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How to motivate restaurant employees to perform better

Published October 29, 2021

Creative ways to make employees feel more valued and perform better

We’ve all had jobs where time seems to stand still.  This apathy is often the result of immaturity, but more often than not, negative employee performance is a direct result of not feeling valued at work.

The American Psychological Association (APA) claims that 93% of employees who report feeling valued at work are motivated to do their best work and 88% report feeling engaged—compared to just 33% and 38%, respectively, of those who don’t feel valued. Employees who feel valued are also more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who don’t feel valued by their employers.

Today restaurants are facing unprecedented workplace challenges. QSRs are seeing 100%-200% employee turnover in 2021, so building a strong workforce of committed, engaged employees is more critical than ever. You may be wondering, “How can I motivate my employees? How can I make them feel valued, and in turn, boost their performance?” Fortunately, there are a few tangible activities that can drive workforce success.

Help each employee understand the big picture and how they’re an integral asset to the company

It can be hard to feel motivated if you don’t feel connected to a greater purpose. This is particularly true in the restaurant business, where it's common to have multiple franchises or chains that can feel segmented from the corporate team.

Give your employees the why. Reconnect them to your company’s mission. Explain how each of their positions plays a vital role in the company’s success. Define values that align with your company’s mission and communicate them to your staff.

It’s important your employees understand how they fit into the bigger picture and how you, as their leader, are aligned with the company’s overall purpose. In addition to making them feel valuable, this will inspire them to excel at their work.

"If you stay small-minded but do big things, I think that's what staff likes. People don't like big- shot restaurateurs; they want to feel like they're still in a small environment, they’re taken care of,” said Sean Yeremyan of Hobnob. “We all feel the same way whenever we work for other people. I wanted to feel like I was a big part of something.”

Related: Easy tips you can use to add long-lasting skills when training your restaurant staff

Show genuine appreciation and provide an open forum for feedback

Saying “thank you” goes a long way. Make sure to celebrate your employees’ successes on a regular basis, whether through an employee recognition program, a financial reward for customer recognition or early release following great performance. Showing your appreciation lets employees know they’re valued, which encourages better performance.

Additionally, open up two-way communication with your staff. Establish regular “office hours” where your employees can air their grievances or discuss recommendations with you. Making the time to listen to your team and understand the issues that matter to them goes a long way toward boosting their morale.

Find ways to help your restaurant staff avoid burnout

Giving your team a “break” doesn’t always mean extra vacation time. It can also mean creating a space for them to unwind before, during or after work. A couple of folding tables and chairs with a few vending machines in the break room won’t cut it. As a restaurant owner, making a space that’s private, comfortable and equipped with a some convenient amenities—like coffee—will show your employees that you care about them and their happiness at work.

Moreover, enforce the legal mandate for employee breaks. During busy shifts, employees may be inclined to work straight through their breaks. Requiring that they take a breather gives them a chance to recharge and return to their roles refreshed and better equipped to continue serving customers.

Reward all your employees

It’s imperative to reward all your employees, from waiters to managers, so that they feel valued. This goes beyond typical employee benefits like pay, time off, etc. Think creatively about how you can provide additional incentives for good work that goes above and beyond the norm.

Alex Brounstein at Grindhouse Burgers said, “It starts with the managers. Lately we've come up with a five-year plan, which is a kind of tiered benefits system where after a year we'll pay $50 of your health insurance; after two years you get a $250 bonus check; after three years you get five days of paid vacation. Even if you're an hourly employee, we'll average it out to build [you] into the family of full-time workers. Stuff like that I think helps incentivize.”

Show team members how to advance and make it tangible

Far too often, promotion processes are ambiguous and subjective. Demystifying this process and clarifying what criteria need to be met to be promoted helps prevent employee frustration and limits any sense of secrecy or favoritism. Establish standards, expectations and tangible steps for advancement.

When thinking about your employees, ask yourself, “Do they feel valued?” If not, how can you convince them of their value? Realign with the larger company mission and communicate each person’s role in that broader vision. Say “thank you” often and create an open forum for genuine, honest feedback.

Get creative about your employees’ physical space at work and emphasize the importance of taking breaks. Maybe examine ways you can provide new incentives or rewards to keep your workers feeling appreciated and motivated. Be clear about your expectations for good performance and promotion.

Motivated employees are more aware of the intrinsic value they bring to work. Therefore, they’re more likely to work hard and work well. Demonstrating strong leadership and convincing them of their inherent value will increase their motivation and drive improved, sustainable workforce performance.

When your restaurant is backed by NCR VOYIX, it's simple to stay out front.

Whether that's literally up front with your customers, or out front of your competition.

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