Of the many factors which contribute to successful kitchen operation, the most important single one, and the one which, more than any other, affects the working of the kitchen and the results obtained, is the quality of the staff. A well-planned kitchen, efficient equipment, good buying, sound materials and comfortable working conditions all have their place in helping to achieve an efficient service, but all are useless without capable and reliable staff; whereas with a first-class and loyal staff success can be achieved despite poor conditions and lack of amenities. Naturally this is no excuse for bad conditions; the point is mentioned merely to emphasize the unique position of the staff in the complete scheme for successful kitchen operation. As in all types of organisation involving various grades of staff under one manager, it is the person in charge who, more than any other, determines by personality, attitude and organizing ability whether the staff work well and efficiently or not. At the same time each member of the staff contributes an essential part to the whole, and it is therefore necessary to examine fully all the factors affecting their work to ensure the most successful operation.
Scope of the work
It is not always appreciated how complex is the set-up of a large kitchen and how varied are the duties performed there. At one end of the scale is the woman carrying out the comparatively simple job of removing the eyes from potatoes after they have been through the machine, and at the other end is the craftsman, the chief cook, producing a dish requiring a high degree of skill which can only result from years of training and experience. In between these extremes there are many jobs requiring varying degrees of skill and intelligence. There are, in addition, jobs requiring clerical ability, an understanding of finance, book-keeping and buying methods, and jobs demanding a knowledge of engineering detail, particularly in kitchens with steam-heated equipment, or mechanical plant requiring periodic attention. Training, specialized knowledge and skill are called for right from the first moment when the menu is planned, and an understanding of the principles of nutrition is of value throughout the whole range of processes. After the menu has been planned the ordering of stores calls for sound knowledge of buying methods. When the goods are delivered, careful checking before storage and issue demand ability in the storekeeper, and from this stage onwards varying degrees of skill are required for preparing and cooking On reaching the servery the food must be handled quickly, deftly and carefully, a job which, when well done, results in recognition by the client, but does not require a high degree of skill. After the food has been consumed there still remains the work of clearing, washing up and cleaning, all of which operations when performed efficiently demand a certain amount of technical ability. And then beyond all this, there is the work of the supervisor, who must understand all these various operations and be able to organize and arrange the kitchen routine so that the work flows along smoothly, and at the same time be able to deal with the financial side of the work.
Grades of Staff and Responsibility
In general there are four main groups employed in kitchens and within each group there are various grades corresponding to the nature of the work done and differing one from another in the amount of experience and technical skill required.
The first group is management. A number of different names are used to describe the person in charge, food service manager or manageress, caterer, domestic bursar, supervisor or, in small kitchens, cook-supervisor or even housekeeper; in luge kitchens there is usually also an assistant. The duties vary a good deed from one kitchen to another but they generally cover menu planning buying and responsibility for food stocks, organisation of the work of preparing, cooking and serving food, responsibility for the cure and cleaning of premises and equipment, the keeping in there’s of all aspects of the work, appointment, training and were of start, checking of accounts, costing and in some cases the sandal control of the kitchen.
The second group includes those who are responsible for the actual cooking. The head cook or chef, with assistants, takes res. ponsibility for the cooking of the various sections of the meal. In restaurant and hotel catering this work is divided up into a number of sections, but in canteens the two main divisions are the cooking of the meat and fish and of sweets and pastry. The cook. ing of vegetables tends to be left to a general kitchen assistant which possibly explains why the vegetables served by large kitchens are frequently so badly cooked. This is quite wrong: vegetables contribute such an important part to a meal that the work should certainly be performed by skilled labour and should therefore be considered as one of the jobs of the cook. The duties of head cook usually include responsibility for writing out stores requisitions and for the planning of menus, in conjunction with the supervisor. She is also usually responsible for the organisation of the work of all the cooking staff and in many kitchens even for the work of the whole kitchen staff, including all the general kitchen assistants. Such an arrangement means of course that she has less time for the actual work of cooking and if she is a highly skilled craftsman this may be an unfortunate loss. Also, unless she has definite ability in organising and handling staff the arrangement may have distinct disadvantages.
