10 Things to Start Doing to Keep the Restaurant Industry From Ruining Your Life – Chef Chris Hill

10 Things to Start Doing to Keep the Restaurant Industry From Ruining Your Life – Chef Chris Hill.


These are not my words but words I strongly agree with and relate to.  I’ve been in the hospitality and restaurant industry for 16 years, more than half my lifetime.

One thing I have learned is that only a small percentage of restaurant workers are there by choice.  We are all here for many  reasons.  Maybe Something went seriously wrong in their lives,  maybe they can’t make it in “normal jobs”, they do it for cash and they do it well, or maybe just like it here.

Whatever your reason one thing is true of all.  The restaurant business can chew you up in spit you out if you let it.

You can read the full article here.

Here are the 10 Things you should start doing to keep the restaurant industry from ruining your life.

  1.  Be Intentional and Set Goals for Yourself  – “Does this job help me get closer to my goals, the “mountain” or do I now find myself further away?”
  2. Focus on Yourself – If you are one of my employees reading this, you should follow this one.  Stop obsessing about what everyone is or isn’t doing and focus on doing the best job you can do.  
  3. Appreciate the Other Jobs & People Around You  – If you are a server…imagine walking a mile in the dishwashers shoes.  The restaurant can’t function without them, yet he or she is underrated and not paid as well as you.  Maybe you don’t make them work any harder than they need to. 
  4. You are the Average of the 5 People With Whom You Spend the Most Time  – make sure they are the right people.
  5. Don’t Just Settle For a Paycheck – “If you’re boss won’t give you more responsibility or opportunity to grow, it’s time to find someone else to work for.”
  6. Go Home After Work and Save Your Money.
  7. Keep in touch with non-industry related friends .
  8. Disconnect..
  9. Take Care of Yourself 
  10. Don’t Lose Sight of What’s Most Important in Life.

The last three are the most important and the biggest themes of this year long project.




“But you’re the GM.”

I spend a lot of time these days talking to managers and employees about what they need to do to get to the next level of their career.

I usually list in my dialogue characteristics and traits that I do my best to project on a daily basis.

Things I usually say include:

“Listen to your people, get them involved in finding the solution.”

“If everyone has gotta each a shit sandwich, make sure you take the first and biggest bite.”

“Don’t ask anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself”

My frustration shows when I get this response:  “Well you’re the GM…you should do those things.”

They miss the point entirely   You don’t get promoted or get an opportunity and then magically become a different person.  Having all the skils to do the job.

You develop, then practice the basic work ethic and interpersonal skills that will make your promotable.

I said before that when I became a GM, I didn’t really know  how to be a GM.  But I knew how to lead.  The nuts and bolts of your position come with practice but if you know how to hustle and work with others you can succeed.

But there is a fundamental problem with the workforce today along multiple generations.  They feel entitled to development and growth in the field just by showing up and not learning the skills necessary to climb the ladder.


Department Of Human Resources

I can’t deny the a lot of management style, as well as my writing is inspired by Anthony Bourdain.

He’s much acclaimed masterpiece, Kitchen Confidential got me really excited about the restaurant industry when I first read it back in 2006.

I greatly enjoy his 2010 follow, Medium Raw and all the other countless restaurateur and management books that would follow.

He and I share the same philosophy when it comes to our relationship with our employees.  Especially the ones that have personal problems


 I’ve coddled plenty of dangerously unstable characters
over the years; I’ve kept on plenty of people who I knew in the end would make me look bad and
become more trouble than they were worth. I’m not saying I’m Mister Rogers, a softie-okay,
maybe I am saying that . . . a little bit. I appreciate people who show up every day and do the
best they can, in spite of borderline personalities, substance abuse problems and anti-social
tendencies; and I am often inclined to give them every opportunity to change their trajectories, to
help them to arrive at a different outcome than the predictable one when they begin visibly to
But once gone-quit, fired or dead-I move on to the next problem. There always is one.

It’s that last line that I have the biggest problem with.  I worry about most of my crew that leave due to personal demons.

One soon after departing.  Lost their life.

I care about my crew and their problems.
I go home Saturday night with a sulking cook getting crispy around the edges on my mind?
Someone in my kitchen talking about going AWOL, exhibiting symptoms of the dreaded martyr
mode? My weekend is ruined. All I’m going to be thinking about for every waking moment is that
cook and what I can do to fix the situation. I’ll lie there on the bed, staring into space, paying
scant attention to the TV, or what my wife is talking about, or the everyday tasks of bill paying,
maintaining a home, behaving like a normal person.


Look Up, Get Up, And Don’t Ever Get Up

After giving the presentation of my lifetime to a room full of my peers, we gathered around to watch the announcements of the award winners for the entire company.

I had really thought is was my year to take home the big prize.  The GM Of The Year.

I had thought I deserved it.  6 straight years of positive sales growth.  1st in the Division, 2nd over all.  Years of ingenuity and personal growth for not only myself but my entire team.

It would have put the feather in a capped to an amazing year long project of both personal and professional achievements.

