Motivating Staff in the Restaurant Industry

When it comes to motivating and keeping staff happy in the restaurant industry, there is one thing that is a must; throw the advice of the motivational gurus out the window.

That’s right, while much of the advice offered by motivational speakers and advisors is great when it is applied to the workforce in, say, a corporate or business setting, the restaurant industry is a whole different world.

While the dynamics between management and staff is similar to what you find anywhere else, and while there is plenty of interaction between staff members themselves, the primary focus when it comes to motivating and keeping staff happy in the restaurant industry is in making them feel as if they have a vested interest in “their” restaurant’s continued success and reputation. Easy enough to say, you may think, but how do you put that into practice?

Motivating your staff is a fairly straightforward matter; it depends entirely on giving them something to be proud of. Emphasizing the quality of your customer service and bragging up your staff to your clients will give the staff something to live up to, and will instill a sense of loyalty and pride. This can be done in a dozen different ways. A handful are listed below which may help you get started in the right direction.

But before you can even begin to reward or motivate your staff, you need to “understand your target market”.

Many of your employees are considerably younger than you are and their idea of The Future or A Reward may differ greatly from yours. To you the future is next year or next decade or maybe the end of your lease. To the young people who work for you, the future is tomorrow, Saturday night or just maybe next summer. Reward? Well nothing satisfies like instant gratification. Carry a few prepaid cell phone vouchers or maybe even lotto tickets and reward your staff on the spot. And if they win? Well hopefully they will buy you out and YOU can stop worrying about the future.

1) Employee of the Month/Quarter/Year:

Having an employee of the month/quarter/year program is a great way to show your staff AND your customers just what a great staff you have. Fair warning, however, words are not enough. Put their picture on the wall with a short bio that explains why they were chosen, but to double the impact, make it worth the employee’s time. Perhaps a cash gift or a gift card can help with motivation.

2) Have an “Employees in the News” wall:

Every community has its share of events; things like sports competitions, high school and college graduations and other events that make it into the newspaper. Display your employee’s achievements outside of work in a prominent place; let it be known that you care about their life outside of work and want them to do well.

3) Reward for Work Well Done:

It seems as if every industry focuses on the negative, taking away tips or bonuses for poor quality work, or docking hours for mistakes. This, however, tends to rebound negatively in the end, so why not start off on the right foot and reward for work well done? If one of the wait staff agrees to come in on their day off, match their tips for the day as a gesture of good will, or hold a contest for bus boys for the most tables cleared each day.

4) Work Sponsored Events:

There is nothing like camaraderie to instill a sense of loyalty in one’s staff, which is why it is always a good idea to get involved in community events. Put together a softball team, or a bowling team made up of staff members and then use their activities as a focal point for getting the rest of the staff together regularly (the focus being on fun, not work!). You’ll be surprised at how quickly they become motivated.

5) Walk the Talk:

If you want to be an inspiration to your staff you must walk the talk. Be an example of what you want from others. Don’t blow your top if you have a bad day. If things go wrong, deal with it calmly; and always be energetic even if you don’t feel like it. Consistency is key.


In conclusion, you won’t have to limit yourself to just those motivational suggestions listed above, let your imagination soar, and see just how quickly your staff changes their tune and becomes truly interested in ensuring “their” restaurant does well!

Ian Said, is an entrepreneur and founder of Ideal Software, a software development company specializing in Stock Control and Point of Sale reporting solutions. E-Mail: and follow Ian's tweets: @costofsale

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Tags: Africa, Control, IdealStockControl, Inventory, Motivation, Profitability, Restaurant, South, Staff, Stock


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