Every business owner can agree that time is gold. In every commercial kitchen, where output is often fast, it is frustrating to see kitchen staff who do not move and think fast without sacrificing quality. And often, that stems from them not having any sense of urgency.


Sense of urgency in the kitchen is identifying what is urgent and acting immediately. It is dealing with a matter as soon as possible:

  • to avoid slowing down the kitchen operation
  • to avoid problems and, therefore, customer complaints
  • to minimise any untoward results of an incident 

Various techniques exist to address this problem since each kitchen staff has different motivations and responds to different things. 


Here are some strategies others have found helpful:


Get to know your staff’s concept of urgency.


Approach this issue by first conducting an assessment. 

Have a sit-down with your challenged staff and ask them about their concept of urgency concerning what they need to improve. Some people are slow because they need to know how long something should take. Sometimes they think they are working hard just because they show up. Or it could be that they think that their methods are effective. Others can be physically or mentally challenged to address distractions. 

This is also an opportunity to discover how they understand instructions and practices. Sometimes these things fly over their heads even when they have undergone your kitchen training. Follow-ups and follow-through can help check misinformation and correct and reinforce them. 

Once you have grasped how they see their performance and how it affects the kitchen operation, you can discuss the importance of having a sense of urgency. 


Adhere to the practice of looking at the time.


Ensure that the kitchen clock is visible. It is simple, but by referencing time, your kitchen staff has a better chance of accomplishing tasks on schedule. Make a game of it to encourage a little healthy competition. Make sure that you provide a small incentive accordingly. Ensure that they have respect for time and that they keep a task deadline in mind. 


Review your staff schedule and mental health.


Take the time to check how your team carry their kitchen responsibilities. Do some of your staff tend to rely on a particular person? 

When you are staffed correctly, your kitchen operation can run smoothly without your kitchen staff feeling overwhelmed or too relaxed. 

Have a ready solution when your chef and kitchen staff call in sick or go AWOL. 

This may not be a prominent issue at first glance, but having no sense of urgency can be a symptom of an unmotivated staff. And unmotivated staff can stem from people who are overworked and overwhelmed. 

Check in with your team from time to time to see how they are beyond work. 


Review your kitchen systems.


Each kitchen workplace has its own workplace culture and norms to achieve efficiency. Look at the bigger picture and review your current kitchen setup and workflow to see if they are working for you and not against you.

Are your equipment, tools and workflow helping your team optimise their working process? Because sometimes, an inefficient kitchen system is caused when kitchen output is slow and not just because a kitchen staff needs to be faster. 


RELATED READ:   Time-Saving Kitchen Tips From Chefs


Structure tasks at an achievable pace.


Have you noticed that an activity that usually takes a short time to accomplish tends to be accomplished slower when given a more extended deadline? 

When embarking on a task, ask them to set goals. When giving instructions, phrase them so you expect them to accomplish a task at a particular time. Let them know your expectations of completion times. 


Provide Incentives


Positive rewards always trump negative reinforcement in motivating employees, particularly in the long run. Provide incentives to get your people moving. An example is offering longer breaks or a staff meal choice when they finish their tasks before a target time. Incentives can be simple but attractive enough to make your kitchen staff want them. 

Keep mobile phones away.


Whether people would like to admit it or not, mobile phones are usually a source of distraction. In a fast-paced kitchen operation, notifications and calls can be distracting and annoying when there is more than one kitchen staff listening to their devices. 

More importantly, phones are a huge source of bacteria. A study by scientists at the University of Arizona found that cell phones carry ten times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Therefore for sanitation purposes, have rules on using mobile phones in the kitchen. Or don’t have them in the kitchen at all. 


Check yourself as a leader.


Get clear with your expectations. Are they reasonable and attainable? 

Sometimes, we bring our problems to work, affecting our daily mindset. Are your kitchen staff not being snappy, or are you just being impatient? 

If you need to, be a model. Show them how it is done. 

The last way to motivate your kitchen staff and instil urgency is to scream or lose their temper. 

However, we are all human beings. If the situation worsens, it will still be your job to de-escalate and redirect it to a productive outcome. 


Reinforce training


Training should be reinforced whenever staff performance becomes an issue. In this case, train your kitchen staff to identify urgent situations. Begin by letting them know what to look for and when specific potential issues can arise so that they learn how to anticipate them. Your kitchen team can benefit a lot from being proactive instead of reactive. If they know how to anticipate kitchen issues, they can prevent them from happening in the first place. 

And after that, train them to adequately address the situation without sacrificing quality. Have a system for addressing issues beyond their tasks so they can handle the situation and avoid being overwhelmed and tempted to cut corners or create an ineffective solution. 


In Summary:


A kitchen team with a sense of urgency has respect for time and quality, resulting in a product or service that satisfies consumers. 

Each kitchen staff has their approach to time. It is your duty as a leader to identify their challenges and develop systems to train and motivate them so they can adopt this behaviour in your kitchen setup. And hopefully, in their personal life as well. 

And for times and events that you require rapid support in hiring a chef/kitchen staff, give us a call at Anytime Staff

We are a Perth-based Hospitality Talent agency with a roster of professional chefs and kitchen staff that are available as short-term hires for :

  • peak periods
  • events/private parties and celebrations/pizza chefs
  • fill in for an emergency or annual leaves
  • start-up team for opening venues  
  • FIFO resorts/venues

Anytime Staff specialise in temporary hospitality staffing, but we can also assist you in looking for permanent hires by facilitating your recruitment process.

We also offer a Consulting Service to assist you in opening or running the cafe or restaurant of your dreams. We handle the hassle, so you won’t have to.


That’s it for this week.

As always, professional chefs are on call at Anytime Staff!

Ciao for now,


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