Beyond the Hairnet

5 ingredients for foodservice leadership

Imagine for a second that you’ve decided to cook up an exciting new meal for your residents. As the foodservice manager, you and your team talk it through and have the entire recipe mapped out in a matter of a few minutes. All you need to do is go shopping for the right ingredients — and because you’re a rockstar, you know what those ingredients are. When the dust settles, you’re confident that the final meal will be amazing and a great new addition to your menu.

We brought this up because just like whipping up the perfect meal takes planning, teamwork, and shopping for the perfect ingredients, there are certain ingredients for foodservice leadership, too. Yet, for many of us, it’s difficult to know, identify, and narrow down which ingredients (traits and characteristics) are guaranteed to strengthen your foodservice operations.

When trying to be the best foodservice leader you can be, you generally think of someone who:

  • Communicates effectively
  • Has a vision for the future
  • Fosters creativity
  • Promotes teamwork
  • Creates relationships
  • Solves problems
  • Is passionate and self-motivated

These are all spot-on. But at Health Technologies, Inc., we believe quality foodservice leadership should be boiled down into five main ingredients. 


Communication is the bedrock ingredient for foodservice leadership. When you have open lines of communication, everyone is on the same page even during chaotic times, all opinions are considered, and staff and resident needs are being met. A little communication reduces turnover, ensures everyone has a voice, and helps you understand what’s really going on within your operation.

  • Host a team huddle at least once a week for all shifts.
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Create a communication board for menus, substitutions, etc.

If you listen more than you speak and practice active listening, you will organically encourage feedback. Pay attention during these conversations, withhold judgment, reflect, clarify what was said, and summarize by using a few key phrases like, “I trust you,” and “You can count on me,” and “Tell me more,” and “What do you need from me?”


People, especially your staff, want and deserve to feel like their contributions to the foodservice operations are recognized, appreciated, integral to the team’s success, and, when possible, rewarded.

  • Develop personal connections with each team member.
  • Give credit (praise spontaneously, specifically, purposefully, privately, publicly, in writing).
  • Say “Thank you!”
  • Reward and recognize.

There are a million ways to reward and recognize your employees. A few include:

  • Paper thank-you notes
  • Create a Wall of Fame
  • Celebrate work anniversaries and birthdays
  • Go out to lunch; buy treats for the team


Training and continuing education are vital for preventing stagnancy, giving opportunities to cross-train staff, and supporting professional advancement. A necessary ingredient for foodservice leadership is constantly being innovative with your training practices and promoting change.


Maintaining the right attitude is essential.

  • Be positive
  • Leave personal luggage at the door
  • Be a problem-solver


Every foodservice leader wants to be well-liked. But it is equally important to have a vision for the future of your foodservice operation and hold everyone to that same standard of excellence.

  • Hold employees accountable.
  • Allow employees to hold you accountable.
  • Ensure staff knows their responsibilities.
  • Clearly communicate expectations.
  • Model correct behaviors. No hypocrisies such as, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
  • Follow through with all promises.

Don’t fall into the trap of sacrificing accountability just to be liked. Set boundaries, be fair, and don’t show favorites. Furthermore, focus on empowering, educating, and informing.

Remember that leaders focus on people, inspire trust, innovate, and develop those around them. If you can follow that recipe and incorporate the right ingredients, you will be the foodservice leader you and others expect you to be.


Health Technologies is committed to improving dining and nutrition services in healthcare communities through expert clinical consulting, innovative menu solutions, and training support for foodservice leaders and teams. Everything you need from us can be found with a quick phone call to one of our helpful professionals or a visit to We nurture joy through food with long term care dining programs.

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