Skateboarding and surfing are just a couple of the new ‘sports’ that’ll get a run out at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But what if the International Olympic Committee was to look further outside the box and include running a restaurant on the roster?

Listening to some of the very leading names in the industry at last week’s Restaurant Conference in central London, run by MCA, you could definitely have been mistaken for thinking that it is the ultimate competitive sport with the race to find the winning edge keenly fought.

Thankfully, some of these leaders were up for sharing their secrets – particularly when it came to the all-important factor – creating a culture – the people side of the business.

When the SRA talks about treating people fairly we not just paying lip service to some fluffy ideas, we’re talking about investing in your staff so they invest in your business. And top boss after successful founder expounded on that very same principle repeatedly at the Restaurant Conference.

From Alan Yau through to Will Beckett of Hawksmoor, Phil Eeles of Honest Burgers and Five Guys Operations Director Marcel Khan, all stressed the importance of creating a productive working culture in which staff can flourish. And they almost all preached the philosophy of continual marginal gains, kaizen – famously practised by the likes of Toyota and the phenomenally successful British cycling team.

So, your correspondent has some tips from the top about how to make your team gold medal winning:

Hold a big Eid Party – Shamil Thakrar, founder of Dishoom, told the audience that staff engagement is a huge part of what the company does – “there is nothing more important than looking after your team.” The Eid party is an opportunity to bring everyone together and symbolic of this ethos.

Keep it simple – Marcel Khan says the Five Guys way is to be fanatical about five things:

  • Quality
  • Fresh and Handmade – chips and burgers
  • Clean – all the restaurant have five stars Scores on the Doors
  • Happy Crew
  • Happy Customers

They stage their own Olympics – pitting branches against each other in a battle to make the most perfect burgers and fries in the shortest time. From the video he showed, they’d be ready to take on the world!

Reward your staffByron’s annual Beeftas are a chance for individuals to have a moment in the sun. People Director Mike Williams confronted head-on the company’s recent run-in with Immigration officials and said that if it hadn’t been for the way staff pulled together, from KP to board director then they’d have struggled to come out the other side. The company’s recent investment in staff and training has seen staff turnover down a whopping 40%

Less=more – If there was an Olympic team, then Hawksmoor would almost certainly be carrying the flag. The award-winning steak restaurants have also topped the tree in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For league table for some years (in the restaurant category).For founder Will Beckett, who absolutely loves employing people, the goal is to be the best employer in the world. To get there he says he battles to make people stick to their contractual hours to avoid burnout and he’s looking at ways of monitoring his employees’ happiness.

Let them fail: Thom Elliot, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims is a big believer in the principle that it’s better for his staff to ask for forgiveness than permission. If you give them the confidence to take risks they are much more likely to succeed.

And finally…

Keep it simple: Sam Roberts of Boston Tea Party said the West Country company started out with a big long mission statement. Now they’ve cut it right back to: Make Things Better.

So, armed with advice from the best in class, now’s your chance to get training. If not 2020, then maybe four years on…and you could be a medalist.