The third group is concerned with clerical work. In a large kitchen there is a considerable amount of book work, which is connected mainly with the control and issue of stores, and details of this work are given in the next chapter. In addition, the storekeeper is responsible for the physical handling of the stock when received and issued and for the care of the storeroom generally. Kitchen experience is not a necessary qualification of a storekeeper although frequently the work is undertaken by staff who have worked in the kitchen and been promoted to the storeroom, but in such cases this work is not usually full time and the remaining hours are spent in the kitchen. This is often the case in smaller kitchens. In the very small kitchens there is usually no position of storekeeper, the work being done by the caterer or assistant caterer. It is, of course, essential that the person appointed as storekeeper should be absolutely honest and reliable. In a large kitchen she has hundreds of pounds worth of goods passing through her hands, and clearly unless she is completely dependable serious trouble may arise. Other clerical duties undertaken in kitchens are connected with the receipt of cash, a type of work usually found in the non-residential canteen such as the industrial canteen where meals are paid for when taken. The person appointed for this duty is usually known as a clerk-cashier.
The fourth group of kitchen employees is a general one and includes all those who do such jobs as vegetable preparation, cleaning and washing, which do not require specialized skills or involve much responsibility. Such staff are known as kitchen assistants, general assistants, general canteen hands or kitchen maids, and cleaners. If they have not been previously employed in work of a similar nature they need some, but not extensive, training in efficient methods of working. This group may ultimately prove to be a good recruiting ground for the more specialized jobs in the kitchen, particularly in smaller kitchens where the work of the kitchen assistant is more varied and therefore provides better experience for promotion. The waitress, the service and counter hand and the kitchen porter may be included in this group or may be considered in a separate category, depending on the degree of skill demanded. The boiler house man, when one is employed, is obviously a more skilled employee and therefore constitutes a still further group.
Hours of work, Rates of Pay and Emoluments
It is usual for the full-time staff to work a five and a half day week; the time off may be Saturday afternoon and Sunday, or its equivalent at some other time in the week, depending on convenience to the canteen. The cooking and clerical staff, and of course the supervisor, are all employed on a full time basis as also are many of the general assistants, but it is not essential that all of this latter group should be full time, in fact it is found sometimes to be more convenient to employ them on a part-time basis. Not only is it easier to get staff, particularly married women, who are willing to undertake work for daily periods of about four hours, but also there are certain times of the day, for instance during the service of the mid-day meal, when a greater concentration of workers is required; obviously part-time staff are particularly desirable for this.
It is usual to allow the staff a break of one hour for a mid-day meal and short breaks for a morning snack and for tea in the afternoon. The times at which these breaks are taken vary considerably according to the routine of the kitchen. Where work begins early, say at seven o’clock, the first break will also be early and will in fact take the place of breakfast for many of the staff. The time of the mid-day staff meal is a difficult one to determine, because the obvious time is taken up with the service of customers, when usually it is necessary to have every member of the staff available. Thus the choice lies between the time before and the time after the service of meals in the main canteen. The former is really the better from both a nutritional and a physiological point of view. Staff meals should be served at regular intervals and the period between one meal and another should not be too long. It the kitchen staff do not eat their mid-day meal until after the main service, it is inevitable that it will be late. In addition, many staff lose their appetites serving food to others. The all too frequent history of functional gastric disorders among kitchen staff, particularly those in a supervisory capacity, may be a direct result of this. If, however, the staff have their meal before serving food to customers, it may be rather early and certainly will not permit of any prolonged period of relaxation afterwards, which is usually the main argument against early meals advanced by the staff. Even so, in my opinion it is preferable to serve the staff meal at the early time. If, however, it has to be after the rush hour,’ it is important that the food served should be freshly cooked and not the remains of what has been provided for the main service. In some canteens it is the practice to serve staff meals at more than one set time, thus allowing at least some of the staff to eat at a normal hour. This is quite satisfactory unless it entails unnecessary additional work in the kitchen.
