Restaurant Staff Incentives: 11 Ways To Motivate Your Team

Management 19 minute read 25th March 2023

Did you know that the 2022 average turnover rate for the restaurant industry was 75%? This field has always had a high staff attrition rate compared to others. But after the pandemic, that number continues to climb. That’s why it’s crucial now more than ever to ensure you’re considering savvy restaurant staff incentives.

Think about it: what makes great restaurant service? A consistent, empowered, happy team.

Whenever you lose team members, it affects morale, workflow, and even your bottom line. Think about the wasted time, money and resources from training new staff just for them to walk out within months.

But a savvy restaurant owner can avoid this by creating proactive incentive programs, rewards and fostering a positive work environment. Keep reading to learn how to apply simple (and cost-effective) strategies to reduce your employee turnover rate.

What Are Incentives?

In the context of incentives for restaurant employees, incentives are a way of rewarding employees for their hard work. These can be symbolic gestures like recognition or physical ones like a cash reward or gift. The bottom line is that they’re anything to keep employees motivated and happy.

Why do you want motivated employees? A driven team is a productive team. You want your restaurant staff to come in excited and eager to do their job.

Why is it important to have happy employees? According to a training solutions company, happy staff members outperform competitors by 20%.

They provide better customer service, dig into teamwork and increase productivity overall. Happy workers mean happy customers, translating into a robust and thriving business. Talk about a win-win-win.

What are incentives? They’re the key to restaurant success.

Staff Incentive Ideas

11 Incentive Ideas for Restaurant Employees

You’ve built the best restaurant team; here’s how to keep them. More business owners should think beyond the apparent parts of running their food establishments. Like what to look for when hiring a chef or how to open a restaurant in the first place.

Many restaurant owners resist trying out an incentive program because they worry about the cost. They think that rewarding employees means shelling out more cash.

Paying your staff well is crucial to high morale and great workers. But if you’re only thinking of monetary compensation, you’re missing some of the best strategies for success.

Here are our 11 incentive ideas for restaurant employees that go beyond their paychecks.

Find Low-cost Rewards and Recognition Ideas

1. Restaurant Staff Incentives: Find Low-cost Rewards and Recognition Ideas

This strategy is just like giving customers incentives to return to your restaurant. Here you’re looking for rewards with a high value to your staff but a low cost to you.

It could be as simple as telling employees thanks and good job after a long shift with demanding customers. Or you could send your workers anniversary cards after they’ve worked at your restaurant for a particular duration. (They wouldn’t say no to a longevity bonus, either. But if you don’t have the funds, this is a thoughtful gesture.)

A clever reward idea for restaurant staff is offering free meals to your team or discounts on their orders. You could let them pick the menu items or designate a different food item each day. This is an excellent reward for front-of-house workers smelling delicious food from the kitchen all day.

These gestures may not seem earth-shattering, but they’re a great place to start when looking to reduce employee turnover.

2. Let Them Have Fun

What’s another restaurant staff incentive that restaurant owners often neglect? Letting your employees have fun. This isn’t about allowing the crew to run wild when they’re supposed to serve guests. It’s about demonstrating that you understand the importance of a work-life balance.

Going to work should be enjoyable - particularly in the restaurant industry. If your team is glum and dreads heading in each day, that’s a positive dining experience for customers.

Encourage staff to chat with customers and each other. Instead of forcing your team to take their breaks or lunch with you standing over their shoulder, let them bond. Devise restaurant server training games for slow periods. Or organize a staff-wide rec team to reduce staff tension in a busy hospitality business.

Most importantly, talk to your employees and get to know them. Allow everyone to laugh together and share a bit about their lives outside the restaurant.

Foster a Supportive Work Culture

3. Foster a Supportive Work Culture

To lower your attrition rate and keep employees happy, foster a positive, supportive work environment and culture. No one wants to go into a job where they feel scared of their boss or the other employees.

To avoid low morale, set a good example for your workers. Show them you’re an active listener, an optimistic (but realistic) boss, and an understanding person. From day one, ensure that each team member feels comfortable and seen.

Say you see that one employee struggling to connect with the other employees. Set up check-in with the employee in question to hear any concerns they may have. Or ask one of your more senior team members to take that staff member under their wing.

Minor adjustments like these turn a downtrodden crew into one bursting with team spirit.

4. Consider Employee of the Month Ideas

Sometimes the best incentives for restaurant employees are shoutouts. A tried and true method to bolster staff performance is an employee of the month award. This works exceptionally well for a restaurant business.

Why? Because you have several different metrics to gauge who’s gone above and beyond that month. Here are a few employee of the month ideas:

  • Reward the worker with the highest number of positive Yelp Reviews. This not only creates a solid motivating factor for delivering excellent service. It also boosts your online hospitality service reviews and reputation.
  • Have an attendance-based award and host a party for the worker who worked the most each month. See who works long hours or always offers to pick up the next shift.
  • Create an incentive program where crew members get extra points or rewards every time they earn employee of the month.
  • Personalize your employee of the month program with individual incentives specific to each worker. For example, maybe one month the winner loves cinema, so you gift them movie tickets. Then the next month, the winner enjoys reading, so you send them a bookstore gift card.

