How Marcus Samuelsson Is Curbing Staff Burnout At His New Restaurant

Celebrity chef and prolific restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson established a foothold in the New York City restaurant scene with the launch of Red Rooster, which pays homage to the multiple James Beard Award-winner's Ethiopian and Swedish roots, albeit with a heart of Southern soul, per Vogue. Now, Samuelsson has opened another fine dining establishment in NYC that highlights the foods of his childhood and heritage, albeit from a unique angle. 

Hav & Mar, located in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, promises eclectic modern seafood by way of Sweden and Ethiopia ("Hav" means "ocean" in Swedish, and "Mar" means "honey" in the Amharic language of Ethiopia). Offering an "alternative way" of viewing and experiencing Black culture, according to Samuelsson's business partner and artistic consultant, Derrick Adams (via Resy), Hav & Mar also aims to challenge pre-exiting notions of sustainability. 

To wit, the last three years have driven home to Samuelsson and his partners the fact that sustainable fine dining is about more than responsible sourcing of ingredients, which, in the team's world view, must include meaningful efforts to seek out ingredients from the BIPOC community (via YouTube). Specifically, Samuelsson and team are committed to providing for their restaurant workers what amounts to a sustainable work environment — one in which restaurant workers can thrive while still seeing their loved ones and participating in their community. In other words, Samuelsson hopes to curb staff burnout at his new restaurant. 

Marcus Samuelsson saw the writing on the wall

One of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic changed restaurant culture was that restaurant workers were deemed essential workers amid a global crisis, regardless of whether they'd intended to sign on for that responsibility (via Forbes Advisor). Restaurant staffers faced high stakes (e.g., the risk of contracting a deadly case of COVID-19) and extraordinary pressures (e.g., increased work hours, a deteriorating supply chain, and surly, stressed-out customers, among others) — but almost invariably without commensurate increases in wages or improvements in benefits, according to Atlanta Magazine.

This is not to say that restaurant worker burnout didn't exist before the pandemic. In fact, 80% of hospitality workers polled in 2019 reported feeling said burn, per Forbes Advisor. But by the time Samuelsson and his team opened Hav & Mar in the second half of 2022, restaurant staffer burnout had blossomed into its own epidemic, per Nudge. Samuelsson recognized that if his new restaurant — and restaurants in general, were ever to "matter" again, the issue of burnout needed addressing.

For Samuelsson, not taking a stance against restaurant staff burnout was not an option, per a November 2022 interview with Resy. And, during an interview with Financial Times, he was still singing the refrain: "You can't have burnt out staff and great food" (via YouTube). So, how exactly is Samuelsson working to curb staff burnout?

Marcus Samuelsson's new restaurant sets an example with regard to sustainable human resources

In an industry famous for high rates of anxiety and depression among workers, per Atlanta Magazine, Samuelsson has opened a new restaurant with every intention of setting "an example in the industry" in terms of edifying its employees, rather than breaking them down until they're either no longer willing or able to go on. That's what he told Financial Times, per YouTube, during an interview. By way of example, Hav & Mar's Executive Chef, Rose Noël, pointed out to Resy that, post-pandemic, "not seeing your family is not an option anymore." Both she and Samuelsson have expressed their commitment to approaching human resources "sustainably." 

Sure, in fine dining, the focus is "on the guests," as Samuelsson told the Financial Times. But Hav & Mar is intent on supporting its staff having a life outside work, one rich with community engagement. Samuelsson's new restaurant is placing "taking care of our team ... on the same field of importance as doing a good job and getting good reviews." And to Samuelsson and company, that means not only building a more supportive work environment but also making meaningful efforts to populate it inclusively. Accordingly, Samuelsson and company have emphasized hiring and doing what they can to specifically retain people of color to staff positions. And that includes proactively hiring women of color, such as Noël (whose parents are Haitian), into leadership positions.