How to Motivate Restaurant Employees & Improve Guest Satisfaction

When service is lousy in the front of the house, or the back of the house sends out unappetizing meals, your guests don’t come back. Making sure that everyone in your restaurant is doing their best work for every guest is critical. To motivate restaurant employees to deliver high-quality service create an employee of the month program in both the front of the house and the back of the house.

Your goal as a restaurant manager is delivering a dining experience that keeps guests coming back for more. Coupons, specials, Happy Hour and other price incentives bring customers in once or twice, but if people don’t enjoy their visit to your restaurant, it won’t matter. It’s true for the cheapest greasy spoon in town, or the city’s finest, five-star dining establishment. An employee of the month program, in both the front of the house and the back of the house, is important because the more motivated your restaurant employees are, the better service they will provide your guests.

Motivate restaurant employees with recognition

Employee recognition has a huge impact on motivation in your workplace. According to Gallup’s article, Employee Recognition: Low Cost, High Impact, “recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.

Strategic employee recognition has several benefits to your restaurant, most specifically:

  • improved employee engagement
  • lower employe turnover
  • higher guest satisfaction scores

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, hall-of-fame speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. In Ten Compelling Reasons to Deliver an Amazing Customer Service Experience, Shep adds more specifically:

  • Customer service superstar companies are usually more profitable than the ones that aren’t
  • Amazing customer service builds credibility, trust and confidence, which can lead to customer loyalty
  • Delivering amazing customer service can lead to existing customers buying more

Find Shep’s full list of Ten Compelling Reasons at

Getting started is easy

Setting up an employee of the month program can be done in 3 simple steps. First, set your goals for the program, so you start with a solid foundation. Then, monitor the program and track the results, so you can improve what you’re measuring. Finally, make a big deal about your award presentations, so your winners are left with a special moment they’ll want to recreate with continued hard work.

An employee of the month program where you recognize one Front-of-the-House Employee of the Month and one Back-of-the-House Employee of the Month gives both sides of the restaurant the chance to shine, and is a great way to motivate restaurant employees.

Read more:  3 Simple Steps to an Effective Employee of the Month Program

Get your managers on board

In your restaurant, your managers are responsible for keeping the restaurant running smoothly, so don’t leave them out of the recognition loop. To really motivate restaurant employees, your managers have to be motivated, too.

Just like your front of the house and back of the house teams, managers are motivated to perform well when they are recognized for their efforts. Include your managers in your reward and recognition program. They’ll be champions for your cause, thus reinforcing the overall culture of recognition.

Measure success

Of course, rewarding excellent performance is not about playing favorites. This can actually have a negative impact on how you motivate restaurant employees. Creating a culture of recognition involves setting up a system where your employees’ performance is measured.

When picking the right criteria for your restaurant’s employee of the month program, here are some ideas to start with…

For front of the house restaurant employees:

  • Ranking servers on things like alcohol, dessert, and appetizer sales gives you a clear number to choose a winner from, and increases average dollar per ticket
  • Does your restaurant have a customer loyalty or return visit program? Track new sign ups to see who gets the most customers into your program
  • Guest satisfaction surveys are also great. You can see who is getting the most filled out, and use what you learn in the surveys to make improvements in your restaurant

For back of the house restaurant employees:

  • No one likes to see food sent back to the kitchen. Track the fewest number of plates that come back for food issues
  • Ever had to deal with time & attendance issues? Reward employees who come to work when they’re scheduled and show up on time
  • Monitor your food cost techniques. The line cook that’s using the right measurements and following recipes is saving you a fortune. Reward them for it!

Find out more about criteria

You can also look to other industries for more inspiration on things you can track and measure for recognition criteria. To see some examples of how other industries pick winners and recognize employees, check out the video at 24 Insider Secrets That Improve Employee Recognition Success.

Tips on how to motivate restaurant employees

See also: Picking Your Employee of the Month with the Right Criteria

The Benefits of a Culture of Recognition

A Gallup 2018 survey found that companies who had more engaged employees saw 10% higher customer loyalty. On top of the customer impact, engaged workers increased productivity by 21% and profitability by 22%.

Besides that, motivated employees can reduce turnover by as much as 65% and absenteeism by 37%. Businesses also see a reduction in safety incidents by 48%, which is especially important since the average restaurant can see up to 4 workers compensation claims per year at an estimated cost of nearly $50,000 annually.

The best part about finding ways to motivate restaurant employees is that it’s fun! Working in the restaurant business can be stressful. If your restaurant is a fun place to be, your team will more likely want to give their best effort. This benefits managers, employees, customers and the bottom line.

If you liked that, you may also like…

Why Does Strategic Employee Recognition Work?

Attention and appreciation motivate people, and strategic employee recognition is what our clients use to get more out of individuals and teams alike. Find out more HERE.

How to Start an Employee of the Month Program

Find answers for your questions on how to start an employee of the month program in the “3 R’s of Employee Recognition Done Right.” Read more HERE.

3 Simple Steps to an Effective Employee of the Month Program

An effective employee of the month program is a way to improve your company’s culture and workplace environment. Do it right with 3 simple steps. Read the full post HERE.

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