As it became abundantly clear that my name was not going to be read, my head filled with disappointment.

I then began to think about Michael Irvin’s Hall of Fame Speech.  And I realized that even though I’m going to be disappointed for a while, I will need to pick myself up, redouble my efforts, and never give up.


 sat right here where you are last year and I watched the Class of 2006:  And I said, Wow, that’s what a Hall of Famer is.

Certainly I am not that. I doubted I would ever have the chance to stand before you today. So when I returned home, I spoke with Michael and Elijah . I said, That’s how you do it, son. You do it like they did it. Michael asked, he said, Dad, do you ever think we will be there? And I didn’t know how to answer that. And it returned me to that threshing floor. This time I was voiceless, but my heart cried out. God, why must I go through so many peaks and valleys?

I wanted to stand in front of my boys and say, Do it like your dad, like any proud dad would want to. Why must I go through so much?

At that moment a voice came over me and said, Look up, get up, and don’t ever give up. You tell everyone or anyone that has ever doubted, thought they did not measure up or wanted to quit, you tell them to look up, get up and don’t ever give up.




Record Year

As October began, the year ended…the fiscal year.  My 5th year as a General Manager ended in poetic fashion.  

My team and I had been able to produce positive sales growth 4 years in a row.  And just when I thought there was no way that we could pull it off again, we answered that challenge by not only raising sales but leading the division and delivering the second best comp sales in the entire company.   

To top it off, we have recently been granted the privilege to become a training Restaurant. Where new managers come to our restaurant to learn their craft.   It is a great honor that has taken years to gain this distinction.  

I don’t think anyone on my team understands how proud I am of these accomplishments and how I couldn’t have done it without out them. 

To anyone on my team reading this….thank you for all that you do.  It is greatly appreciated.  I hope that I have helped you move towards your own goals as you have help me towards mine.  

The Lucky Break


Today I take you back to February of 2011.  I was 24 years old, and even though I was a successful District Manager for a Dunkin Donuts Franchise in the suburbs of Rochester, I was enjoying the twenties lifestyle so much, that I had to work two other part-time jobs to support it and that box of a studio apartment that I passed out in.  Once in a while.

I had just found out that I was going to be a father and I hadn’t quite figured out what my next move was.  Like I said, I was working two other part-time jobs.  One being a bar back and cook at a local sports bar,  I was a bit overqualified for that position but I really enjoyed working there and for the couple that owned it.  And the other was a stint on the line at my current full service restaurant company.

I was hired with the company for the first time in late 2004 and though I had transferred and left employment from this company on three separate occasions, I always seemed to wash back on their shores in a moment of need.  Whether it was their need or my need depended on the situation.

Now, when it comes to my career.  I always have seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  “God protects fools and drunks” Anthony Bourdain once said.  And this occasion was no exception


Shortly after returning to life on the line that January, I remember how pissed off I was when I was scheduled against my availability to work the garde manger station on random Sunday afternoon.  That’s just a fancy term used to make a salad preparer sound more important, which these days depending on your restaurants concept can be very important.

Sunday afternoons were not in my availability and I sure as hell hadn’t worked that salad station in years.  Hell, I didn’t have a clue what half the preparations were.   But I showed up for the shift without complaint like the good soldier I was.   And there he was.

The “he” I’m referring to was none other that the Monopoly Man himself, the Regional Director.  He indeed bore a striking resemblance to Rich Uncle Pennybags from the famous board game and today he was going to change my life.

He and I locked eyes immediately.  Did the GM schedule me on this shift on purpose so that I would be here when he was here?  If so…well played sir.  I had worked with this RD before in many different restaurant locations and we had a great history, but I hadn’t seen him since I had left to gain management experience with another company.

And after hearing about what I had been up to lately and my son on the way, he inquired if I would be interested in getting into full service management.

The rest is history.  I few rides east,7795fdea050dd0849fbdf50e7bd76fc8--luck-of-the-irish-irish-luck to Syracuse in the winter for interviews and assessments, my POS Lincoln barely making the journey, and it was a done deal.  I relocated to Syracuse in March for Manager Training and my climb up the corporate ladder had begun.

Making it all happen

One thing thats different about me this year is that I certainly don’t have very much “idle time”.  

My Resolutions keep me busy from sun up to so sun down almost every day.   Trying to make time for work, time to exercise, time for others, time to be silly, time for projects can be very exhausting.  No different from anyone else.

To make it all happen I have to use all favorite time management techniques.

1.  Plan each day in advance – used to have every 15 Minutes planned out but that made me more stressed because of all the unpredictability of life.   Now I just jot down a rough outline of what I want to accomplish the night before.

2.  Delegate – if you are lucky to have people working under you.  Delegate anything that can be done just as good or better to someone else.  This frees you up to focus on the tasks only you can or should handle

3.  Follow the 2 Minutes Rule – anything that can be done in 2 min or less do right away.  Saving large chunks of time for big projects. 

4.  also follow the 5 second rule – see my previous article for more info on this

5.  Set a quitting time – decide in advance when you are going to stop working then do something relaxing. 

6.   take a day off once a week.