Six Restaurant Employee Incentives to Keep Your Staff Happy

Happy employees mean much more than just a pleasant workplace. Research conducted by the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy indicates that happy employees are 10 percent more productive than their unhappy peers. They’re also likely to stick around longer.

The imperative for restaurant owners looking to improve performance while curbing attrition? Employee happiness matters. Read on for six incentives aimed at supporting a happy and thriving staff.

1. Applaud attendance and loyalty.

When your restaurant is short-handed, service is likely to suffer. But that’s not all: A consistently understaffed restaurant may also lead to low morale and, ultimately, attrition. Creating an attendance-based incentive program can motivate employees to show up as scheduled, thereby minimizing call-ins and absences.

Rewarding loyalty is also important. Is there a particular employment milestone you’re looking for staff to reach? Rewarding employees who meet this benchmark can encourage others to stay.

Keep in mind that while cash awards are always appreciated, non-cash incentives, such as paid days off, promotions and flexible vacation time, also have value and mean less out-of-pocket spending for you.

2. Implement team and individual incentives for performance.

Wondering whether to set incentives according to team or individual incentives? There are pros and cons to both. While the former encourages staff to work together toward a common goal, the latter lets restaurants celebrate their highest-achieving employees while facilitating competition. Implementing a mix of team and individual performance incentives is a “best of both worlds” solution. Again, while monetary awards are popular, there are less costly (and even free!) ways to reward staff for their performance, such as by assigning them plump preferential sections or big parties.

3. Establish incremental goals.

How can your staff know whether they’re meeting performance expectations if you haven’t provided clearly defined goals? While long-term goals may make sense from a management perspective, small, short-term and achievable goals work well for motivating and empowering employees.

4. Acknowledge their efforts.

Praise seems like a natural extension of establishing goals and implementing performance incentives. However, many restaurant managers and owners fall short when it comes to offering staff the positive feedback they crave. According to a Gallup poll, positive feedback is a “logical motivator of performance” and yet “praise is painfully absent.” Not only that, but it costs you nothing. The takeaway for restaurant owners and managers? “Because of its power, ridiculously low cost, and rarity, [praising employees] is one of the greatest lost opportunities in the business world today,” says Gallup.

5. Feed them.

Your restaurant staff spends their time serving and preparing food, but how often do they get to sit down and enjoy it? Offering them meals and hosting employee dinners is not only a people-pleaser but also makes sense from a service perspective as it helps front-of-house employees understand the menu better. Some restaurants also give staff the chance to enjoy the “diner experience” by giving them gift certificates for free meals with a guest. Lastly, providing your staff with snacks during their shifts is a small yet significant way to show that you care.

6. Show them they’re valuable to you.

Speaking of showing them you care, today’s workers are looking for more than a paycheck. They’re also looking to be part of something. Giving employees a voice helps them feel connected, valued and respected. There are many ways for restaurants to do this and create a win-win situation, including utilizing mobile restaurant scheduling software that gives staff a stake in scheduling, offering “professional development” opportunities such as sales training courses for servers and mixology courses for bartenders, and creating a “wellness program” with access to free or subsidized gym memberships.

Staff retention is a major pain point for restaurants. However, it doesn’t have to be. Investing in employee happiness by adopting these six morale-boosting tips is an investment in the well-being of your restaurant.

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