Why Rewarding Good Behavior Is the Oldest Trick in the Book

The simplest ways to retain employees and motivate them are often the most overlooked. Rewarding the best team members is increasingly important, especially now that we live in a climate that continues to deliver blows to the restaurant industry. 


by Brian Murphy
Once tried-and-true models for running successful establishments are no longer relevant. Minimum wages and expenses associated with employees are climbing, food costs continue to rise, and the market never stops changing. Now, more than ever, is the time to examine a restaurant’s management team and best practices.

Success is Contagious
The best managers are those that lead by example. Modeling the behaviors and work ethic expected of the team is the first way to earn respect from associates and establish the level at which the restaurant wants them to perform.

The job description of a manager is often stretched so thin that, on paper, there often isn’t time to work alongside team members. However, it would be a wise investment of time to do so. Making time to work through each role and truly observe the dynamic between co-workers, different positions, and relationships with guests will be advantageous for a manager’s understanding of the work environment for his employees. When team members see that managers truly care about their shift or the relationships they have with guests, they lose the feeling of “having a job” and begin to enjoy the feeling of “belonging to a team.”

The benefits of the time spent to experience each role far outweigh the extra effort since team members will see managers understanding their day-to-day issues and work load, and can begin to understand WHY their job is so important, and how crucial they are to the organization. Rewarding the best team members with understanding, knowledge, and being set-up for success will strengthen good habits and make them the norm, and that success is contagious.

Rewarding the Best Behaviors
This is not a new concept, yet too many managers lose sight of this. The day-to-day can become overwhelming and the small details that helped sell another drink or made a guest return can easily be lost. Overlooked details are often times noticed by servers, and while that is a positive thing, imagine how much more positive it would be if the manager noticed and praised and thanked the server. The rest of the team will notice things like these, and will be eager to work harder to receive a compliment or display of gratitude.

No reward is too small, so start with some of the things the team does regularly and identify the behaviors when thanking them. This reinforces positive conducts and mindsets that will help the business overall. Things like increased check averages and selling specials are a good place to start, however it is important to notice the intangibles that help the establishment.

Letting a server know your appreciation for their patience and extra effort with the children at table 27 will catch them off-guard because things like that aren’t officially measurable. Overhearing an employee’s conversation with guests and then complementing them on their rapport can boost their confidence and keep them engaged. These are the things that are more likely to keep guests coming back, not that dessert they didn’t originally plan on eating.

The same goes for side work, efficiency, expediency, and communication. But the list doesn’t end there, there are things the team does every day that are worthy of a compliment or token of appreciation. It is so important that managerial staff doesn’t lose sight of those things, since that can lead to team members feeling like they are being taken for granted.

Set Everyone Up for Success
Every so often, even the best branded concepts need to be re-examined and fine-tuned to keep the establishment relevant and successful.

Is there a mission statement? Who are the target customers? What is the desired experience that guests should have in the establishment? Know these answers, and share them often with the team.

The easiest way to get an employee to act indifferent or mediocre is to make them feel like their job doesn’t greatly matter to the organization. Even the best recruits can feel this way if there is no eventual, consistent goal. So, don’t keep team members in the dark when it comes to the company’s vision. Don’t have a vision? Figure it out and start team building!

Rewarding the best team members is a simple concept, but requires a mindset not all managers are familiar with. Hiring, training, and then writing people up for bad behaviors is unfortunately the norm. Keeping in mind the expenses associated with doing business in the hospitality industry, this model costs establishments a lot of time and money. Hiring smarter, communicating more, and showing appreciation of the team and the goals met together, is effective and the best course of action.

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