, da, da, and even some of my managers were not convinced because of where they were on their maturation in the profession. Right. You know, to be, to be a mature professional, to be able to model that in front of everybody else also means that you get to model that to other managers as a way of them having a clear example of what that looks like. Yeah. Because most of my life, most of my career, the people I worked with were. To put it bluntly immature, meaning they'd never gone through a Rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. So they thought a lot of the stuff that was going on as a child, a lot of those behaviors were still gonna carry them forth into their careers. And for some of them who were frankly, to put a. Label on it, hot shit. Yeah. That worked for a while until they're acting out, you know, their drug abuse, their, their, their alcoholism, you know, that started affecting the operation. And then the owners are like, oh, oh, well, we can't have that. Right. But they're enabled all the way up to that. Right, right. Until they step boundaries, as opposed to. Not avoiding the situation and sitting somebody down saying, listen, you have the potential to do some really, really great stuff here, but you really gotta get your fucking shit together. right.

DJ Costantino:

Exactly. Not, not waiting until it not waiting until it's like too, too late. And I think that can apply to really anything, you know, maybe it's someone that has, you know, attitude issues or, or anger problems, or like you mentioned drug edition, but I think that's a good segue into, into kind of what I want to get into next, which is. I think we talked about some of the strategies a little bit on how to engage your staff a little bit more, but, um, what are some of the more interesting maybe tactics or, or, you know, examples of things you're seeing people doing in the restaurant business to create a better employee environment?

Adam Lamb:

Well, that's, what's so interesting right now, because there is, like you mentioned before, there's so much conversation going on right now and we just gotta continue to beat the. Yeah. And to your point, I started to have this worry that there is a lot of talk and there's not a lot of action. Yeah. So as part of the podcast, I interviewed, uh, quite a few chefs and also leaders in their field of, you know, relationship and stress and all this different stuff. And I talked to some chefs who are out there doing something that are completely different. I'll mention this one organization where the guy went to. Seven different banks to get his restaurant funded. They all told him no, because they couldn't understand his, they couldn't understand his P and L because what he was, because what he was saying is like, I need a hundred dollars from every person that comes in the restaurant. Right. And it's basically an eight course tasting menu. Yeah. And if he can get a hundred dollars out of every cuz they'd ask him, well, what's your food cost? He's like, I Don. What's your labor cost? I don't know, but if I can get a hundred dollars from every person who walks in, then what he ended up doing is creating a profit sharing environment. Whereas dishwasher makes $45,000 a year. Right? Right. So it's like managing the top line as opposed to the bottom line. And I know that there are others out there who are talking about, we have to take the entire P and L and flip it on its head. As in, instead of registering labor as a cost of doing business, it's actually now on the asset line. Because what you're doing is every dollar that you're spending actually increases the value of the associates as opposed to making it a cost to the business. Right. So it, it throws the calculation off a little bit. Um, another one that, uh, Jim and I are using, and some of the other partners for benchmark 60 are using a productivity metric in order to guard against burnout and actually manage workload proactively. So. Operators can understand that there's there there's money being left on the table and that they can use that money and reinvest it back into their operation around, you know, some of the, some of the hard goods or hard benefits. There's still so many restaurants that don't offer healthcare or mental healthcare. One of the things that the retirement community that I worked at was a very, very simple thing. They contracted with a local mental health counselor. They created this program by which if anybody in the company wanted to go have a session, here's the phone number you book it it's completely anonymous. All HR knows is they get an invoice for this hour session or a couple hour session or whatever, but it gives, it gives the associate an idea that a, someone cares enough to actually offer this B that they're completely anonymous and it doesn't have any blow. On their position or authority within the company. And it's such a simple thing to do. Yeah. Uh, I was talking to somebody the other day who said that they were talking to a restaurant tour who had an employee who was basically down to, I have a, my cat's sick. I need to either take care of my cat or take care of myself. So they opted to spend their available cash on the. So now this company offers insurance to every single one of their employees. Yeah. I mean, I don't know about you, but I have a daughter who spent $7,000 and, and not threw away, but made the decision not to be in relationship with her boyfriend at the time, because the cat meant more to her in that moment. And there's, I, I think there's so many other people out there that are kind of in this kind of unspoken dilemma. I mean, it's I, the old trope. The age of trying to figure out whether they're gonna pay rent or buy food, but there's a lot of folks who are in those kind of dire, um, dire questions about how they're actually gonna live their lives. So there's really, really interesting stuff to do. Jim was able to work with a restaurant company where the president said, you know, my people work so damn hard. I don't want them to have to go home and do laundry or clean their houses. Right. So Jim was able to show him how he could. Actually create a subcompany and now they do, uh, I think it's two hours every day of cleaning house and doing laundry for all their 60 employees. Wow. I mean, that's intangible to be able to, I know on the rare occasion that we get somebody to come over and, and take care of the house, how good it feels to be able to walk in a house and it be clean. Not to know that you've these 12 other things that you have to take care of. Right. So I think a lot of it has to do with putting ourselves squarely in the feet and being exactly where our associates are not up here looking down, but actually being in their shoes and like, what are the things that they're struggling with every day? Yeah,

