In this article, I’m going to teach you the fifteen most-used tactics proven to motivate restaurant employees without making a big investment in money.
Motivating employees and keeping them motivated can be a formidable challenge. For many restaurant owners and/or managers, this represents possibly the most difficult task of all.
After all, the work can be strenuous as well as tiresome. It is often thankless.
When workers have to go to work day after day to face the same routine, it can be hard for them to get excited about getting in there and doing their best. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t know what to do about this and have no real idea of just how they can motivate their staff.
The standard “motivation” some use is the threat of firing an employee who doesn’t perform to a certain standard. That’s only motivating through fear and resentment that can have a negative impact on other employees and this translates to poor morale and service.
In the restaurant field where many of the jobs are routine: servers, cooks, dishwashers…hosts, hostesses and even the managers may have trouble getting motivated. And one of the biggest mistakes an inexperienced owner or manager can make is to fail to keep employees motivated.
As a restaurant owner, the responsibility falls upon you to come up with ingenious ways to motivate your employees.
One of the best motivators, of course, is money. Many larger chains offer cash incentives. But most businesses simply can’t afford to offer cash incentives, so if you’re one of these, you have to look to other ways.
Here I’ve listed fifteen of the most important things you can do on a tight budget.
15 Employee-motivating Ideas for Your Restaurant
Here are some motivating ideas others have found effective:
1. Win a Day Off
Many love a paid day off. It’s a day they can use to do anything they want with a clear conscience. And they don’t’ have to worry about losing a day’s pay. By offering a contest where the employee who performs the best each month will be given a paid day off.
This is an inexpensive way to create employee loyalty and motivation. It’s not just the possibility of winning a paid day off, but it enforces the idea that this is a good company to work for.
Motivated to do better work and be more dependable, most employees keep that little perk in the back of their minds. As to your method of running the contest, you might post the “rules”. The employee who hasn’t missed any work all month, who hasn’t clocked in late, and one who has been willing to be more of a team player, such as taking an extra shift if necessary or other extras that may come up.
2. Create a ‘Wall of Fame’
Another way to motivate your team could be posting a “Wall of Fame”. In this case, it’s a good idea to set up an area near the entry so that not only employees see it, but guests as well. On this wall, you may post a photo of the chosen employee for all to see.
This tells not only co-workers but also customers who get the idea that employees are hard workers and dedicated to giving good service. They see that hard workers are recognized and rewarded. This is a proven and inexpensive way to motivate employees to perform at their best.
3. Celebrate Anniversaries
Many restaurants make a big deal out of employees’ anniversary dates. As you probably know, the employee turnaround in restaurants has always been quick.
A customer may begin going to your restaurant and get to know some of the staff. That’s very desirable, but when the customer comes back some or all the staff is new and different. Because of this, the customer may get the idea that you’re such a hard taskmaster that no one wants to work for you.
That can be bad for manager/customer relations. Something no one wants.
One way that can help induce employees to stay on the job is to celebrate their anniversaries with a big cake and sort of after-work celebration. Another help is to give the employee a personalized t-shirt, something he or she can keep.
This helps give employees their deserved recognition, but with renewed feelings of confidence and loyalty. It can show itself in their relationship with guests and for servers, result in larger tips and words of praise as well.
4. Star Employee Parking
Another effective technique that helps improve manager/employee relationships and motivate employees is to create a “Star Employee Parking Space“. In this case, you would choose a desirable parking space close to the doors where you post the employee’s photo and name for a month.
It has been proven that recognition is more important to many employees than money as an incentive.
5. Praise Goes a Long Way
Many restaurant operators have so many cares that they don’t even think to stop and praise employees for a job well done. Unfortunately, many owners or managers seldom have anything to say to their employees unless it’s to reprimand them.
When you see an employee doing any little thing that goes above his assigned duties, you should — perhaps later — let them know that you not only noticed but were gratified to see such dedication. Shake the employee’s hand while praising him or her and you’ll have a much more satisfied employee.
As an aside to owners and managers failing to speak to employees most of the time, the same applies to customers. A host, manager and the owner if he or she spends any time on the floor, should get to know guests.
Guests really appreciate being recognized by someone in charge of a dining room. They love to be recognized by name and feel they’re getting special treatment. The more servers establish a relationship with customers, the better the tips will be.
Not only employees but customers too, love to be appreciated and recognized upon arrival. A good host or manager has to know how to “schmooze”.
