What is mindfulness? Wikipedia defines mindfulness as “the psychological process of purposely bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.”
In short, mindfulness means being present in the moment, not distracted by outside influences. In the restaurant world, being present, or mindful, can be an ongoing challenge, as non-stop demands weigh on owners and management day and night.
But managing a restaurant through the practice of mindfulness offers something important — connection. In a business that relies on many people working together to achieve common goals, it’s essential to form lasting and meaningful connections. Doing so improves staff morale and guest experiences and reduces turnover among employees — ultimately lessening the burden on management to keep the ship afloat.
Make mindfulness a core value
Your staff is more likely to take mindfulness seriously if it is introduced to them on day one of the job. Include language about mindfulness and emotional intelligence in your training manual. Start by explaining what mindfulness means to you and then connect back to why it is important. One essential component to mindful management is communication. Create a system of communication that is open and encouraging, with weekly meetings and regular one-on-one check-ins. Don’t wait for problems to arise before talking to staff; talk with them regularly and make time to listen with an open mind.
Along similar lines, it’s important to create a sense of connection before correcting behavior. Think about the root cause of problematic staff behavior, and make an effort to empathize with the emotions behind that behavior before making corrections. Look your employees in the eye and validate their feelings: “I understand it can be hard to wait on a table of 10 with 4 screaming kids, but we are committed to giving the best possible service. How can we solve this challenge together?” Share the responsibility for keeping the working environment mindful and positive.
Practice what you preach
Bringing a culture of mindfulness to your restaurant means, first and foremost, leading by example. It’s the classic scenario of putting on your air mask before helping other passengers. You must be mindful to inspire mindfulness in others. Some ways to do this include building in time to meditate or practice simple breathing exercises before and even during your shift. With so many tasks on your list, this can easily fall to the bottom of your priorities, but it’s essential to designate specific time to practicing mindfulness because, like anything worth doing, mindfulness takes just that — practice.
Another way to bring in mindfulness is to create group practicing opportunities, such as bringing in someone to facilitate meditation or breathing exercises for the whole staff or to do off-site, team-building mindfulness training quarterly. Many of your employees may not have the tools they need to practice mindfulness at first, so it’s important to meet them on their level and learn together as a team.
Remember, mindfulness is a practice. Just like learning any new skill, sometimes it will be more challenging to practice than others. There are tools and resources you can use and share to help you grow in your practice. Apps like Headspace, Calm, and Stop, Breathe & Think can be convenient tools. But part of mindfulness is about centering yourself in the present, not going deeper into your phones. For that reason, it can be valuable to learn some simple breathing exercises, stretches, and meditations that can be used by anyone on your staff at any time.