DJ Costantino:

absolutely. Also to walk in and know it's clean and you'd had nothing to do with it is also, oh God,

Adam Lamb:

what a gift. what a gift. I mean, if it was, if it was me, you know, I'd go to the wall for this person, this employer who made this possible, I'm not jumping ship for quarter, right? Cause no one else is doing right here in Asheville. The, in order to make a living wage here in Asheville for hospitality workers, I think it's got, I think the. This is by Massachusetts Institute of technology. MIT has a living wage calculator that you can find online. And I highly recommend any operator in any city. Be able to go and click into this, because if you really want to know where your people are at, just check this out, because it said that for a single parent, with one child, they needed to make $38,000 a year, right. Just, just to get by. And that's why most everybody who works in Nashville doesn't live in Nashville. They're all kind of in outlying areas. Now there's this huge infrastructure, uh, works going on to widen the roads, which has gone on for a year and should go on for another year. But it's just like, it's not necessary. I mean, there are ways of achieving the same result without giving up margin, without giving up profit and read this the other day. And it just hit me so hard. No one is gonna believe a thing you say until they believe that you care. Mm. And I was like, yeah. No wonder so much of what I've said during my career has fallen on deaf ears because a, they didn't believe that I cared. I mean, I always thought that, you know, I put my ass on the line for every single one of them, but I know for a fact, there were a couple times where I had to think about my own future and my own needs, as opposed to those of the crew. You know, when the boss says, Hey, listen, you gotta cut four or it's gonna be you. Yeah. I mean, how do you stand in front of that? So this is where it comes back down to, you know, if I'm unsure of what my core value is, then it's easy for me to make a bad choice in that matter. Even if it means, you know, for me to stand for my people means that, okay, I'll take the hit. I got a little bit of savings. I can cover it. I'll go home and explain it to my wife or other jobs out there. It's just, and how do you actually make those values real in the day to day? Yeah. So one of the biggest issues that I see happening is, um, or one of the biggest challenges. So before I did the podcast, I interviewed about 60 chefs and to a person, one of the things that they brought up was a feeling of not being appreciated, whether that being from a boss who doesn't really care about what they're going through or customers. Are trying to beat them down on their prices. If they're a caterer, you know? Yeah. They're like, this is my, this is the price and they're well, can't you do so to a person they're feeling unappreciated now, to me that opens up two different avenues. Number one, there is the ability or the opportunity to do some coaching with them so that they realize that if they look for anyone else to give them that sense of satisfaction from the inside, then that hole will never be. As I know from dancing in the dark with the devil, you'll go almost anywhere in order to fill that hole to feel like you're good. I mean, the business based around instant gratification plate goes up in the window, you know, it's great. You're waiting for the customer that he say, da, da. And it's all about this instant feedback loop. While the more I have been able to basically delay gratification and understand that the work that needs to happen in the mid. Then I've gotten a lot better about, or more resilient about who people think I'm doing a great job or not. The other part of it is to create a feedback loop within the organization of communication. And I'm a big fan of daily or shift meetings. Yeah. And those shift meetings can take on a different tenure. There's an organization called, um, I got ear back mm-hmm and basically their shift meetings are around how everybody's feeling. There's a shoebox at the door and these little smiley faces, you know, one is, one is, one is standard. One is smiling, the other one's mad and everybody signs one of those and puts it in the box. And right before the shift meeting, that box is open and they say, okay, so here's the temperature of the restaurant right now. Some of you more of you, the not are feeling pretty bad. So let's talk about that for a second. Instead of, instead of like, Doing a standard set up, which is like, okay, we've got 340 on the books. Uh, these are our specials and break, you know, that's, that's not being informed in any way of what's happening in the lives and emotionality of the associates. Now there might be some people who say, well, dude, they're doing a job. What do we care? Because in the end you don't wanna be the only one on the line. Right?