6. Encourage Employee Input
Another way to inspire workers is to ask them what they think. Sometimes an employee may have an idea that can make the daily running of the operation smoother.
Perhaps you could hold a weekly or bi-weekly forum just for employee input. This too can motivate workers to feel they’re really a part of the operation.
7. Free Meals for Working Employees
Anyone who runs a restaurant knows that the actual cost of the food charged to a customer is less. So if you haven’t already done so, it’s wise to show employees they are valued by offering them a free meal during their scheduled break.
This type of benefit boosts morale, but it gives your employees the necessary energy that can be so helpful while they’re on their feet for a long day of running back and forth. In addition, many restaurant employees don’t have the money to indulge in a real meal during breaks, or they simply don’t like to spend their money in this way.
8. Make the Workplace a Fun Place
When workers have fun at work, they will be much more likely to work harder on their shifts. Too many rules — especially rules that aren’t really important — you risk encouraging employees having fun by deliberately disobeying rules whenever they can.
Keep the workplace light and fun can make everyone work harder. That doesn’t mean stopping and having fun at customers’ expense but rather just having a light cheerful attitude as workers pass and interact during their work hours. This must be done in a way that despite having fun, the workers continue to respect you as manager and follow orders.
9. Promote Internally
According to a research conducted by TinyPulse, 66% of all employees surveyed lose motivation when they don’t see strong opportunities for professional growth in their current roles.
One of the best ways to motivate employees is to let them work their way up the ladder in your organization. When a new job opens up, rather than hiring someone from outside, first consider your employees and you might offer one of them the opportunity to move up to this new position.
When you ignore your current staff and advertise for an outside person to come in, you risk losing employee loyalty and morale.
10. Learn what motivates your employees
Obviously, a restaurant operator can’t read workers’ minds. But if anyone knows what it takes to boost their morale, it’s the workers themselves.
Sometimes the best course to take is to sit down with individual employees and ask them how they feel and find out if they have any ideas you might use.
You can have periodic staff meetings and ask employees for offer incentives that don’t include cash to make them work harder. With any luck, you’ll get some excellent input and you may be able to put some of their ideas into action.
11. Have an Open Door Policy
It’s a good idea to let your employees know that you have an open door policy. Make them realize that if they have a comment, a complaint about someone or something, they should feel comfortable in coming to you.
The more open and honest your employees feel, the more likely the chances that they’ll feel appreciated and important in being able to sit down one-on-one with the boss to discuss any problems. This can be an excellent way to build employee morale.
12. Lottery Ticket Giveaway
Another way to boost morale is to create a contest that won’t cost much money is to consider a lottery ticket giveaway. You can set up a contest in which you choose the best server, host, or hostess, cook, and dishwasher, etc. who is performing the best, and at the end of each month give them a lottery ticket.
This not only shows them that you appreciate how hard they work, but you’re giving them a chance to win millions of dollars. And the best part for you is that this would only cost a few out-of-pocket dollars.
13. Create a “Brag Board”
A brag board is a bulletin board where employees can write down an accomplishment of their own or something nice about a co-worker. The board could be either in the main lobby or in the break room.
This is a great way for workers to brag about themselves or their co-workers and get the recognition they deserve.
14. Start a Team
If your city has a softball or bowling league, you might consider starting a team to join. When you and employees have the chance to spend off-duty time together you not only have fun but create a stronger bond.
In one instance, the restaurant owner has a small farm just outside the city. He allowed employees to go out when off duty and ride horses around. They loved it! And they loved him!
15. Comment Cards
Leaving comment cards on tales is a great way to boost morale. These cards are a great way for guests to leave compliments (or gripes) about the service they received, the dinner they were served, or anything at all that they might like to say about their visit to the restaurant.
When employees know customers may be filling out these cards, they’ll be more likely to work harder to make the customers’ visits the best ever. When an employee is mentioned favorably on a card, you can praise the appropriate employee in front of the rest of the staff. A great morale booster!
Running a restaurant entails much more than just ordering supplies, hiring employees and keeping the books. One of the more important jobs you have as owner/manager is to keep your employees happy and motivated. When your staff is motivated, everyone will be at the top of his or her game.
You’ll have less of an employee turnover and by taking even one or two ideas from this list, you can have an excellent chance of keeping your employees happy and working at their full potential.
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