Rates of pay of course vary according to the grade of work performed. General assistants are paid on an hourly rate at a figure which is usually common to all canteens in the area. This figure is negotiated by the Joint Industrial Council for the area as a minimum, below which it is not possible to employ staff without running into trouble with the trade union concerned. These negotiated figures also include rates for the cooking staff, but such minimum rates are only applied to the less highly skilled. Where trained and very experienced staff are employed, high rates may be paid and the contract negotiated on an annual salary basis. Holidays with pay are now usual for all kitchen staff, the general policy being to give two weeks including the days of customary holidays. Cooks and supervisors will also have this or even more, according to local arrangements. In establishments such as schools or college hostels which are closed for certain periods of the year problems arise over the payment of the staff on weekly rates for these periods. To pay at the full rate is not possible and places too heavy a load on the overheads of the canteen. But to dismiss staff for this period does not provide a solution, for, apart from humanitarian reasons, a canteen run on this basis will not be able to get the best staff. Clearly the problem is a difficult one to which there is no real solution, but there are, however, two systems which have been found in practice to work fairly successfully. In one system the staff are given a retaining fee during the holiday periods; this may be up to half the normal rate, and enables them to choose between resting for the period or taking seasonal work elsewhere. In the other, they are paid a fixed rate per week for the whole of the year, including the nonworking periods which is less than the agreed rate which would be paid if they worked for the whole year. The lower figure is reached by finding the total amount to be paid for the number of weeks worked including paid holidays, and dividing this by fifty-two.
Emoluments in addition to salary given to staff employed in canteens vary considerably, from one meal a day to the full board and residence generally provided in residential institutions. Practice also varies in the deductions made from salary for such emoluments in kind, which of course may represent quite a considerable sum of money. Whatever practice is adopted it should be made clear in the terms of appointment. Usually it is found to be sound policy not to make a charge for meals provided and it has become the accepted custom to allow free meals at least for cooks and general assistants. If a charge is made, it is usually found that the staff will in theory refuse the meal but in actual practice will not go without food, and it is better to give the food openly than to condone an offence. Other emoluments which are usually provided are overalls and caps and the laundering of them and sometimes suitable footwear.
Although the wages and conditions of employment in most of the catering establishments referred to in this book are covered by the negotiating machinery of the Joint Industrial Council, reference must be made to the wages boards set up under the Catering Wages Act of 1943. The intention of the Act as expressed in the preamble was to make ” Provision for regulating the remuneration and conditions of employment of catering and other workers and, in connection therewith, for their health and welfare and the general improvement and development of the industries in which they are employed.” The Catering Wages Commission was established to perform functions entrusted to it under the Act, and one of its main responsibilities was to establish wages boards to regulate remuneration and conditions of employment of workers in any sections of the industry where no such machinery existed. Following on the reports of the Commission, wages boards have been set up to cover the following sections of the industry:
(i) Industrial and Staff Canteen Undertakings.
(ii) Unlicensed Places of Refreshment.
(iii) Licensed Residential Establishment and Licensed Restaurant.
(iv) Unlicensed Residential Establishment.
(v) Licensed Non-residential Establishment.
These boards cover a great many catering establishments, but there are still many others for which the setting up of a wages board was, for various reasons, not considered necessary. These are all non-profit making canteens in such educational establishments as day schools, boarding schools, colleges and other institutions, including hospitals, orphanages, children’s homes and homes for the aged. The inclusion of these establishments under one of the existing boards or the setting up of an additional board to cover them has been considered by the Commission, but they have reported that they do not consider such action to be justified. Representation was made about the position of catering workers in Oxford and Cambridge colleges, but the report stated that “the information we obtained from the colleges, and the general lack of complaints about conditions, led us to the view that no case had been made out for altering our original recommendation.”
In 1959 the Wages Council Act was passed which consolidated the provisions of earlier Acts and made changes in the machinery of statutory wage regulation to cover four Catering Wages Boards which became councils as follows:
Licensed non-residential Establishment.
Industrial and staff canteen undertakings.
Licensed Residential Establishment and Licensed Restaurant.
Unlicensed Place of Refreshment.