DJ Costantino:

What do you want someone to care too?

Adam Lamb:

Like, yeah, you. again, it gets back to the it's nothing that we didn't already want. Right. So why can't we make a differentiation between leadership and mentorship and become the mentor that we always wanted and give that first, give that sense of security, that sense of safety. That sense of, uh, I don't wanna say motivation, but that, that your lives have a purpose because. MAs Well's pyramid or a pyramid of hierarchy, you know, of human meaning purpose is way up there, man. And if someone's just coming in to just fill the shift, you're never, ever gonna find that them producing anything better or more, it's always gonna be the same speed.

DJ Costantino:

Absolutely. And I think, you know, not to, not to. discount any of it, but all of this, like for operators, all of this is not the cost a dime to do

Adam Lamb:

none of it. that's, that's the crazy thing about, so right. There's there are, so the first thing to do, if, if someone's listening to this podcast and they're like, I, you know, that's all bullshit. I, I don't even know where to start. I would say go back to your organization and look at your job descriptions and tell me if they're tiered. So if you're in your kitchen, do you have all cooks? Or are there hot cooks, cold cooks? Are there cook one, cook two, cook three. You know, some of the most successful hotels are successful for a reason in that they've created this environment where if I'm coming in and I'm an apprentice or I'm in a. Or I'm a cook two, and I wanna become a cook one. There's typically some type of skill set test, whether it's written or manufactured where you gotta break something down or, or make something doesn't take any time to create these, because all these are online in one form or another, but for an associate to be able to come in and say, you have a clear career path here. If you wanna make it to the top of your game, then this is your, this is your purpose for the time being and to your. Amazon only Amazon's created its business around. People got two years and then they gotta go. And in, in some cases they'll, they'll buy 'em out at the end of the two years because mm-hmm they find that after two years, there's a direct result around enthusiasm and the ability to get the job done versus their tenure. So I'm not saying we should be like Amazon, but the point is. We need to understand what people want from us so that we can give that to 'em so that we can get what they want from us and seems transactional. It is, but it's also on the way of building a broader, stronger, more resilient, equitable, uh, and empowering community. Because once they get a taste of what that's like, then they know they can't work for anybody else. Right. Then they know they have to go and create it on their own. And we need more restaurant. More food and beverage operations that are doing this. So if we concede that at some particular point, it's gonna make it a hell a lot easier down the road. Now. Absolutely. Some people, you know, there's this thing that chefs have about being hard, right? Like they love their pain. They love the shit that they have to put up with because it's like a badge of honor. And if you're not a chef and you don't have an apron on, and you're not actively on a line somewhere, they'll look at you like, yeah, Ain't got nothing to say to me. I can't tell you how many chefs have come after go. Like, I didn't know what you were saying then, man, but, but thanks. Thanks. I really appreciate, you know, the fact that you actually said something to me because no one else was gonna say it.

DJ Costantino:

So absolutely. And I think that's, that's a pretty good place to kind of tie things up, but you know, I, I, I kind of wanna leave you with one with one last question. Um, you know, we've covered a lot today, but you know, for maybe an operator who's listening or, you know, someone in a leadership. Um, what's something they can kind of, you know, they turn this, this episode off, they go back to their restaurant. They go back to their office, wherever it is. Mm-hmm um, what's something they can do immediately to improve the experience of their employees in their restaurant.

