Happy employees, and more specifically, happy managers can send your business into the stratosphere. (Photo: EyeSpyCC)


Customers are impressed by the incredible customer service. Seats are being filled every night. The kitchen stays busy. The restaurant becomes more profitable. Team members get along better and you no longer have to nudge them into action – they are motivated to get to work on their own. Sounds great, right?


Once you’ve finished interviewing and hiring and restaurant manager, inspiring your them to do great work is actually easier than you might think. Here are a few strategies that have successfully motivated my own restaurant staff.


  • Make Working Fun: Everyone likes a good competition especially when there are prizes involved. Tapping into your employee’s competitive side can not only help drive sales but incentivize your team to suggest specific menu items; up-sell specials or an appetizer that might have not been ordered. 
  • A Winning Ticket: Every time a customer orders a “complete meal”; a drink, an appetizer, entree and dessert, the server gets a ticket with his/her name on it dropped into our ticket box. At the end of the shift a ticket is pulled for a prize…. Maybe it’s an Amazon gift card or a free drink at Starbucks. Either way, your staff will appreciate the engagement. 
  • Menu Bingo: When servers sell specific menu items or specials, they cross off boxes on their “bingo” card. The first server to get 5 in a row wins a prize.
  • Chef’s Hat Award! Once a month the head chef nominates a kitchen crew member who did an excellent job. The award? A gift card, or even something as simple as a Certificate of Merit that recognizes their efforts can both motivate and reward a star employee.
  • Above & Beyond: Any time a manager is told by a customer that a specific employee went above and beyond, that person’s name is put into a monthly drawing for a gift card or a cash prize. 



Motivating Restaurant Managers

Team building events can also be an incredibly fun way of building comradery and promoting good will. I give my managers Giants tickets to attend a game together a few times a season. They really appreciate it and it provides them an environment other than work to get to know each other on a more personal level.


Part of a management position in my restaurants requires a bi-weekly hour group call. These calls include; information about policies and standards, anything new in marketing, possible menu changes or events coming up. We discuss staffing as well as ongoing training.


The last 15 minutes of the call is an open mic to give the managers an opportunity to share anything they feel is important… things that I might not be aware of without actually being on the floor. This provides me valuable insight and let’s those managers feel that their ideas and/or concerns are being heard and are valued.


I provide my managers access to a monthly book club as well.  Each month I provide the team with an industry related ebook, at the end of the month we meet for an hour and discuss the book, what was learned from reading it and how we could implement any new ideas to further support their roles as restaurant managers. I personally find this to be incredibly helpful in avoiding managers getting stuck in a “rut.”


Good and motivated managers are just one of the things you need when you open a restaurant. Tapping into your employees competitive natures, celebrating their wins, encouraging their voices, and continued training results in team members who are not only loyal, but are much more engaged and enjoyable to work with – and, treat your customers like stars! 

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