5 Ways to Motivate Restaurant Employees

March 18, 2017 Kelly Marc Alston

What happens when your restaurant staff is motivated and enthusiastic about their work?

Your hosts, servers, cooks, and managers will bring their A-game. Patrons will be wowed by the great service. The dining rooms will fill to capacity, night after night as guests share their positive experiences with friends and through social media. Camaraderie between employees will grow, and they will perform as a cohesive team. Bottom line - your employees will be self-motivated to perform their best at all times.

You can get there. Start with these five easy tips for preparing your team to become the best they can be.

  1. Offer bonuses and raises to improve retention

The turnover rate in restaurants is near 70%, but you don’t have to accept this as a fact of life. Many managers fight churn and win. Incentivizing employees pays off for restaurants, resulting in lower employee acquisition, and training costs. Consider offering cash incentives at certain intervals. For instance, if you lose a significant percentage of employees between month three and six, offer a $150 bonus for employees who reach the six month milestone. Offer annual raises and then six month bonuses on top of that. In addition to motivating the employee who receives the bonus, newer employees will strive to reach these milestones.                

  1. Give staff a chance to weigh in

You are doing everything you can to fine tune your recruiting strategy to target top performers, right? Yet these bright and talented individuals seem to lose energy at times. It may be because they need to be challenged with new opportunities or they need to feel a vested interest in the business. On the front lines, they see how customers are engaging with employees and reacting to the food and the atmosphere. If there are tweaks that can be made to the menu, the server presentation, or even the restaurant environment, your employees will know. Have meetings and ask the questions about how to make your restaurant better.

  1. Start a mentor program

Mentor-mentee relationships in the corporate world can expedite the on-boarding and training process for new hires. Mentors help get new employees involved quickly and keep employees motivated throughout their employment. In addition, these programs are instrumental in enabling employees to help same-position peers, saving time for busy managers.

  1. Improve your training

Comprehensive training makes employees feel like they are part of a well-organized team. New staff members typically appreciate a thorough on-boarding experience and enjoy being trained by experts. If you bring in several employees at once, consider combining training with menu item tasting. This enables your staff to promote your items more effectively, and it’s a nice way to welcome them to the team.

  1. Motivate with competition and prizes

What better way to engage employees than with a little friendly competition, tied to a monetary reward? Incentivize your servers to suggest your best (or highest margin) drinks and menu items. Or offer a $50 gift card to the server who sells the most (drinks, appetizers, entrées, or desserts) for the week. You can even reward hosts and servers for receiving compliments from customers. Don’t forget the kitchen crew. Incentivize mistake-free days and customer compliments about their work as well.

You don’t have to implement all of these tips in order to see an uptick in your employees’ motivation levels. Once you do see results, however, you may feel motivated enough to try them all. 

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