Adam Lamb:

Okay. Um, so Jensen Cumings has kind of a radical idea that is every hospitality company, every restaurant, every consultant. Every hotel needs to be a hospitality company and a media company. Typically what you'll see on Facebook, uh, is a lot of these static pictures of plates that, that chefs have created, you know, it's food porn to Jack off another chef like, Hey dude, check this out. Oh man. That's great. Fantastic. Even though you can't eat it, smell it, which are all the other. Right. But instead of posting, instead of posting those post short form videos on every single platform that you think a potential. Or a potential guest is, and those videos can be anything from your crew laughing while they're setting up or walking them through a certain training or whatever, because the fact is is that if you don't own your narrative, someone else will. And that's exactly what happened during the shutdown, because big media got a hold of, oh, it sucks to work in restaurants. Not only did everybody leave, but nobody wanted to come back. Absolutely in the time that that's provided us, it's incumbent upon all of us to band together and do what we can in order to improve our working environments. Now there's nothing you're going to be able to do about the physical plant, right. But emotionally people will be a hell of a lot more bought into coming to work. If they know that someone appreciates them, it's that. Absolutely.

DJ Costantino:

Yeah. And that's something, um, you know, not to toot our horn here, but we've been doing at seven shifts with our job positions. You know, every time we post a new job listing, we have the hiring manager makes a video kind of telling the person about what the experience would be like. Yeah. Shows the office side a little bit. I know. I'm sure. You know, um, Sean Walsh at C barbecue when he is hiring, gets up on the roof of his restaurant with a. So, you know, come, come apply here. I think that kind of shows you, uh, a lot about the type of person that would do that. Right? Absolutely. Those all positive things, all positive things.

Adam Lamb:

Yeah. I, I there's, like you said, there's so much that can be done without spending a lot of money. You know, the other thing I would suggest for an operator to that can do something right. When he walks back, he or she walks back into our operation is to spend some time and just be with the associate, see for a chef. It's easy because if you got. Prepping in the background. Or doing some prep, you can always slide up a cutting board. Don't say anything, slide up a cutting board, get your towel, your Sandy bucket, and then just start doing some work. And you don't have to say anything to 'em. There's something that happens psychologically. When people are side by side, shoulder to shoulder that opens up a conversation that might not necessarily happen any other way. Yeah, very often my wife and I are driving in the car and we have. Extraordinary conversations. Well, it actually comes from the body position because if you're sitting across from one another or standing across from one another, it, it forms a confrontational di and that's not what you want. You want people to be able to just kind of open up and start talking, rolling silverware, go over and start rolling silverware with somebody, you know, all these things in order to not only them feel like you are with them. Physically, but emotionally as well.

DJ Costantino:

Very cool. And with that, I think, um, it's a nice little bow to put on everything, but for folks that are looking for some more, where can they find you and what

Adam Lamb:

you're doing? Sure. Uh, I'm on LinkedIn at, uh, let me see. Adam Lamb. Uh, I'm on Facebook at Adam M uh, you can catch the podcast at chef life, radio dot. Or available on wherever you get your podcasts and you can email me directly at Adam chef life, radio.com. Very

DJ Costantino:

cool, Adam, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Adam Lamb:

Dominic. Thank you so very much. I, I, I'm still looking forward to what you guys are rolling out. I think the product is fantastic. The support is wonderful and you guys are incorporating a lot of these things that we're talking about, like communication and things of that. So yep. You guys get it? I yeah. Behind you a hundred

DJ Costantino:

percent. Absolutely. Thank you. And a couple names you drive Jim Taylor. We have an episode with Jim. Um, Jim was on the podcast back in April and then Jensen Cummings as well was on the podcast back last year. So I'll put the link to those episodes in the description as well. So you can check those out, but Adam, you have a fantastic rest of your day. Thanks

Adam Lamb:

you too. Take care. You bet.

DJ Costantino:

Thanks again for checking out the restaurant growth podcast presented by seven shifts. We're so grateful to our listeners and we'd love to hear from all of you. Send us an email to podcast seven shift.com and check us out on social we're at seven shifts on all platforms. Don't forget to hit that subscribe button and we'll see you next week.