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April 19, 2018 How to Reward Restaurant Staff:
13 Creative Ideas

reward restaurant staff

When employees go above and beyond for your business, how do you show appreciation? A simple thank you is always nice. But these 13 creative ways to reward restaurant staff will inspire them to work even harder for you…

3 Reasons Why Should You Reward Restaurant Staff

  • Positive Reinforcement: While there’s a time and place for constructive criticism, positive reinforcement can be just as effective in increasing productivity. When you reward restaurant staff members who go the extra mile, it boosts their confidence and desire to take on more responsibility (to earn those sweet rewards!).
  • Employee Retention: Deciding to reward restaurant staff could help you reduce employee turnover, which costs the average restaurant $146,000 per year.
  • Team Building: Everybody wins (including you) when you reward restaurant staff for a job well done. After employees receive a great reward or prize, expect to see them working more closely together on future projects. Want more ways to build team spirit? Check out these 9 team building ideas for restaurant employees.

How to Reward Restaurant Staff

Set Team Goals

First, take a hard look at your business. Where could you improve? Let that guide how you reward restaurant staff as a team. For example, maybe you’re trying to increase drink sales. See if your wait staff and bartenders can upsell to meet that amount.

If you’re trying to lower food costs, challenge your kitchen staff to reduce waste until you hit the right percentage.

Encourage Individual Goals for Staff

Another way to reward restaurant staff is by setting goals for each individual. Ask every team member if there’s a personal goal they’d like to achieve for themselves.

Maybe a line cook wants to reduce their ticket times, or a server wants to try their hand at bartending. Figure out ways to help them achieve their goals, then reward restaurant staff when they meet their objectives.

Create Some Friendly Competition

When you reward restaurant staff, a little friendly competition can pay off for your business. Set a goal, let your team know the prize, and tell them how they can win. Some great contest ideas include:

  • Who upsells the most specials
  • Who gathers the most emails for your restaurant newsletter
  • Who gets the most customer comment cards filled out
  • Who brings in the most people for an event

Once you have a contest in mind, the next step is figuring out how you should reward restaurant staff…

13 Creative Ideas to Reward Restaurant Staff

This is the fun part! Your team did something incredible…now it’s time to reward restaurant staff for their hard work.

1) Name a Menu Item After an All-Star Staff Member

Matt’s signature Manhattan. Stacy’s Turkey Ruben. One way to reward restaurant staff is to name a dish or drink after them. Chances are, they’ll brag about it on social media – bringing in their friends and family.

Or, if you’re in a menu rut, challenge your bartenders and chefs to come up with their own unique twists on the classics. Then reward the best-tasting dishes or drinks by putting their namesake creation on the menu.

2) Host a Fundraising Event for a Charity of Their Choice

The winner of one of your staff competitions can select a charity to receive a portion of sales one night of the month. This is a triple-play way to reward restaurant staff:

  • First, you’re giving back to the community, which is always a win. It also generates positive word of mouth. According to the Edelman Good Purpose study, 72% of customers recommend businesses that support causes they care about.
  • Second, your employee gets to see you helping out their favorite charity – which will earn their loyalty. (Remember that stat about employee turnover!)
  • Third, your contribution could attract NEW staff to your restaurant. A Cone Inc. Survey found that when job searching, 87% of millennials factor in how much the business gives back to the community.

3) Run a Team Trivia Night

Treat your team to a lighthearted battle of the brains. Reward restaurant staff with a round or two of live trivia at your venue. Get creative in how you set up teams: it could be the back of the house versus the front. Or, randomly count off teams. Don’t forget to throw in some free appetizers and prizes!

4) Give Them a Branded Swag Bag

Reward restaurant staff with a bag or basket filled with items covered in your logo, like hats, t-shirts or a nice fleece. This reward serves double duty since your team will be repping your restaurant when wearing their swag. Can you say “free marketing?”

5) Throw a Party

Kick it old school. Reward restaurant staff by treating your team to a pizza or ice cream party for achieving one of their goals. Or, serve some of your own food and drinks on a night you’re usually closed. Add a little dancing and music so your staff can let loose to celebrate their reward.

6) Let Them “Go Live” on Social Media

This one is for trusted staff only! But like the other ways to reward restaurant staff, you can benefit from extra social media buzz. On Instagram or Facebook, let the staff member “go live” and take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of your restaurant. When Facebook changed its newsfeed algorithm in early 2018, the company said that live videos will be viewed 6x more than regular videos.

7) Host an Award Show

Take a note from the Oscars by giving trophies (or at least medals) to reward restaurant staff. This idea is great for annual staff parties, where you can present team members with superlatives that range from silly to high praise. Think “most patient server” or “best bar tricks.” Everyone has a great time and walks away with a memento of their awesomeness.

8) Match Their Tips

For a particularly high stakes competition, reward restaurant staff by matching the winner’s tips for a day. This would work especially well if you’re trying to get servers and bartenders to deliver better customer service.

9) Highlight Your Staff on Social Media

Want to see your staff light up? Put their name in lights – and sing their praises on social media. This reward can double as a specific goal (ie. whoever wins “employee of the month” gets featured on your Facebook page). Or it can be a more subtle way to reward restaurant staff. For example, if your team rocked a special event, post a heartfelt message on Facebook about how lucky you are to work with them.

10) Plan a Trip

Think of it this way – the team that wins together, celebrates together. Reward restaurant staff with a trip after they rocked a goal you set up for them. The trip can be small, like visiting a local brewery, or you can go bigger…head to your nearest amusement park.

11) Offer Tickets to a Local Concert

Sometimes, the best way to reward restaurant staff is with an experience. Purchase tickets to a local concert or event as an incentive for your team to achieve their goals.

12) Say it with Gift Cards

Gift cards are always a great way to reward restaurant staff. Gather a few gift cards from other local businesses for your team to choose from when they hit a goal. You can provide a wide selection of local spas, stores, or attractions and let your employees take their pick.

13) Let Them Choose Their Next Shift

A little power goes a long way when you reward restaurant staff. For a particularly responsible member, let them decide their next shift or week schedule. It gives you one less staff member’s schedule to worry about. And they’ll be excited about picking the nights or days they work for the next week.

Coming up with creative ways to reward restaurant staff is worth the effort. It boosts staff morale and your bottom line. Your team may be getting the prizes, but in the end, you both come out as winners.

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