How to motivate your restaurant staff
Boosting morale can be as easy as showing genuine appreciation and making sure they are paid a decent wage
It may not be obvious to business owners and restaurateurs, but behind a healthy bottom line is a team ready to take on all challenges. “Being ready” is not just a matter of physical and mental skill sets and whether or not your staff has them, but it also involves good emotional health.
Today, it may be even more difficult to keep your employees motivated. Problems can arise from many places, making them less engaged that ultimately affects your business as a whole. Whether you’ve already realized it or not, that motivation and engagement can spell the difference between success and bankruptcy.
To help you make sure your staff is well-motivated—or to take some quick and easy steps to begin shoring up individual and team morale—we mined the experiences of chef Him Uy de Baron and The Experience Collective CEO Isabel Lozano for tips you can apply.
BE OPEN AND APPROACHABLE TO YOUR STAFF
Perhaps the first thing you need to check about yourself as a boss is whether or not your team is afraid of you. To a certain extent, fear arising from strictness is acceptable (so long as you don’t have a reputation for going too far). But what’s more important is you are still open for discussions or conversations.
“Although my strict approach to my staff sometimes scares them off, they also know I can be open with them when they need me,” says Uy de Baron. “I try to be very professional with them as I tell them I expect the same from them, but I also convey that they are welcome and open to approach me for any concern they have, may it be work-related or personal.
Sometimes, being there and knowing that you can be there will be enough. “I’ve had many of my staff come to me for this, and I sometimes just sit and listen specifically if it’s a personal problem,” he says.
“If you make them feel good, they will perform better,” advises Lozano. “I believe in spending some money to make money. And if that means hiring really good people, especially in the management level, you’ve got to pay what they’re worth—and it will all come back to you tenfold,” says Isabel Lozano.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEAM’S EVERYDAY NEEDS
The other most important thing when it comes to keeping your employees happy is how their workplace treats them. This focuses not only on you but also how you set your organization up to make sure they are satisfied enough to work hard. This chiefly involves two factors: people’s pay and the amenities in the workplace. When both are enough to keep everyone happy, you’re far more likely to see your investment in these things come back exponentially.
“If you make them feel good, they will perform better,” advises Lozano. “I believe in spending some money to make money. And if that means hiring really good people, especially in the management level, you’ve got to pay what they’re worth—and it will all come back to you tenfold.” If you can (and you should), invest in office amenities such as resting areas and lounges (or even the decency of having clean bathrooms), because these go a long way in making work enjoyable for employees.
Uy de Baron seconds this, noting that on the flip side of that argument, an unmotivated employee can affect operations. “We are in a service-oriented industry and a lack of motivation from the server can be felt by our guests,” he says. “A chef who isn’t motivated might go through the motions and won’t hesitate to cut corners if he gets caught in the weeds.”
ENCOURAGE THEM AND GIVE OPPORTUNITIES TO DEVELOP
Like you, your staff isn’t just there to serve in one specified role forever. They have their own goals and dreams, and being the person to help them successfully achieve these will reflect in their loyalty to you. Incentives are a huge help in raising and maintaining morale. “I encourage creating goals as a team, and when goals are met, corresponding incentives should be given,” says Uy de Baron.
“[I do] whatever it takes to keep them happy: incentives, opportunities to rise through the ranks, promotions, acknowledgments,” says Lozano. “Providing them with educational tools is something I also believe in. I have someone come in to talk [to my team] about managing money—things like that, educating them and making them feel that you really care about them. You’re not just there to have them work for you. You become a family.”
“I encourage creating goals as a team, and when goals are met, corresponding incentives should be given,” says Him Uy de Baron.
BE A LEADER, NOT A MANAGER
A manager is someone who merely tells people what to do, how to do it, and when they should do it. A leader helps them find the meaning of what they do and make them feel good about doing it. A leader also maintains the unity and dynamics in the workplace because that’s what’s important in being a well-oiled machine that delivers results. If you have to be the adult between two or more other people—and you should always be the adult—do so, because your product is always on the line.
“Personal conflicts are tough to deal with in an organization,” says Uy de Baron. “Because left unresolved, issues between teammates will result in division and mistrust.” Once you have that unity and harmony among your team, and once everyone feels good about work, their workplace, and the people they work with, all of you end up getting the benefits. And if you feel like you’re having a hard time following the wisdom dispensed here, always remember that it’s really not hard to start motivating people; you just have to be a decent person to be a decent leader.
“If you’re a leader, you’re somebody who uplifts them, encourages them, and makes them feel good,” says Lozano. “It doesn’t matter what you do—if you provide them with an environment and practices that make them feel good, that should be motivating enough.”
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