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3 Simple Ways to Grow Your Team’s Overall Capabilities in Foodservice

Are you looking for simple ways to increase the productivity and engagement of your team in foodservice? Below I outline three approaches you can incorporate to motivate a skill set across your entire team, even if team development isn’t one of your favorite things to do.

Themes of the quarter or year

When running an R&D team for a major brand, I had the pleasure of thinking about their capabilities as a whole, and how to impact the business by growing one specific area across the entire group. Over time, we started to implement themes of the quarter or themes of the year. These were ideas that helped us define our identity and how we wanted to be viewed within the company. The benefits of this are simple. With one overarching approach you can focus your team on an area of need and look to improve results.

These themes can be stand alone, or they can be laddered up to a strategy or urgent business imperative. Here are a few examples:

  • A specific skill set like communication. Everyone can get better at this whether it’s over communicating or under communicating. Bring in a speaker or have your team take an online course on ways to improve. Have the team share best practices. Encourage the group to find ways to remove ambiguity in communication and reduce unnecessary email clutter! Other examples in this bucket could be financial acumen, prioritization, documentation or even effective meeting management.

  • Cross functional collaboration. Perhaps your team doesn’t get out into the field enough and needs to spend time understanding their cross functional teammates’ challenges. Many times, we get stuck in our functional area mindset and think everyone else is the problem for why our great ideas aren’t getting implemented. The truth is that we can always learn from our peer groups and better understand how our work can create challenges for them. Have a speaker from that team come to your team meeting, and schedule shadow days to learn more about what their role is like. You could pick a different cross functional team to learn from every quarter!

  • Customer focus. It’s easy to get separated from the customer experience. A great theme to focus on is better understanding customer needs and their actual experience in your restaurants. This is especially relevant for R&D departments!

Giving away the agenda

Do you hate monthly all hands team meetings? Does it feel like you just got through with one team meeting only to have to start worrying about the agenda for the next one? They can feel like such a chore for attendees and planners alike.

Team meetings are an important part of building your culture and community within your group. This should be a time when you and your team get together to celebrate successes, have a little fun, and talk about upcoming challenges. The truth is that one person usually ends up responsible for the planning and that can just end up being exhausting. So, my recommendation is to give away that agenda to the team itself to run. Make it their meeting and their responsibility to make it fun, engaging and productive. I did this with my team and they really took it to heart and got into it. It became a source of pride and anticipation with who was running the meeting that month and how they were going to provide something unique and different. Of course, you can leave sections of the agenda the same every month to cover items like business updates, but the rest is up to the team running the meeting! We would end up having enriching discussions and outside speakers come in that never would have made the agenda if I was running it because I was thinking too functionally! We even instituted a tasting portion where the agenda owners would showcase an emerging trend. It ended up being something that everyone looked forward to and took something from.

Set aside “enrichment” dollars

A third way to grow the capabilities of your team is to set aside budget for each team member for their professional development plan. Now I do believe that each individual on the team is responsible for owning their own professional development. You as a leader however are responsible for creating a culture of growth and enrichment. We would set aside a certain amount of money each year for each individual and they could apply the funds in a way that met both personal and professional goals. It ended up becoming a very serious part of their yearly professional development discussions. Some team members couldn’t wait for the new year to start so they could allocate their funds to their chosen (and approved of course…) enrichment activity.

Some enrichment examples include:

  • Attending a new conference or trade show adjacent to your specific function to broaden your knowledge.

  • Taking an online course on a specific area of expertise you are looking to grow. This can be a great way to help an individual, or bring an entire team up to speed on a specific area you’re looking to grow.

  • Getting an industry certification. We had one person on my team who became a certified master baker, one of only a small number in the entire country! That grew both their credentials and the company’s!

  • Executive education – MBA level courses at local prestigious universities on innovation, global business, strategy, organizational intelligence or other topics relevant to your organization. I would take many of these myself to continue to grow my own knowledge and encouraged my team to do the same.

As you can see, there are a variety of simple ways to implement approaches for increasing your team’s capabilities. Q1 might be over for 2021, but take a look at your goals for the rest of the year and think about how you can apply these ideas to achieve your departments goals while at the same time growing your team.


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