The Two Way Street of Foodservice Employee Loyalty
First off, let’s get something straight. Working in a restaurant should be fun. I get it; it’s stressful, unpredictable and sometimes downright disheartening. But we’re not chained to a desk, staring at a computer. Nor are we driving a forklift, digging ditches or embalming bodies. The mere fact that the biz can be so much fun lends itself to employee loyalty and satisfaction.
However, restaurants and especially bars are susceptible to being victimized by less than dedicated staff. Pilferage and poor customer service are the two most glaring, but absenteeism and lack of cohesiveness are in the mix too. Some fellow restaurant peeps have asked me over the years what makes a loyal restaurant employee. Mind you, a lot of this stuff may or may not fit in the corporate world, but here’s my two cents-
Well, if you want loyal employees be a loyal owner/manager.
What does that mean? It means if you want to have the shop’s best interest in mind you should start by having your employees’ best interest in mind.
Two decades ago I worked at a not-to-be named theme restaurant that started to run a promotion that was less than popular with the crew. It was driving down tips and taking staff morale with it. In retrospect, it was possibly one of the worst situations I can remember as far as esprit de corps in the biz. What was management’s solution? Hold a massive staff meeting and basically tell them that whoever doesn’t like it can leave. While pointing at the door no less.
You want servers to be happy and motivated? Staff the floor properly and don’t do it based on pie in the sky expectations. Servers depend on a certain portion of sales to generate tip income. Give them the tools to do their job effectively. If a server is obviously having a bad day a heartfelt word of encouragement is way better than pointing out their shortcomings. Numbers are important but so is character. And most of all, let your servers be themselves. Waiting tables and pretending to be someone they are not equals twice as much energy expended which means less for the customers.
You want happy bartenders? Let them run a comp tab so they can reward regulars with a couple freebies, especially the ones that bring in new faces. That one beer your bar staff buys for the first-timer in your joint is going to be repaid twenty fold by him/her telling all their friends about how great your place is. One of my pet peeves is when managers/owners let people push their bar staff around or harass the cocktail waitresses. Throw those idiots out from the beginning and everyone will take the hint. Also, listen to your bar staff’s input, they’re the ones standing back there hour after hour making you money.
A lot of this can be tough to follow for some owners and managers. There are many restaurants that (try to) control their staff through fear and intimidation, usually coming up with paranoid reasons to randomly fire people. This keeps the staff rattled but not loyal. Once again, people with any self-respect and talent leave these situations and the only ones that put up with it are clueless drones that stay because they don’t have anywhere else to go. Running a shop like this is, for lack of a better phrase, bad karma. And who wants to generate or be around that kind of energy anyway?