Business secret 101: Fear or Trust? You choose…


There’s one word that’s having a big life at the moment – in new age doctrine, coaching and mentoring – what is it? It’s fear.

Business secret 101: Fear’s the killer, the bogey man, the word we need to ditch, replace, ban from our thoughts, our souls.

And what is sometimes the overriding emotion you have when you take a leap of faith, a leap into the unknown of your own business, or running a business that’s new to you? It’s fear. And fear is something that dogs most chefs – fear of failing, of falling, of making that crucial mistake that can take a great service to hell in a handbasket.

In the movie Burnt,  Brad Cooper was out of control, sailing on ego and fear, zig zagging from swaggering oaf to brute in a heartbeat. The story, the quest, is his redemption. The watershed moment is when his saucier, the pretty sous chef says to him, as he’s curled foetus like on the floor, “You have to trust us, you can’t do it alone. We’re your family”.

What were his fears? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of … life? Fear of himself mostly. And the one word to take that fear away? To put the fire of fear out once and for all? It’s trust.

Trust – the #1 word that all business and hospitality people need to focus on. And it’s probably not what you would have thought. What’s most important to you in work and or business? Profit? Wages? Culture? Team? I’m diving deep here, and coming up with a pearl of wisdom that might make a difference.

Let me take you on a brief journey through your restaurant from booking to dining, to the next day. And it’s all about trust.

I love to whittle most issues down to one word. To simplify a big concept is what keeps me going. One word that distils the entire experience of customers, staff, management and suppliers into a focal point that makes decisions easy. Something we could all keep in mind during these hyper-connected times.

For me simply, it’s trust. Trust is what we all search for in life. We need it. And we need to live it. Without trust, we have nothing, really. Before I followed my heart and opened my first restaurant at 25, acting was my passion, and at most casting calls, when the actors were whittled down to the last few hopefuls, we used to do an exercise. It was called a trust exercise.

The director would put us in pairs, and then make us take turns in catching our partners as they fell backwards into our arms. It’s not an easy thing to do, completely trust someone we can’t see behind us, letting go, falling loose, into mid air. But you know what? It forces the team to trust each other. To bond in a subliminal way that is unforgettable. Try it with your team. It’s one of the best team building activities around. And it’s free.

Let me take you on a brief journey through your restaurant from booking to dining, to the next day. And it’s all about trust. And while you may see this list as obvious, bear with me here – I have found that the most successful restaurants have done this as the backbone of their business. It’s that eagle’s eye for detail down to the tiniest transaction that happens inside – and out – of a business that shines through any great experience.

  1. We book a table. We trust that the place will make sure we have a table ready. They trust that we’ll come at the right time, in the right numbers, or inform them if there’s a change. And they also trust that we’ll let them know of allergies or dietary needs.

2. We arrive, trusting that the place is clean, and a waiter seats us, beginning a relationship with us so we feel we can trust her/him to get our orders right, to relay any tricky stuff to the kitchen, and get us some drinks in a reasonable time. Also we do trust that the waiter knows the food, can recommend if asked, and has a good relationship with the kitchen. We trust that the waiter is clean, organized and professional. We trust that the waiter likes his job and wants to be there.

3. We trust that the kitchen and staff are clean, organized and professional. We also trust that the suppliers are honest, and supply fresh, clean produce. The chefs trust that the suppliers do their jobs, the staff do their jobs, and are clean and organized.

4. The kitchen staff trust that the waiters communicate important information to them, and keep an eye on orders and create a fluid link between front of house, and back of house.

5. Wouldn’t it be great if the kitchen staff could trust the waiters to split the tips with them as well? Why are they so often left out of the money pot, when their world is so hot, heavy and tough?

6. But back to our diners. The diners trust that the waiters will clear the dishes when we’ve finished, keep the service up to the table, replenish drinks, and Anticipate our diners’ needs.

7. Diners trust that the waiter will get the bill right, and allow us to pay as we need to. (While 1 bill for each table is fine, and the new apps make dutch groups easy, sometimes we need to pay separately.)

8. The restaurant management trust that their staff will do their jobs, the diners won’t wreck the place in drunken fits, and that the staff won’t steal or let their team down.

9. The staff trust that the diners will give honest and kind feed back.

10. The management trust that diners will also give honest feedback on social media, so their place can prosper, and improve.

What’s the point of all this? It’s this word, trust, that’s the link between every stage and nuance of a dining (and business) experience. It’s a big responsibility, keeping this trust, but if all areas are able to uphold that trust in the way they do their job and acquit themselves, then that trust will not be broken.

A business experience is a complex series of interactions that relies on everyone doing their job, and doing it well. If at any stage, the trust is broken, then it takes a long and hard chain gang to fix it.

With trust, all the good things happen. That’s how the world works. A business secret that’s not so secret. So if you’re focused on categories rather than the building blocks that support them, maybe a change of direction, digging deep and strong, might give you the results you want and need. It’s worth a try. Trust me. 

Chrissie ?