What Clean (Or Appalling) Workplace Kitchens Say About A Business

Dirty DishOne of the best ways to predict the quality of meals and service at a restaurant is to examine the restroom.

Restrooms — including toilets, tiles and washbasins — are among the easiest rooms to clean. If a restaurant staff can’t keep the restroom clean, then you can be sure that the kitchen will be worse. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy, upscale restaurant or simple diner.

Messy kitchens tend to breed foodborne pathogens, poor quality food and indifference to customers. Conversely, clean kitchens reflect healthiness, passion for quality and desire to delight customers. That’s why the world’s best kitchen staffs — even many quick-serve restaurants — consider organization and technique the foundation of everything else.

In the white-collar office world, I’ve always believed clean and organized working habits are a prerequisite to consistently producing quality work. All my colleagues know that my belief extends to workplace kitchens. They tend to be metaphors for work quality and mutual employee respect.

Which is why I was delighted by similar sentiment from Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist, and author of “The Blame Game: How the Hidden Rules of Credit and Blame Determine Our Success or Failure.”

In an interview with American Public Media’s Marketplace Business, Dattner said: “Former Secretary of the Treasury, Larry Summers, in talking about ownership said: ‘In the history of the world, nobody has washed a rented car.’ If people are not washing the kitchen in the workplace, it means that they see themselves more as renters than as owners. It means that they feel transitory, that they’re passing through. They don’t have a real psychological contract with the company, space, workplace. That’s a problem.”

This prompts mandates for all business stakeholders. First, if workplace kitchen cleanliness is a predictor of work quality, prospective employees, customers, partners and investors would be well served by paying attention. When evaluating a business, try to get a sneak peak at the kitchen to see what you may be in for.

Second, if you’re on a business’s leadership team, the cleanliness of your kitchen is an indicator of your workplace culture and the commitment of your employees to contribute to enterprise success and value. If you see it getting messy, you may have underlying problems that need to be addressed immediately. So stop what you’re doing and deal with the problem.

How good is your work? How committed and aligned is your team?

Your kitchen knows.

(Photo: Pinot & Dita)

This essay also ran in MediaPost.


Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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