How to Fire a Restaurant Employee

Firing isn’t fun, but it’s a necessary part of running a restaurant. Handle it with tact, empathy, and a good process.

Even if you find yourself short-staffed in the face of a historically tight labor market, you still might need to let a restaurant employee go. Maybe you’ve already had to.

Hiring and managing staff come with their own sets of challenges, but firing an employee can get messy. The employee might be a popular member of the team, a friend to many. At the end of the day, though, you need to do what’s right for your business and your team. Without making necessary cuts and letting go of unproductive or unruly employees, you’ll lose money, quality of service could slip, and you won’t be able to grow your restaurant the way you need to.

Knowing when and how to fire employees will help you keep your restaurant running.

Rewind to the Hiring Process

Hiring is where it all starts. If you can hold your team to high hiring standards, you’ll avoid the wrong team members before they even walk in your door.

During the hiring process, do your research on qualified candidates. Make sure they share references from past employers, then check in with these references. Ask them about the candidate’s time there. How did they work with other staff? Any red flags? Were they driven and eager to learn? A previous employer will be able to give you that extra gauge of a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Set expectations with candidates before handing over that offer letter. Be honest about what it takes to do the job. Make sure you articulate exactly what the job involves and what responsibilities they could grow into. You don’t want to onboard someone only to find out they don’t have the skills to do the job well or that they’re surprised (and then likely frustrated) by what the role asks of them.

Lay Out Your Policies and Expectations

Another way to set yourself up for success — and protect your business — is to develop a restaurant employee handbook and share it with your employees from the start. A handbook should clearly lay out all of your restaurant’s policies and expectations. Things like workplace culture, harassment policies, and rules of operation. It’ll help everyone get on the same page about acceptable and unacceptable workplace actions and behaviors, roles and responsibilities, and more.

Be clear about the consequences of unacceptable actions and behaviors. Set up a system of verbal and written warnings, suspensions, and termination if unacceptable actions or behaviors continue. By sharing these guidelines with your team and even asking for their help creating them, you open up the opportunity for employees to hold each other accountable.

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