Inspiring SME Stories #1 - Lean Bento

StaffOnDemand Blog

We take care of our staff, and in turn they will take care of our business. - Dionis, Co-Founder, Lean Bento

In an industry (Food & Beverage) that is notorious for it’s high turnover, finding good staff that can represent your brand can be a pretty tall order for a lot of F&B operators in Singapore. In the first part of our SME Stories, we speak to Dionis, Co-founder of Lean Bento, to find out how the team at Lean Bento manage to set things up in an incredibly short amount of time. Read on to discover the secret sauce (pun intended!) behind their great hiring success! :)

Dionis : “We actually do go through quite a number of staff before we found our current team. It was through this process that made us realise the kind of work environment, staff profile that would best suit our brand. With this in mind, we narrowed down our focus and found it easier to identify potentials from the first interview.

In order to retain our staff, we focus a lot on understanding the goals and needs of our workers and try to develop them in the areas that are important to them. Different people have different goals, and we believe that if the company is able to help them meet these goals, they will be happy to stay with us.

For example my senior workers are looking for a job to pass their time and get some pocket money for their expenses. What is important to them is a good working environment where they are happy in. Hence we focus on making the environment positive and built a culture around team work.

For my younger staff, they expressed their keen interest to learn and grow, hence we tend to rotate them around to do different work so that they get to learn and develop themselves in the process.

It is a lot more effort to engage our staff in this way, but it seems like this strategy is paying off :)”

StaffOnDemand : “What are some of the tips you would give to fellow employers in the F&B industry in talent spotting staff?”

Dionis: “I wouldn't say talent spotting of staff, but we can ask the new hire to work for 1 day to try out the tasks and observe them. It is part of the hiring process such that you know if this hire can really perform to what they claim they can. We also make it really open for the hire to assess us and see if this is an environment they would like to work in. This two-way process actually helped us to sieve out the people who are serious about our work and also allows them to make an informed choice before they join our company. “

StaffOnDemand: “The folks at StaffOnDemand have visited Lean Bento several times, and have always met with stellar customer service, even when the owners are not around - How do you keep your staff motivated to be so dedicated?”

Dionis: “Thank you so much for your kind words! We try to inculcate a sense of belonging and teamwork with our staff. We are one big family and it is important because the type of food that we make has to come from the heart - Japanese inspired bentos made lovingly. We remind our staff that anybody who comes to have our food could be our loved ones, a relative, a friend, or a friend of a friend. The point is that these people all matter to somebody and we have to treat everyone well and with respect. They do see this point and put in their best. I supposed our nagging played a part!”

StaffOnDemand: “In the F&B industry, there is always this notion that there is no career progression and therefore limited opportunity - We know Lean Bento has a very interesting take on this, and have pioneered a way to train and involve your staff in every part of the product delivery. Could you share more about it?”

Dionis: “We can understand why there is such a notion going around. It is actually true, because it is more efficient when a person is just focused on doing the same task everyday, day in day out, they will become a master at what they are doing. However, this also means treating people as machines, who will never get bored of their work. While this has worked in the past, but times have changed and many people are looking for progress and opportunity.

We recognize this and re-designed our work processes which allows for staff to cross train. Kitchen staff can be rotated to the frontline to support, service staff can help out with the kitchen work for example. This keeps things interesting for our staff. Each staff has their main scope of work to be responsible for, but at the same time, there are other areas where they can help out with and learn. Everyone's contribution is valued and never taken for granted, which takes down the wall between staff and encourages each other to help out.

For the more ambitious ones, this a great opportunity for them to develop themselves in many areas, for the rest, this is a good way to keep things interesting for them. For the company, it helps us to increase the productivity of our workers, allowing us to work with a leaner team.”

StaffOnDemand: “To make the team cohesive and operate like a family is no easy feat - What are some of the programmes or little things that the Lean Bento Team put in place to ensure this?”

Dionis: “We have a no-discrimination policy. No discrimination against, age, religion, gender, nationality etc. Everyone is given an equal opportunity to shine. There is no such thing as the Filipino worker having to do more dirty work just because he is a foreign worker, everyone works together as a team. There is no such thing as a stay-at-home mom, who has never had a job all her life, having to be relegated to washing the dishes.

Every staff has to communicate in English as a form of respect for each other. For staff with weaker english language skills, this is a great chance for them to improve. We nickname this the "Channel 5" movement.

Politicking is also something that we do not tolerate in our brand. We say it from the start that if you have anything to say, say it in front of the person. Clear the air up, don't keep the resentment within you and start being passive aggressive. It is not easy to change this, as it is human nature, but it does help when we put it upfront and everyone makes a conscious effort.

Life isn't fair in many ways, but we do our best to treat each staff fairly and we communicate this out to them. When the team knows that as a culture, effort and work is recognised and not taken for granted, it encourages people to step up and go the extra mile.

Being a small startup, our people form the core of our business. We take care of our staff, and in turn they will take care of our business.”

Image Credits: Element Mag Asia