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The Art of Family Meal

The Art of Family Meal

Why Doing It Right Makes All the Difference

2 employees eating a family meal while before work

Family meal has been around as long as restaurants have been serving food. Its purpose is simple — to feed staff — and when it’s done right, this longstanding tradition can be a great way to celebrate your staff in both practical and team-building ways.

To get a better understanding of what makes family meal such an important part of restaurant culture, we reached out to our own chefs. They’ve worked in kitchens around the world and have participated family meal gatherings large and small. Get a glimpse of what they love, what could be done better and what approach might be right for you.

What Makes Family Meal Great

  • You can use this time to share the specials of the day and make sure servers know how to talk about them.  
  • Food waste is always a concern and family meal is a smart way to use up leftover ingredients and perfectly imperfect food scraps.

There are so many scraps leftover that are perfectly fine. Maybe not pretty enough for service, but totally edible and delicious.

  • Family meal is a simple way to bring BOH and FOH staff together to connect over food.
  • Family meal is a great opportunity to test new dishes and get specific feedback on what’s working and what’s not.

Anyone can prepare family meal, from line cooks wanting to sharpen their skills to dishwashers and servers wanting to share their special hometown dishes.

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Cooking for 20-30 staff members when you’re on a time crunch and you have a whole prep list to plow through, family meal helps you work on your time management skills, which is essential in the kitchen.

what to Keep in Mind

  • The preparation of family meal often falls on chefs — right as they’re getting ready for service. This can add more chaos to an already time-pressed situation.
  • Family meal can be a challenge for those trying to prep, focus and don’t feel like they can eat or slow down.

When I worked in Italy, I appreciated how family meal was simple. Pasta, cheese and food from that day. I loved the slower paced vibe.

Full participation in family in meal can create a better experience but making it mandatory without exception can be stressful for your busy staff.

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Figuring Out
What’s Right For You

Family meal, staff hanging out in kitchen
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Flexibility Matters
Consider offering shift meals to give your staff the flexibility to choose when they eat. It could be before or after their shift, and they could order right from the menu.

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Organized is Everything
Share family meal responsibilities between front-of-house and back-of-house staff by assigning who’s in charge of preparing the food as well as clean up. A weekly or monthly schedule is a great way for all to plan ahead.

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Picking Your Approach

A practical approach to family meal prioritizes using up leftover ingredients, feeding your staff and getting them energized before hitting the floor. If connecting through food is important to you, consider a team-building approach to family meal. This allows your crew to share their creativity and culture.

There is no right or wrong way to host family meal, and everything we shared here are simple considerations to keep in mind. Take the elements you like, leave the rest and create the family meal that’s right for you. Salute!

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