7 Ways to Motivate Restaurant Staff that Work

seven tactics to motivate staff

Posted: Jan. 11, 2019

Forget competitions. Use these seven tactics to motivate staff and keep them happy at work.

Still dreaming about their Christmas vacation or shaking off the New Year’s Eve shenanigans, it’s natural that your staff is sluggish post-holidays.  It’s up to you as owner or manager to corral the group into becoming the well-oiled machine it can be. Below, we present seven ways to motivate your staff that can be used year-round. (Minus competitions, because it seems work-place competitions foster more resentment and distance than profits and team-building.)

Be the Leader

First and foremost, you need to step up as leader of the pack. Nearly every problem within an organization starts at the top—in this scenario, that’s you.

In Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, one of the most common reasons for failure is a lack of leadership. (And not having a restaurant point-of-sale system to manage inventory and sales reports). Restaurant owners and managers are exasperated and complaining along with their staff instead of solving problems and showing their team what to do.

Working hard is the trick to inspiring your restaurant staff to perform better. Show dedication to your tasks and communicate to the team that you are available for help. Watching you dedicate your energies and knowing that they’re not alone is going to motivate your team to perform better.

Create a Break Area

The psychology of work breaks is well documented, yet few managers or owners appear to believe—or care—about their value. These minutes are precious to the mental and emotional well-being of your team. Create a designated break area where employees can unwind and de-stress. You will see that staff finish their shifts motivated and energetic.

Feed Your Team 

With a daily meal, you can ensure that staff has the necessary nutrients to power through a shift and that your team feels taken care of. It’s especially important during a busy shift or season when staff might skip a meal. If you are worried about costs, don’t be. The meal doesn’t have to be an extravagance, just hearty and nutritious.

There’s another benefit to feeding your team; it’s a great way for them to intimately know the menu and give well-considered recommendations to customers. What’s more, with their feedback, you can find out if any dishes are duds and scrap them.

The most important aspect of this is that you are taking care of their basic needs. Once fed and full, your team is going to be happier and more motivated to work hard for you.

Create a Positive Work Culture

As owner or manager, a significant part of your responsibility to the team is creating a positive work culture. As the famous proverb goes, a fish stinks from the head down. When employees don’t like the work environment, they don’t perform well.

Do you know where their attention is, instead of on customers? It’s on finding a new job, dreaming of a different life, or hating every minute there—nothing relevant or useful to the business. In fact, unhappy employees can affect your bottom line.

Managing the work culture is 100% your responsibility. If you hear employees gossiping about each other, stop it immediately. If you see unfair treatment between servers and bussers, address it and stop it. And stop your own bad habits too. If you are yelling every time an employee fumbles a task, stop it right away. This kind of negativity kills a business from the inside out, and eventually, it will spill over into the customer experience.

One of the most tried-and-tested ways to build a happy work environment is by celebrating milestones and birthdays. Talk with employees and get to know their lives so you know when something important is happening, such as, when an employee graduates from college or gets engaged. A simple card or cake can make someone feel extremely appreciated and recognized—powerful feelings that make employees motivated and happy.  

Offer Chances for Advancement

It’s common practice for companies to hire within the ranks. The employee understands the work culture, knows how business gets down, and who to talk to. Even better, little training is needed. Many restaurant owners forget that they can benefit from hiring within their businesses, too. We recommend changing your perspective and looking at your team as potential future managers, servers, or chefs.

At the next meeting, announce that options for advancement are present and that you want to hear from your employees directly. You might find out that your food runner aspires to run a restaurant. If you plan to open another location one day, you already have one contender to start grooming for the role.

Knowing that there’s a chance for growth gives employees a sense of purpose, and a work shift becomes a growth opportunity. Nurture the abilities of your team and you might be surprised by the great results.

Longevity Bonuses

Turnover is high in the restaurant industry, so reward staff that sticks with you. Every six months give a small Thank You bonus, and a larger bonus every year an employee is still working there. The bonus is a meaningful token of appreciation, one that helps you decrease turnover rate and build comradery.

Give Compliments


Give compliments. It’s so simple yet it’s astonishingly rare to receive a compliment at work. Take a moment to think when the last time you complimented an employee was, and how much time passed before the previous one.

When an employee tackles a new skill (like learning to balance a tray for the first time or managing inventory) and does it well, don’t forget to compliment them on it. If you see that one server consistently up-sells his or her checks, take a moment to tell them how great they are doing. Compliments are deserving in praiseworthy situations and by being acknowledged, the person feels better for the recognition and feels valued.

The key to motivating your staff lies in recognizing their efforts and nurturing a positive environment. Encourage hard work, give ongoing training sessions, and be a leader, and your restaurant will thrive.


Posted: Jan. 11, 2019 | Written By: Emma Alois

Success Tips

Schedule a demo with LAVU


It’s a fact: The quality of your restaurant’s POS system can mean the difference between profit and loss. Having the right POS solutions positively affects the functionality of every aspect of your business. From maintaining optimum customer care standards, to your ability to manage your inventory, effective POS can help your restaurant succeed beyond your wildest expectations.


It's Getting Easier for Restaurants to Go Compostable

Jan. 23, 2019 | 0


When the options for compostable packaging and straws are comparable to plastic’s durability and prices, restaurants can easily go green. The act of popping a straw into a drink is being challenged by opponents who say its short-term life of 30 minutes isn’t enough to justify a lifetime in the…

read more


Increase Your Restaurant Traffic with These 6 Social Media Tips

Jan. 23, 2017 | 6


As a restaurant owner, you likely know how much of an impact social media can have on your…

read more

All Articles

It's Getting Easier for Restaurants to Go Compostable

Jan. 23, 2019 | 0


When the options for compostable packaging and straws are comparable to plastic’s durability and…

read more

Restaurant Sustainability is Becoming Commonplace

Jan. 16, 2019 | 0


A report by the National Restaurant Association reveals how restaurants and foodservice operators…

read more

Prep Your Restaurant for a Profitable Valentine’s Day

Jan. 14, 2019 | 0

Success Tips

Five weeks from now, the second busiest day for restaurants (the first being Mother’s Day) arrives…

read more

7 Ways to Motivate Restaurant Staff that Work

Jan. 11, 2019 | 0

Success Tips

Forget competitions. Use these seven tactics to motivate staff and keep them happy at work. Still…

read more

Chinese New Year Showcases 2019 Restaurant Trends

Jan. 09, 2019 | 0


On February 5, spotlight these 2019 food trends at your restaurant for Chinese New Year. Chinese…

read more

New Restaurant Technology that Propels Business

Jan. 08, 2019 | 0


It’s an exciting time for the restaurant industry. Chefs are experimenting with unique flavors,…

read more

Restaurant Promo: 5 Amazing Tips for Creating and Selling Swag

Jan. 07, 2019 | 1

Food isn’t the only thing restaurants can sell. If you’re doing your restaurant marketing right,…

read more

2019’s Top 20 Food and Drink Buzzwords

Jan. 03, 2019 | 0


Start the new year with 2019’s hottest food and drink buzzwords. Ring in the new year with the top…

read more

Restaurant Tech Gets Personal: 6 Ways to Boost Customer Engagement

Dec. 21, 2018 | 1

It’s all about me! At least, that’s what your customers are thinking. Today, they expect…

read more