6 Ways to Boost Employee Morale Within Your Restaurant

By: Emily Brazill

6 Minute Read

Mar 29, 2018

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Restaurateurs are constantly thinking about how to achieve success in their business

They know it’s not just about the food; the customer experience on the whole is what will make or break business. One of the biggest factors affecting the quality of this experience is the people who provide it - your employees.

In a recent study by EmployeeChannel, only 16% of employees said they felt “connected and engaged” by employers. In the restaurant business, this lack of engagement translates directly to a diminished guest experience, and by extension, decreased restaurant success.

Your employees (and the quality of service they provide) arguably are just as important as the quality of the food coming out of the kitchen. In order for your staff to excel at their jobs, they need to be happy, satisfied, and inspired by what they do.

Below are six actionable strategies that can help you boost employee morale within your restaurant. Everyone wants to work in a positive workplace no matter the role they play; there is a direct connection between happy employees, satisfied patrons, and your bottom line.

1. Let Them Have A Voice

Employees feel valued and respected when included in decision making processes that will affect them. It keeps them connected.

A study conducted by the Southern Medical University found that job stress and employee morale are directly correlated with how in-control and respected an employee feels in their role. 

Serving in a restaurant - where employees often don’t feel empowered, demands from patrons and management alike are high, and the hours inflexible - can have a real impact on stress and morale.

Allowing employees to set their own availability and work collaboratively to schedule shifts is a great way to help employees feel that their voice is heard. Try investing in restaurant scheduling software that allows employees to submit their own availability, facilitate shift trades, and coordinate working hours amongst themselves. 

Not only will this help reduce scheduling stress and boost morale, is will also help you save time managing your team.

2. Recognize Them

Gallup found that highly engaged businesses achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. Ideas to increase engagement include sending out recognition letters, recognizing employees in your team meetings, and starting an “Employee of the Month” program. You can also make the accomplishments public for your entire restaurant staff to see; try calling out the job well done on your social media accounts or through a restaurant newsletter.

Make your recognition genuine, timely, and personalized. A great way to communicate how specifically an award was achieved would be at your staff meeting before nightly service. This can have some really nice ripple effects on modeling behavior for other employees.

If your restaurant has the resources, you could offer monetary incentives or a paid day or half day off for award recipients. Be sure to offer an incentive your staff actually values, and would want to work towards!

3. Let Them Eat Cake

 You’re running a restaurant, it’s in your best interest to feed your staff and let them try the menu items so they can better sell them to your patrons.

USA today reported that 48% of jobseekers weigh company perks - including the availability of free food - in their decision when looking for a new job. Instead of wasting food, provide it to staff for free. This way, you reduce your food waste and provide employees with the fuel needed to keep them excelling through the rest of their shift.

According to the Lost Prevention Innovation Blog, you will need to establish employee meal policies in order to keep everyone on the same page about what meals are allowed, how meals are to be prepared, and how they will be distributed. You business is run on a love of food, your staff should love it just as much as you do!

4. Invest In Your Team

According to HR Dive, it can cost up to 33% of an employee’s base salary to replace him or her. A simple way to reduce turnover and increase morale is to invest in your employees’ skills.

The restaurant business requires employees to stay on-top of dining trends; when you pay for your servers, bartenders, hosts and chefs to improve their skillset, it benefits all parts of your business.

Book mixology course for bartenders or a sales training course for servers. They will do better at their job and you will benefit because of it. If you are feeling particularly generous, let them pick a course or class and pay for it - think of it as restaurant professional development.

Another idea is to support healthy activities like yoga, gym memberships or art classes. Try creating a 'wellness program' or 'professional development' fund. Even if employees don't take advantage of it, knowing that they have access to education and health initiatives goes a long way in employee development.

Learning new things gives employees a greater sense of of purpose, and in turn makes them want to stay. If, and when, you do need to hire more staff, you now have a competitive perk other businesses will most likely not be able to match.

5. Reward Loyalty

Glassdoor recently published a study showing that the average American worker spends 15 months in one role. At 7shifts, it was found the average tenure of a restaurant employee is 1 month and 26 days, significantly lower than the average American worker.

A great way to avoid losing employees and save on rehiring costs is by rewarding employee loyalty. Ideas include benefits for longevity, celebrating work anniversaries, paid days off, flexible vacation, promotions, raises or bonuses.

Home Run Inn, a Chicago based pizzeria, noted their staff tended to leave after two weeks or three months, and in turn crafted a tailored program to motivate staff beyond these employment benchmarks.

 Rewarding long term employees, if done in a balanced way, will save you time and money in the long-run.

6. Party Time

Work should, of course, be taken seriously, but remember to give your employees an opportunity to unwind and have fun.

According to research from Oxford University, if you laugh a lot at work, your happiness and perception of your workplace as a positive environment increases exponentially.

Create a space for your staff to relax and decompress between shifts and revitalize. Team building exercises are also a good idea - paintball, escape rooms or rock climbing. You don’t need to spend a ton of money; at Fast Company, they set up an ping pong table in their communal area and asked employees to bring board games to promote fun at work.

These types of group activities are simple, help to form bond, and help your employees learn to work as a team. 

It's A Wrap!

Keeping employees happy, motivated, and productive is more important than ever in today’s extremely competitive restaurant labor market.

Investing in employee happiness will save you money on re-hiring costs, increase your bottom line, and help to provide patrons with a memorable experience that will keep them coming back again and again.

Employees who are happier work harder. It’s that simple!


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