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‘You are only as good as the people you hire’

Staff are a key element for any business. Selecting the right mix of people is what sets a business apart from others. But, it's not an exact science and sometimes businesses employ the completely wrong person and they becomes a drain rather than an asset. In the 3 1/2 years of KOTTULABS' operations the partners say they have had to deal almost daily with staffing issues - from people being late to work or not showing up at all, or errors that affect customers.

Don says that when he looks at hiring a chef, for example, he sees that as a highly skilled job and therefore would look at the person doing that job as highly skilled. Since he comes from a finance and education background, he equates it to hiring a highly qualified financial accountant for a firm. But he also acknowledges that in Sri Lankan society while a financial accountant is given a certain level of respect and place in society a cook or a chef may not always have been looked at in the same way - though things are changing with the new generation. This lack of acceptance and respect for certain trades definitely is de-motivating but they try to break those stereotypes and give these positions the due respect it requires at KOTTULABS.

Don says there are different people from different backgrounds, doing different jobs just in the kitchen alone at KOTTULABS. These differences must be managed well, and everyone, no matter how different in attitudes and personal goals need to be motivated and sometimes even cajoled into forming one streamlined team, working towards one goal. As one can imagine this is no easy feat, but as we said already staff are the key component, the heart of a business - especially a restaurant business. Staff performance and motivation is linked to consistency in product quality and service, therefore it's obvious why the business gurus are always going on about staff being a company's most valuable asset; because depending on the performance of that asset the company either succeeds or fails.

KOTTULABS like most businesses in the restaurant or hospitality sector start their day off with a staff briefing, where staff are reminded of procedures, best practices, learnings from the previous days issues or successes etc. But despite it all there are obviously human errors that happen, not just in the kitchens but at the front of house, back of house and so on. But what makes a place different is how those errors are handled now as well as in the future. Staff at KOTTULABS are given chances to correct themselves and move on, but Don says there have been instances where people have chosen to not take constructive criticism the correct way and have decided to walk out instead. In such instances, though it is unfortunate and unpleasant, Don says, when the individual and the culture at KOTTULABS don't gel together it's best for everyone concerned to part ways. It is unfortunate that it’s a complete waste of time and energy put into training and development. Don also says that they have experienced quite a bit of staff turnover since they started, however research has shown that this is the case throughout the restaurant industry.

When asked what training and development is available for staff, Don says that the staff get a lot of on the job training. He also says that there are opportunities for the right person to keep climbing the ladder and going forward. For example he says if a completely inexperienced person is hired as a kitchen hand and starts with cutting and chopping vegetables, he/she has the opportunity to keep learning and moving up the line to actually be doing the cooking - but this obviously comes with the individual’s attitude and drive to learn. Further KOTTULABS uses the HACCP guidelines for staff training. therefore training that the staff gain is of high quality and standard.

Written by Shali Jayasuriya

Shali is a freelance writer and blogger. She has written articles for clients from various fields, as well as developing content for websites and social media as well as copy writing for press releases, collateral and internal marketing. She has extensive marketing experience and has worked in various industries including aviation and hospitality, education and e-commerce. Read her blog at

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