These councils have issued wages Regulation Orders which are of course statutory, and fines are imposed where the conditions of work and wages rates stipulated are not complied with. Consequently any employer whose business comes within the jurisdiction of these councils must be conversant with these regulations. The necessary information is available through the Wages Council, Ebury Bridge House, Ebury Bridge Road, London, S.W.1.
Training and Up-grading
Some training is desirable for all types of work done in the kitchen, though of course the extent varies according to the scope of the work and the degree of skill demanded. Such training can be given in one of two ways, either in the kitchen itself while the trainee is actually working as an employee, or outside the kitchen in specially arranged courses. For the general assistants the former is usually the method adopted, the instruction being given by senior members of the staff. But even for these it is frequently found advisable to make provision for more formal instruction on certain aspects of the work, such as hygiene in washing up technique, or service. For such classes it is usual for economic reasons, to combine with other canteens in the district, and if it can be shown that there is sufficient demand for such courses the Local Education Authority will often provide facilities.
Both methods of training are common for the cooking staff. Many cooks have learned their craft while working as apprentices in kitchens, but today the formal courses of instruction are becoming more common and the value of such training more generally recognized. Training may be taken in full time courses in Training and Technical Colleges which award a diploma, or in evening classes held in many Technical Colleges. In these latter courses the student is usually prepared for the examinations of the City and Guilds of London Institute. There are three examinations of the City and Guilds which are suitable: the first, a basic course covering other aspects of catering in addition to cooking is known as No. 150; the second, a course of cooking for hotels and restaurants, as No. 151; and the third, a high class course in cooking, No. 152.
For the supervisory grades there is no doubt that a good education, followed by a full time course for a degree or a diploma are of great value, and for many posts of this type a diploma in dietetics also is a great asset. As has already been indicated, the scope of the work is extensive, including administration and management of staff in addition to a knowledge of the technical aspects of the work, and the value of training for this is obvious.
Upgrading of an employee is fairly common in kitchens, in fact there is one large organisation where all promotion takes place in this way, no outside training being accepted. Employees are recruited to the lower grade, that of general assistant and when assistant cooks are required they may be recruited from the lower grade. Under these conditions, other qualifications in addition to length of service should of course be taken into consideration. Some organisations operating a number of canteens, run special courses through which staff must pass before promotion from one grade to another. Others insist on evidence of ability and attendance at evening classes, or the possession of a certificate such as those awarded by the City & Guilds of London Institute. Promotion from cooking to management may take place in a similar way but in this case it is important to know that the person promoted has some ability for handling staff and administration as well as being a good cook.
Appointment of Staff
When appointing staff an employer has other factors to consider in addition to qualifications and experience. It is, of course, not possible to ensure that every appointment is in every way successful, but there are certain points which will help one in reaching a decision. Those of appearance are the easiest to assess. Clean personal habits are very important in the kitchen and the condition of the skin, hands and fingernails and of the clothing, which should be orderly and neat, is a good indication of personal habits. Work in the kitchen makes great physical demands on the worker and she should therefore be strong, healthy and energetic; to a certain extent this can be assessed during an interview. Over confidence, signs of which can also be noticed in an interview, is not desirable in any grade of kitchen employment; in an applicant for a higher post, however, such things as a genuine interest in food and catering, a desire to gain promotion, and an informed interest in new equipment and modern methods are useful indications of suitability. Character traits such as honesty, patience, good humor, tolerance and ability to get on with others are of course very important but cannot really be ascertained during an interview. References from previous employers may help in this more often by what is left unsaid than by what is said. Another point to watch is the number of times jobs have been changed during a period. An undue number of changes usually indicates an undesirable employee.
