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7 Easy Ways to Keep your Restaurant Staff Engaged

Staff engagement is an uphill battle for employers. It is not easy to keep your staff on task because let’s be honest, as humans, we are very easily distracted.  According to a Harvard study, on average, we spend 47% of every hour with a “wandering mind”. A wandering mind isn’t focused on the here and now, but instead thinks about moments in the past or an unforeseen future. This lack of focus can really drag down a staff’s engagement and hurt your guest’s perception of your food, beverage and/or service.

But fear not! There are ways we can limit the “wandering mind” mentality and keep our staff more focused on the true task at hand – serving excellent food and beverage service.

Gamify the workplace

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but humans like to play games. You most likely have a couple on your cell phone that you tinker with routinely. Find a way to do that within your workplace. If your staff focuses on the game of productive work, everyone can win. There are plenty of opportunities to find games. Be creative. From menu item sales contests to kitchen “chopped” competitions to bartender cocktail battles, you can make sure everyone on staff has a way to compete.

Involve your staff in decisions

Can’t think of a game? Ask your staff. There is a good chance that they have been using their “wandering mind” time to think about their work environment.  They may have memories of a past work experience that was more successful than the current status. Or they may be thinking about future ideas that would make their work environment better. Give them opportunities to share their ideas

Actually, listen to and implement their ideas

No one likes a boss who just listens and then never follows through. There needs to be actions taken on ideas that are worth vetting out. If certain ideas aren’t worth vetting out (maybe because you already tried it), explain that to the staff member so they know their ideas are being taken seriously.

Recognize your employees

Humans like to be seen and be heard. So, do that. Create ways to recognize your staff such as winning an aforementioned game that you had created. Employ the classic – “employee of the month”. That title can sometimes be viewed as annoying, if it doesn’t involve a tangible award.  Consider rewarding with a gift certificate to a local coffee shop, movie theatre or small business that you have a relationship. The “Employee of the Month” will be more meaningful with a solid reward.

Give opportunities to learn and grow

A stagnant staff is an underperforming staff. As leaders, you need to give your staff constant training and chances to learn to keep them involved at work. No one likes to feel like they are stuck doing the same thing, like a robot, every day. New tasks and knowledge keep the focus on work. Also, it is important for your staff to feel and know that their skills are improving.

Be a Safe Space

You need to ensure your staff feels safe and comfortable at work. This isn’t just a physical thing; it is also psychological. It is not fun or a safe feeling to have to walk on egg-shells worried that a “Bar Rescue” or “Gordon Ramsey” scream session might be coming their way. Belittling coworkers or employees needs to be nipped in the bud and everyone should be able to speak their truth in a safe environment. Open and honest communication needs to be a priority to keep your employees feeling safe!

Evaluate your hiring process

This might seem like an odd way to keep your staff engaged, but this is where your staffing begins. You need to bring on talent that is open to being engaged at work. Too often a job is given to an employee just to fill an immediate need. The new employee isn’t truly vetted to exhibit engagement and an ability to work as a teammate. Create a structured process that every employee must complete to prove that they deserve to join your awesome team!

Every day is a chance to improve your work environment. Your staff should also have that feeling that every day they have that chance to improve. The easiest way to do that is to keep them actively engaged in their work! Use these tips to help make THE BEST work environment possible.


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