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3 Ways to Show Your Restaurant Staff You Appreciate Them

August 28, 2017

The restaurant staff is the crux of any great eatery. Love 'em or hate 'em, you absolutely need ‘em.

And if you want the good employees to stick around, you'll have to do more than pay them well and give them discounted food.

To retain top talent - those innovative individuals who consistently go above and beyond for your restaurant - you have to genuinely, truly, visibly, and sincerely appreciate your staff.

Employee appreciation in restaurants is crucial to your business's success, because hiring a new staff member isn't exactly easy or affordable. Just look at the numbers on restaurant employment.

  • The restaurant turnover rate is 72.9%. In other words: If your restaurant employed an average of 30 employees throughout last year, this means you lost 22 employees in 2016.

  • The cost of employee turnover - due to such factors as time spent hiring and onboarding, a smaller staff,  and diminished productivity - could be as high as $5,864, according for the Center of Hospitality Research at Cornell.

  • The National Restaurant Association reports that there are over 2,200 restaurant locations in D.C. and over 63,000 positions in the industry. Needless to say, these people have plenty of options when it comes to a restaurant job.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, national unemployment is at a record low of 4.3% compared to the past decade. In the D.C. metro area, that’s even lower at just 3.9%.


Given these trends of high turnover and immense training costs - as well as the sheer number of choices that decent chefs and servers have when it comes to where they work - restaurant owners appear to be in a buyer's market, meaning there are more people looking for workers than for work compared to the past ten years.

Now more than ever, owners need to prove that their restaurant is worthy of the most talented employees, or else risk losing them to the steakhouse/diner/pizzeria/creperie down the street.

Here's a few ideas to help you do just that.

3 Restaurant Employee Appreciation Ideas

To keep your speediest waitress, your kindest waiter, your most efficient line cook, and your most dedicated manager, try implementing one or more of these staff appreciation ideas in your restaurant.

1. Employee Gamification

Why do some people work in restaurants instead of offices? On a recent episode of restaurant podcast The Garnish, Chef Chris Hill explained that he's too creative and active to sit behind a desk all day.

Restaurants employees move around. They live in a world of excitement and occasional anxiety fun! Capitalize on this part of the job to show appreciation.

Employee gamification is the act of turning normal work tasks into a competition-based, game-like activity (hence: gam-ification). You can read more about it in this blog on the topic.


For example, have line cooks track their order-to-completion time for a standard dish through their kitchen display system and display the best time in the kitchen as the record to beat. Have servers keep a tally on a giant board in the break room for how many desserts they sell in a shift. The winner at the end of each week gets a $20 gift card for a store, shop, or service of their choice. Sounds easy enough, right?

Meanwhile, as staff are entertained by this friendly competition, you're creating a more efficient kitchen and selling more desserts.

2. Offering Real Benefits

You should know by now that you're not wowing anyone with one free meal per shift, the staff social media spotlight, or a stint as Employee of the Month. Everyone (well, not everyone, but you get the idea) offers a perk like this.

If you haven't already, invest in real perks and benefits that show you really do appreciate your staff to help create a restaurant community for your employees.

Let's look at an example of an unconventional but effective restaurant appreciation method: profit sharing.

Boston restaurant Mei Mei announced this year their intention to share profits with employees on top of their normal wages. The better the business does, the more employees earn, thus creating a more motivated and efficient team in the front and back of house.

restaurant profit sharing

Other perks you could include are:

  • Health/Dental Insurance. Even if you're not required by law, this is a big deal these days. Full-time workers want affordable and high-quality healthcare options from their employers.

  • Flexible Hours and Vacation. Okay, so maybe the fad of unlimited vacation isn't the best fit for a restaurant, but flexibility when it comes to employee scheduling and time off is essential. If you can't deliver a positive work-life balance to your employees, they won't feel appreciated. This goes for the veteran chef who needs a weekend off for her son's wedding and the high school counter worker who wants to go on his annual family trip without the fear of losing his summer job.

  • Paid Time Off. This is another one you're likely to offer to your established employees first, but paid time off is a basic benefit that many are expecting from their jobs, regardless of what industry they're in.

3. Staff Day

Staff outings are amazing ideas for several reasons.

  1. They're free for your team, rewarding them for their loyalty to your business.

  2. They're usually fun, which helps build camaraderie, trust, openness, and friendship on your team.

  3. They offer a chance for those who may not normally interact to get to know one another.

To make the most of a staff day, pick a date a few months in advance once or twice a year on a normally slow day of the week, and tell all of your employees. Let your customers know that you will be closed on this day a few weeks beforehand so they have ample warning.

If you really can't afford to close for an entire day, close early one night or do it after work.

You have a range of activities to choose from for a staff appreciation day/outing. It can a holiday party with a catered meal where everyone can bring a +1, a day at a local theme park, or simply an after-work drink-up. Sponsoring team outings like these are noticeable proof that you appreciate your team and are willing to spend the dollars to show it.

Appreciating Your Restaurant Staff

Given today's economic conditions and the ways Americans view going to work, restaurants need to meet both current and potential employees' needs where they lie. This means two things:

  1. First, possessing a genuine appreciation for your high-performing staff members and understanding their needs for rewards, perks, fair pay, and work-life balance.

  2. Second, expressing that understanding and appreciation in the best ways, ranging from a well-deserved "good job" to offering insanely awesome benefit and appreciation packages.


Don't let a lack of appreciation lose you an amazing team. It will damage your restaurant's consistency, your team morale, and ultimately your business. Accept the need for your staff's work-life balance and strive to meet (or exceed) that need, and your employees will feel appreciated.

AJ Beltis is a Blogger and Content Marketer for Toast POS based in Boston.