Staffing Ratios and Conditions Affecting Them
The number of staff employed in relation to the number of mid-day meals served is known as the staffing ratio. It is clearly important not only in relation to the efficiency of the kitchen but also from the point of view of overhead costs. Naturally the figure itself is not the only factor to consider in relation to both of these aspects, since the make up in grades of staff employed is also important. It is, however, useful to have in mind a general figure as a guide when assessing numbers, before proceeding to a more detailed consideration of the staff required. For a non-residential canteen serving one main meal a day, the ratio may range from The staff to 30 meals to one staff to 50 meals or even more, ratios for residential establishments naturally being even higher. This range is rather wide, giving a difference of four staff on a 300 meal canteen, but it is not possible to be more exact because of the many varying factors concerned. In the first place the number of staff employed per meal decreases as the size of the kitchen increases. Secondly, conditions in the kitchen affect the actual amount of work to be done and consequently the number of staff required. In a well planned kitchen the work can be done with less effort, and therefore usually in less time, because work circuits are efficiently planned and the distances for transport are reduced to a minimum. Again, in the modern kitchen working surfaces on tables, draining boards and sinks are more easily cleaned, as also the floors, walls and cooking equipment, and this, with the provision of labor-saving equipment such as mixers, vegetable peelers and door scrubbers, contributes considerably to the saving of time. The third factor affecting the staffing ratio is the amount of work which each worker can do. This is affected by age-a kitchen employing a high percentage of women over 60 will generally have a high staffing ratio and also by the local attitude towards work, which varies from one district to another. People in the North of the country generally work harder than those in the South.
Another approach to the problem is through an analysis of the time spent on various aspects of the work, particularly the routine type of job such as serving meals and preparing vegetables. It has been found that one woman can “eye” one bag of potatoes in three hours and this figure affords a useful check. It has also been found that four women can serve one hundred and fifty meals in half an hour, working in a cafeteria system and not plating the meals beforehand. It is quite a simple matter for the caterer to assemble a number of similar figures, which prove useful when she has to deal with changing staff and alterations in the number of meals served and wants to compare different canteens.
Yet another approach has been employed in a four year research programme at the University of Michigan where a group of staffing methodologies for hospitals has been developed, one of which is for the dietary department. With the use of a methodology the hospital administrator can control labor costs by determining the exact staff requirement for each department. In addition data is provided to help in making decisions on future staffing and its relation to any changes in methods and equipment. Since 1967 when the research project finished, the work has been carried on by the Community Systems Foundations at Ann Arbor* who will provide industrial engineers as consultants for special requests.
Importance of good conditions
In the past, kitchen staff have been given few if any amenities and although today conditions have improved in many kitchens there is still scope for improvement.
Amenities which should be available for all kitchen staff are cloakrooms with individual lockers, and lavatory and washing facilities within easy reach of the kitchen. In some establishments showers are also provided and appreciated by many of the staff. Another essential is the provision of a staffroom. This may also include a dining room, but whether it serves the combined purpose or not this room must be available so that the staff can relax during the midday break. Another important amenity, the provision of which should present no problems, is the service of well cooked meals to all members of the kitchen staff. The appreciation of good food is one of the prime concerns of all those dealing with the production of meals, and kitchen staff are justified in insisting that the food they receive should be at least as good in quality and as well cooked as that served in the main canteen. As has already been mentioned, where the service of the staff meal takes place after that in the main canteen, the remnants of the first meal should not be used, but a meal for which the vegetables at least have been freshly cooked should be made available.
The effects of the actual physical conditions and atmosphere in the kitchen on the health and convenience of the staff have been mentioned in earlier parts of this book, and their importance cannot be over-emphasized. There is another type of atmosphere, however, which is not physical and which affects working conditions perhaps more than any other. The atmosphere created by a happy and contented staff is quickly felt by any sensitive visitor to a kitchen, and where this is found an efficient kitchen is also found. It is dependent on a number of things but the one which influences it more than any other is the character, personality and attitude of the supervisor.
Human Problems of the Supervisor
The supervisor is in a unique position to determine the success or otherwise of the canteen for which she is responsible. The technical aspects of her work are of course important, but constitute a body of knowledge which is readily learned; the human problems, however, because they are intangible, are less easy to appreciate, but they are of such vital importance as to warrant detailed consideration, especially by the young person first shouldering the responsibilities of management. All who have had long experience will not need to be told how fundamental are the human problems involved in securing the successful co-operation of a team of workers.
The human problems of the supervisor are essentially those concerned with leadership, for they are the direct outcome of her capacity to get other people to co-operate in the performance of a tusk Many factors contribute to the making of a first-class leader and the degree of success achieved varies considerably from one person to another. One may find certain aspects easier to appreciate, another may be highly successful in quite a different direction. For it is very rare to discover all the essential qualities of leadership combined in one person.