However you choose to provide employee of the month performance incentives, make sure you’re consistent and fair. Everyone loves healthy competition, but you never want things to turn combative.

Reward System for Employees

5. Incentives for Restaurant Employees: Reward System for Employees

Your staff has brilliant ideas about how business could run more smoothly or give guests an even better dining experience.

This doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that they’re vying to overthrow your leadership. It’s just human nature. If anything, it makes sense if you have motivated employees.

If your staff has business ideas or innovations, they’re engaged. Most likely, they aren’t getting involved because they don’t feel empowered.

Encourage idea sharing by devising a reward system for employees. The trick lies in giving complete control of the plan to the team themselves. So, someone comes up with an idea, and the group votes on whether it’s worth taking to you. You then offer individual bonuses to each person who pitched in with the plan.

6. Promote Health and Wellbeing

We’ve said it once, and we’ll repeat it. Restaurant staff incentives don’t stop at an employee stock ownership plan and big parties. Sometimes the best incentive program you can offer is promoting health and well-being.

Health and well-being play a massive role in modern team building, recruitment and business development. The two-fold advantages are simple: a happy team is an efficient and productive team capable of great things.

Do you have any form of health and wellness focus for the staff at your restaurant? Talk to a local gym and see if you could offer a discount membership. Or set up an on-site yoga day from a trained instructor shows that you care about how your team feels.

Trust Your Team

7. Trust Your Team

It doesn’t matter what business you work in; no one likes micro-management.

Nothing is more uninspiring than a manager constantly breathing down your neck and checking in on your progress.

Ensure everyone in the team knows their responsibilities, and leave them to it. Building a trusting relationship with your crew is the best way to empower and motivate them.

8. Offer Mentoring Opportunities

Chances are, you’ll have a mentor of some form yourself, whether a close friend, ex-boss or industry veteran.

Why don’t you offer the same opportunity to your staff? You could be their mentor. Or, if the budget allows, try hiring the services of a hospitality coach. Pro tip: social media is a great way to find lower-cost coaches and mentors willing to lend their expertise.

Mentors help people harness their skills and find other opportunities to further their careers. What more incentive could you give?

Implement Flexible Working Times

9. Implement Flexible Working Times

Ok, we understand that you can’t offer the same flextime in office working environments. Working remotely isn’t one of the incentives for restaurant employees that you can offer. But flexible schedules for restaurant staff are achievable.

If you have a team member with a kid, can you adjust their shift to fit around school drop-off/pick-up?

What about your millennial workforce? A Forbes Studies suggest that 92% of that generation identifies flexibility as the top job priority. Is your eat-sleep-serve-repeat working pattern likely to put them off?

Speak to each employee and ask if their schedule works. If not, what kind of shift pattern would work? They can’t dictate how your restaurant runs. But listening to their idea of a better work-life balance incentivizes them to work hard when they can.

10. Show Them Where They Can Go

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Remember that perennial interview question?

It might serve you more as a regular question for existing employees rather than a hiring query. Why? For one thing, it shows your employees that you care about their future, boosting loyalty and morale. For another, it allows you to foster a more vital, skilled workforce.

You remind the staff of growth opportunities by offering regular training, mentoring (see tip 8) and outside duties.

11. Restaurant Staff Incentives: Employee Recognition Board

Like an employee of the month award, an employee recognition board is a simple way to incentivize your team.

Put together a board in a staff-only area. You can use a break room, office, or any other back-of-house space to hold meetings. Decorate it enough to show you put time and care into creating a spot solely for praising your team. (You could even post inspirational hospitality quotes to lift spirits too.)

Then, think of unique, meaningful recognition titles and accolades to post.

Want to encourage teamwork? Have a weekly or monthly time when your staff can add praise to the board. They can shout out other team members, a particular branch of your restaurant business, or the entire staff performance.

Final Tip

Incentives for Restaurant Employees: Final Tip

If you’re still seeking ways to incentivize your team, think about what has worked for you.

What did a previous boss or colleague do for you that changed how you approached work daily?

Replicate it for your team. Now that you’re an expert on restaurant staff incentives think about other ways to improve your restaurant business. Like adding free guest wifi with Beambox.

Complementary internet makes your customers feel more at home. Plus, when you use WiFi marketing software like Beambox, you gain valuable client insights to improve your business marketing strategy.

While your guests browse online, you get essential information like statistics for restaurant customer segmentation and proximity marketing tools.

Ready to learn more? Start your Beambox free trial to begin growing your business today.

Start a 30 day free trial with Beambox and start building your own email list, every time someone logs on to your property WiFi.

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