The restaurant business is a very difficult one. Not only is it difficult to be a successful restaurant, it is astronomically harder to keep your restaurant from becoming an alternate reality of the movie “Waiting”. There are so many variables that need to be managed in order to create a successful dining experience. From staffing levels, employee morale, food shipments, hangry guests, bad internet advice, weather, a busted speaker, to getting cut-off in traffic, there are so many things that can influence someone’s experience positively but more likely they will remember the negatives.
We are in a business of high expectations where every guest believes their experience is the most important one in the building. When working in Wrigleyville, a restaurant near the Cubs stadium, it was shocking at how many humans would walk into our restaurant 30 minutes before first pitch thinking they were the only ones with the idea to eat beforehand. That is the mindset of 90% of our guests: I am the only opinion that matters in this building. We can agree that this type of mindset stacks the odds against the restaurant when it comes to an experience. Restaurants are fighting very hard to create great experiences for every one of their guests.
An “easy” way to combat these issues is to celebrate wins as individuals and wins as a team. What is a win? It can be attached to almost anything, but it is a positive reinforcement for good deeds. Employee recognition is the way to your employee’s heart and mind. Everyone enjoys being told they did a good job. You need to have an attentive staff of employees and managers to make this a habit. Your managers need to spend time on the floor and in the trenches with your staff to truly understand who is behaving the way you want them to. Celebrate a great service every chance you get —especially when the level of desired service is difficult to deliver.
A diva packed environment is tough to exist within, just ask anyone who has been on “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. With the existence of social media, yelp and this instant gratification world, we have given every human a loud-speaker for their views. It has caused everyone in the restaurant game to be on their toes even more than before. Unfortunately, these kinds of attitudes can wreak havoc on the mental health of your staff and it is the responsibility of your restaurant’s leadership team to facilitate a positive work environment.
Find ways to keep your staff happy. Think about closing a shift down with pizzas from a local restaurant after an especially strenuous shift. Congratulate your staff with gift cards for dining experiences or tickets to a local show. Imagine the perks that would have motivated you to work more diligently and pass those onto your staff. The more generous you are to your staff, the more they will appreciate coming in and working for your company. Do not forget about the Back of the House staff. Too many restaurants only reward the FOH through sales competitions. Don’t forget to give all of your staff opportunities to get easy wins.
Here are a few easy win contest ideas. Remember these are just suggestions. Feel free to adapt them as you deem necessary.
Clock-in Contest: 1 week of perfect clock-ins gets a prize or entered into a raffle (have your employees turn in their time sheets so it doesn’t rely on your managers)
Quiz Contest: Different quizzes for different departments, winner gets gift cards for your restaurant
Volunteer Month: Employees with X number of not-for-profit volunteer hours outside of work gets X prize
Unsolicited Yelp Reviews: 10 Great Reviews equals a Pizza Party, 100 = Team Outing
Friend Visits: Employee with the most friends/family who visit the restaurant in a week gets a prize
Also, don’t forget to ask the experts for advice… Ask your staff for ideas! They will tell you how to motivate them. Listen to what they want and apply what you can as well as you can. Remind them to be realistic, but if they have audacious goals as a staff, find a way to make their dreams a reality. Encourage great ideas and celebrate your team’s success as you reach any goal you determine to be worthwhile!