The following article is a guest post by David Galic and our friends over at ShiftPlanning.

When it comes to achieving long-term success in the restaurant business, it’s not all about the food. It is about the experience as a whole and one of the biggest influences on the quality of the experience is the people who deliver it: your staff.

The truth is that the quality of your staff and service is just as important as the quality of your grub. And in order for your staff to perform at their best, they need to be both happy and motivated. Furthermore, your customers are more likely to notice that your staff is not satisfied than they are likely to notice that your chef might be having a bad day.

That’s why it’s important to keep your employees highly motivated and excited about coming in to work every day. Here are six quick tips that can help you to boost employee morale and get the most out of a satisfied and happy staff.

Acknowledge Them

Let your staff know that you appreciate them. One of the simplest ways of doing this is by running an “Employee of the Month” program. Make these types of accomplishments public for the entire restaurant to see, and make sure to give some type of visual accolade, like a picture on a wall or trophy, to signify the achievement.   Just as important, make sure to discuss what led to this achievement as a team so that they can model this behavior and improve the level of service across the staff.

You can even offer incentives for your employees in order to motivate them strive to earn the title. And they don’t have to be monetary necessarily. For example, you can give your Employee of the Month a paid day off or half days with full pay.

Invest In Them

Few things show your employees that you care about them and their futures better than investing in their skills. When you pay for your servers, bartenders, hosts and chefs to improve their skills, this is benefiting both sides. They are becoming better at what they do and you are getting seasoned, high quality employees without having to hire new people.

When an employee is learning new things on the job, it gives them a greater sense of purpose. It also shows them that you want them there for the long haul and you don’t see them as easily replaceable, which employees love.

Award Longevity

If there is anything that restaurateurs lose sleep over it’s losing employees. This vertical is at the top of the heap when it comes to high turnover rates. A great way to avoid constantly losing employees is by awarding them for staying with you.

You can offer cash prizes for longevity, encouraging employees to stay with you by giving them either raises or one-time bonuses every six months or so. It might sound like a lot of money, but in reality, you’ll end up saving money in the end.

Remember, finding new employees, training them, and getting them acclimated to your restaurant costs money. So the less time and money you have to spend replacing departing workers, the better.

Let Them Have Fun

Work should be taken seriously, there’s no doubt about that. However, giving your team and opportunity let loose and have fun can help everyone focus and work harder when necessary.

Providing a break room with some games or a television where they can chill out in between shifts and have some fun could really help boost morale. Something like this could help your employees unwind and refocus themselves during their breaks, and it also shows them that you care about their happiness.

Team building exercises are also a good idea. Take your team out several times a year to do something fun, like paintball, bowling or rock climbing. These types of group activities outside of the restaurant help to form strong bonds and facilitate better teamwork, which will hopefully then carry over to regular work activities.

Offer Incentives

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition between team members. If you want to motivate your staff, you can offer gift cards or other prizes and awards for finishing on top in terms of sales for the day or week.

Are you trying to push a new menu item? Tell your servers that whoever manages to sell the greatest number of dishes will be rewarded. You can do this on a monthly basis as well. Keep track of sales stats and then offer a cash bonus to the employee who ends up selling the most food at the end of each month.

Give Them A Say

Employees love when they are involved in decision making processes that affect them. For example, letting them set their availability and working collaboratively with your staff when scheduling their hours and shifts can go a long way.

Get with the times and start using employee scheduling software instead of pen and paper or Excel sheets to allow your employees to get involved with the process and increase transparency. You can allow them to request shift trades on their own and coordinate their working hours among themselves as well.

Giving them this added independence not only makes them feel appreciated and respected, it also saves you a lot of time and stress by turning the entire scheduling process into a collaborative one that doesn’t solely rest on your shoulders.

Feed Them

You’re running a restaurant, right? Why keep your employees working on sandwiches and chips? Offer them free meals at least once a week. If you can afford it, one free meal per day for each employee would be excellent too.

No one likes to work on an empty stomach, especially people who have to look at food all day at work. A hungry employee is not a happy employee. Fix them up something fresh from your kitchen every once in a while.

Conclusion

Keeping employees happy, motivated and productive is more important than ever in today’s economic landscape. Recent studies have shown that employees who are happier work harder. The converse is also true. Unmotivated and miserable employees are less engaged and less productive.

Obviously, the happiness of an employee doesn’t only depend on the atmosphere at the workplace. There are many outside influences that factor into a person’s overall state of contentment. And that’s why it’s even more important to make your workplace less stressful and more supportive.

While you can’t control outside factors like family and personal issues, you definitely have the ability to make your restaurant a safe haven for your employees where they will feel as though they are part of a supportive and positive micro-community.

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