Keeping Your Restaurant Staff Happy This Summer

Employee retention is more important than ever during the busy summer period. These best practices will help relieve team members' stress.

  • Summertime is the wrong time to start bleeding staff at your pizzeria. Here are some tips for keeping your employees happy, engaged and productive.
  • Start by simplifying the reservation process, better organizing your menu and ensuring your team members fully understand your restaurant’s technology.

Related: 5 ways to improve relations with your pizzeria staff

By Megan Prevost

The most successful business owners know employee satisfaction is a key element in a company’s functioning and growth. Restaurant teams in particular are made up of numerous employees whose collective efficiency is crucial for success. It’s also no secret that the pandemic hit restaurants hard in numerous ways, but the labor shortage has stuck around even as sales numbers recovered. According to Restaurant Dive, many restaurants still suffer from the effects of staff shortages.

The first question everyone asks is: Why? Why is it suddenly much harder to attract and retain restaurant employees? Restaurant Dive reports that employees are seeking jobs with higher pay, schedules that work better for them, and access to professional development or promotional opportunities. Armed with this information, we’ve listed some practices that will help keep your staff showing up this summer. Employee retention in summer is more important than ever. With school out, the pandemic becoming less prominent in our lives, and the normal uptick of dining in the summer months, your staff is sure to be under pressure.

1. Keep things simple. Sometimes we underestimate just how much is expected of servers and other restaurant staff. They’re called upon to keep tabs on all their customers at once, to serve food that’s made both quickly and correctly, to exhaustively memorize menus and menu item ingredients, and much more. Plus, we expect them to do it all with a cheerful smile and joyous attitude. To minimize the stress staff are under and, thus, increase their efficiency, try simplifying the following in your restaurant.

Reservations: Every restaurant does reservations differently. Your process depends on your dining room, your foot traffic, your capacity, your menu, and more. There are restaurants that accept phone reservations, online reservations and walk-ins all at once, and the stress that puts on staff is substantial. Try making sure that only a select few individuals in the restaurant are in charge of reservations, and consider using a streamlined platform such as Open Table, Resy, or Google Reservations to keep things organized.

Technology: Over the past few years, lots of new practices and tools have been introduced into the restaurant industry and, while navigating the numerous nuances that accompanied the pandemic, we expected restaurant staff to become tech experts. Whether it’s QR codes, new delivery services or online ordering platforms, make sure that you take the time to explain to your staff how these technologies work and ensure that you’re not overloading their capacities.

Related: Are QR codes here to stay?

Menus: Complicated menus are an often overlooked yet common stressor for restaurant staff. When the customer is confused by the menu, it becomes a staff problem, and when even the staff is puzzled by the menu, a stressful situation unfolds. Rather than making the menu hard to read, disorganized or too long, utilize a simplified menu layout that is clear and concise while remaining visually appealing to the customer.

a smiling woman with a pizza in a tray stands in front of a table of customers enjoying their food

2. Don’t skimp on the appreciation. It’s really quite simple: employees are happier when they feel appreciated by their superiors. An employee who feels undervalued will lack the motivation to do their job well, while an employee who feels seen will feel empowered to get things done. Most restaurant owners know this but fail to adequately show appreciation to their employees. Here are some fool-proof methods that, when implemented, will show your staff that they are heard, appreciated and valued.

Employee scheduling: Being understaffed is rough, but don’t take it out on the employees who are actually showing up. Of course, labor shortages mean that staff members may have to work more than they normally would to fill shifts. However, it’s crucial to provide employees with as much flexibility as possible. Provide ample time off, fair working hours and schedules that don’t leave employees fending for themselves. It’s a delicate balance, but employee schedules are worth paying attention to.

Wages or bonuses: As aforementioned, thousands of employees have quit the restaurant industry in search of jobs with higher or more stable pay. If it’s in your ballpark, consider implementing a raise for your staff and letting them know it’s because you appreciate their work. If doling out raises isn’t feasible, consider providing ample quarterly bonuses or performance-based bonuses. Rewarding staff who’ve stuck around for a long time is especially important, so consider annual bonuses as well.

Incentives or rewards: When money is tight, implementing quality incentives or rewards for employees is a wonderful alternative to raising wages—or in addition to. Implementing an incentive program is easier than you might think, but it’s important to choose quality incentives or rewards. This can look something like giving a free bottle of wine to the server who sells the most specials on a weekend or a complimentary family dinner at the restaurant for the employee who receives the most reviews online. You know your staff best, so provide them with plenty of opportunities for prizes and rewards that you know they’ll appreciate.

Related: Using your POS system to navigate the labor shortage

3. Foster a tight-knit team. A staff that laughs together stays together. As a business owner, you likely know that a group of workers who gets along and cares about one another is more productive and efficient than one filled with animosity or indifference. There are many ways to facilitate bonding and strengthen teamwork in your restaurant, allowing for employees who feel more comfortable, cared for, and happier at work.

Team-building activities: Arguably, making a restaurant run smoothly is a team-building activity on its own. Regardless of its reputation, a restaurant would crumble if its employees didn’t know how to communicate or work together effectively. As such, a team-building activity could be an ample solution if you notice your staff struggling. Consider signing the team up for a fun cooking class, getting tickets to a local game, or organizing a trivia night.

Staff events: Many restaurant staffs are tight-knit by nature simply because team members can easily bond over the shared experiences that are unique to the restaurant industry. However, you don’t want your team to bond over the stress of working in your restaurant—you want them to bond as people and colleagues. Try setting up an after-hours event either on-site or at a local bar or restaurant to allow the staff to kick their feet up and enjoy the other side of restaurant dining.

Company parties: Hosting an annual party for the holidays or a summer barbecue is something that is too easy for business owners to overlook. An annual tradition like this means that the staff all have something to look forward to, and it’s often the only chance to get the entire staff together for some quality time off the clock. If your budget is too tight for a fancy venue, close the restaurant early, order some good food, and provide your team with a chance to mingle stress-free. An annual party is also a good time for handing out bonuses or publicly acknowledging your appreciation for your staff.

Through Summer and Beyond
Running a restaurant is no easy job, but don’t forget that no one knows that better than your staff. If you make an effort to pay attention to your staff’s struggles and wins, you’ll find that there are rewards to reap. Although many aspects of this industry are volatile, especially today, there are numerous ways to contribute to stability within your staff. It doesn’t take tons of work or effort to show appreciation or simplify their tasks in order to make them feel happier to be an employee at your place. Invest in a team that will make you proud!

Megan Prevost is a marketing content writer for MustHaveMenus. When she’s not writing about restaurant marketing, she’s hanging out with her three cats and binging the latest television shows. Her work has appeared in App Institute, Bar Business, CLH News, FanSided, FSR, Miss Details, Modern Restaurant Management, PMQ, QSR, RestoBiz, RestoHub, Site Social SEO, Small Business Currents, and The Daily Fandom.