For restaurateurs, and any business owners, when employees do not perform well, it is the same as losing money.

The high paced environment of the restaurant kitchen has no space for kitchen staff who slack off. Capable Chefs can achieve maximum kitchen efficiency, but sometimes the pressure is put so much on the Chef’s shoulders when it is the culture of the management that is the problem. When you find yourself having lazy and unproductive kitchen staff, you spend more time and money to address issues that arise. 

How does laziness present itself in the kitchen? Take a look at your employee who often takes breaks, the one who takes longer than is expected to perform a considerably easy task, the one who likes to stop and chat with other kitchen staff often than necessary and more. 

If staff performance is underwhelming, it can affect your business.  A fast and practical solution is to hire temp chefs and kitchen stewards from reputable agencies. You need a replacement that will get the job done. 

Yet, understandably, you would want to look at a long term solution.  

So how do you deal with laziness before it becomes a culture in your kitchen? 

Here are some quick tips:


Laziness is real, and while you communicate your dissatisfaction to the employee for their poor performance, you also need to look beyond the reason. Look for a trend. Have you had previous or current employees who are exhibiting laziness at work? Are their tasks well suited to them? Is there an available task left to do? Is it because a task is being passed on to someone who is less senior in a role? Is it a company policy issue? Are they demotivated? By what? Most of the time, it is the belief that employees can get away with slacking off. If it is, find out why. Do you have a weak management style? If your restaurant business model is suffering, you may need to learn how to motivate them to improve staff performance (quickly). 


You can’t begin to discipline an employee for behaviour they didn’t know was unacceptable. But rules on conduct can be tricky to define. Therefore the expected behaviour should be explicit in writing. Can they use mobile devices in your kitchen? Are employee time in and outs as well as break times clearly defined? What is your baseline for a productive output? Are the expected tasks clearly explained? The productivity of an employee increases when speed is part of training activities, and benchmarks are established. Be specific about what you allow and what is unacceptable.


To effectively enforce discipline, all managers and supervisors should be consistent when putting disciplinary policies in action. Policies and regulations are only as good when the management team is competent in implementing them. Your kitchen staff may be actively productive when Supervisor 1 is on duty, but slacks off when Supervisor 2 is. 

All managers/supervisors should be on the same page. Hold regular meetings with them where discipline policy is always included in the meeting agenda. Do they have a standard form when they write up an employee for a disciplinary infraction? 

Most employee problems can be handled on the spot, and an effective manager or supervisor can avoid it turning into significant incidents. Ensure that they also have regular training in people management. If performance is so weak that dismissal is required, make it clean, fair and fast. Let them know that discipline should be based on facts and good advice and that they have an audience. Avoid making threats that they will not be able to carry out. How many warnings are needed to be given? Are they giving compliments when due? Do they genuinely acknowledge excellent performance? How do you promote staff? This, in particular needs, to be open and known to all. When someone is promoted or given a raise that is clouded in mystery or secrecy (or favouritism), it causes frustration and demotivation. Be clear with standards and expectations of how rewards are achieved. And as much as you would like to avoid it, consider disciplining your managers as well if they fail to uphold your policies. 


It would help if you have an extra pair of eyes where your human eyes cannot go. CCTV installations have become an important part of the security system among many businesses today. From monitoring theft, the time ins and outs, to protection from lawsuits in cases of work-related injuries. There is an interesting read on the psychological effect of surveillance at work says that excessive surveillance at workplaces has negative effects on employees such as increased stress, loss of identity and the emergence of privacy issues. While you would want to avoid creating undue stress to your employees, it is possible to achieve a balance when the working environment is harmonious and supportive. Again, your Chef, your managers and supervisors play a role in this. 

RELATED READ: 3 Tips To Remove Motivation For Committing Food Theft In Your Kitchen


Can your employees complain about the lazy staff? Will they be heard? Can your management humble down and ask for input from your other employees to help solve the problem? Sometimes, other employees are careful about ranting on another employee when the latter is quite popular, or they feel the latter is being favoured by management. Make it a point to ask about this issue of equal treatment of employees by different managers, and when you hear hints, pay attention.

In Summary:

When there is laziness, often there is a lack of motivation.  If your kitchen staff exhibits laziness for the nth time, it is time to restructure your thoughts. Always remember that you, your managers and supervisors have the power to empower your staff to make them deliver their best working performance.

That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

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