Employees are the backbone of every food business. Because what’s a culinary vision without a team that can carry it out? Who takes on the dirty work when customers have left and the restaurant is but a mine of dirty dishes? 

A safe and caring work environment may sound like one of the last things you’d associate with the food industry, but it’s an association worth exploring if you’re keen on keeping your business running. The fact is, employees perform better if they feel valued in the workplace. Providing them with work benefits—which should go without saying—is one good way to ensure this. 

Based on the Labor Code, mandatory employee benefits include wage and compensation benefits (13th month pay, overtime pay, night shift differentials), leave benefits (maternity and paternity leaves, special leave benefits for women in case of gynaecological disorders and domestic abuse), and government assistance and contributions such as Social Security System, Pag-IBIG, and PhilHealth. But as in every industry, foodservice entails unique work conditions that may necessitate so-called non-traditional work benefits. In other words, it may take more than leave benefits to keep employees motivated in the face of long nights and serious physical demands.

High turnover rates in the food world are a recurring trend for a reason. Restaurateurs would be better off providing special work incentives to their current staff rather than going through the ordeal of hiring new employees. Here’s a guide in doing just that:

Free meals

Restaurant employees are surrounded by food all the time, which must make working through regular meal times feel worse. Providing free meals to your staff is a good way make them feel appreciated. It’s also an effective way to help them have a better grasp of the menu and, in effect, serve customers better. Some restaurants usually offer shift meals or restaurant gift certificates to their employees, though of course they do this with certain rules in place. These rules include: setting a certain budget for free meals, identifying which dishes can be given for free, and keeping a record of every meal given away to employees. So if providing this benefit sounds like a bit of a stretch for your business, know that there are best practices that can guide you.

Cash incentives and bonuses

Here’s a straightforward method to keep your staff motivated: Offer cash incentives or bonuses to top-performing staff (those who not only work hard but also consistently show up on time). It’s a great way to recognize and encourage employees who not only perform well but also put in extra work. But treat this purely as a supplementary motivational tool—that is, it shouldn’t affect the salaries of employees, especially those who may not be performing as consistently as those you’ve rewarded. Minimum wage is not optional, and cash incentives (as well as tips) should never be used to compensate for a salary that’s below the mandatory amount.

High turnover rates in the food world are a recurring trend for a reason. Restaurateurs would be better off providing special work incentives to their current staff rather than going through the ordeal of hiring new employees.

Transportation allowance

There’s no need to explain what it’s like to travel around Manila. The physical and mental tolls it can take on employees are a hindrance to good performance. If your business can recognize that connection as a serious problem, then you’re already ahead of a lot of companies. The next step is to try to act upon that problem by making travel less of a pain than it already is. There’s nothing you can do about the traffic, obviously, but you can try to minimize your employees’ spending by helping offset transportation costs. There are a few ways you can go about this: You can subsidize the cost of a parking garage or provide a small transportation stipend.

Professional development

After long working hours, heavy workload, and low pay, the most common reason for high employee turnover in foodservice is a lack of professional growth opportunities. Some employees see restaurant work as mere gig work—a temporary means to earn extra income or help pay the bills—but this perception can be changed and employee retention can be improved by providing advancement opportunities or at least being more transparent about your employees’ career paths. Talk to them about their performance, your plans for them, and what they need to do in order to be considered for advancement opportunities. If that channel of communication is open and constant, employees are less likely to feel underappreciated and instead feel that they’re actually important stakeholders in your company.

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