There is no doubt that some people are better leaders than others and this gives rise to the idea of the ‘born leader’. Men and women who earn this title are those who study human nature and have a sensitive understanding of human relations. People must be treated not as cogs in a machine but as sentient human beings with all the interests, worries and affections which are an essential part of all our lives. The supervisor who can find the time to get to know her staff and who can talk to them and enter into their lives for however short a time will find herself amply repaid.
Another essential quality in the ‘born leader’ is a high standard of personal behavior. Some degree of discipline is essential in the organisation of any group of people, and the leader must be prepared to accept all the discipline she is called to lay on others. Elevation to a position of authority, instead of giving the freedom so often expected brings with it a discipline which is more severe because is is essentially self-imposed. Actions which, in an assistant pass without comment, may, if performed by the person in charge, be imitated by all the canteen personnel. Thus the value of a good example cannot be over-emphasized.
Respect for and loyalty to the supervisor on the part of staff are indications of sound leadership and are essential to real success. They are, however, a by-product of right action rather than the result of a definite aim. Giving praise where it is due may earn respect but no more so than being prepared to lay blame where that is due. Some find it easier to do the former and some the latter, but each has its place and must be carried out as unemotionally as possible. Absolute firmness of course is essential, and so is avoidance of any impression of favoritism even though the adoption of such a policy may be fraught with difficulties, interfering, as it may seem to do, with one’s natural inclinations to friendship. Respect is earned too by the supervisor who often leaves her office and goes to the kitchen to take part in problems and share difficulties, who listens to advice from those doing the work and accepts it if she finds it to be good. Another quality of the successful supervisor is the ability to take a decision without undue delay and to be firm in enforcing it. Dilatoriness and wavering are essentially bad qualities in anyone leading a team.
However well the canteen may be organised it is not likely to run absolutely smoothly for long; difficulties, problems and major or minor crises will inevitably arise. Defects in equipment, accidents of various types, power cuts and fuel shortages are all “Acts of God” outside the control of the supervisor, who none the less must deal with them and keep the work going. Ability to remain calm and unruffled throughout, to take the long view and see things sub specie aeternitatis and above all, to maintain a sense of humor, are essential to successful management. The supervisor who has this detached attitude will handle problems and difficulties as they arise with comparative ease, whereas the one who permits her emotions to take control and allows personal feelings to be mixed up with the problems to be dealt with, may find the right solution but will encounter difficulties in putting it into effect. It is an attitude of mind which women find less easy to develop than men, but if it is not present nervous strain results which inevitably affects the efficiency of the canteen.
One other important quality in a leader is the ability to delegate responsibility. This must be done to a greater or lesser extent because not only is it impossible for the supervisor to find time to do all the work for which she is responsible, but juniors will not be properly trained unless they are allowed to assume complete responsibility for some aspects of the work. Many supervisors find difficulty in delegating authority, either because they fear loss of prestige, or because they feel, quite wrongly, that in so doing they are not shouldering their responsibilities; sometimes they find it easier to continue to do a job themselves than allow another to learn to do it. Any mistakes made are ultimately the responsibility of the supervisor and it is not easy to hold a light rein and still maintain control over the work without really appearing to do so. But unless the assistant is made to feel that she alone is responsible, the work will not be properly handled.
The qualities which have been found desirable for industrial leadership are equally applicable to canteen management and are therefore given below for emphasis although some of them have already been dealt with above.
— Willingness to accept responsibility.
— Contagious energy and enthusiasm.
— Ability to delegate and yet retain control.
— Patience even to the extent of suffering fools.
— To see possibilities so far unexplored.
— Persistence of effort.
— Confidence in meeting crises and criticism.
— Honesty with self when wrong.
— Quick and sound judgment of men and situations.
— Human sympathy.
— Delicacy of feelings towards others.
— Willingness to mix socially. Clarity in issuing orders.
— Strictness combined with tolerance.
— Sense of humor (last but not least).