The 30 Best Ways to Motivate Employees and Boost Morale

1) Encourage involvement. Your employees would feel more like owners if they helped make decisions and come up with ideas. Involve them in these processes and initiate their participation.

2) Shared responsibility. Each employee should share responsibility. No one is above their duties and it should not be beneath anyone to help clean dishes or wipe down tables. We had one employee who refused to clean since she was hired as a cashier. She was quickly dismissed from her duties. Humility and hard work form the bases of any solid restaurant crew.

3) Fairness and Clear Instructions. Employees feel really bad when they are scolded for not doing things right when they were not trained well in the first place. It is on owners and managers to consistently train employees. Likewise, you should reward performance based on behavior and results and not based on whom you like more. Favoritism destroys morale.

4) Offer technical support. We created training videos and showed each employee how to properly wear chain-link gloves while dicing tomatoes and lettuce. It helped reduce injuries because the videos were easy to watch and had Spanish subtitles. Always offer employees training from videos, manuals, posters, and whatever else they need to make their jobs easier.

5) Have some fun. Organize birthdays and other reminders to employees that you actually care about them as people. Celebrate new births with cakes and spread the good cheer. It’s contagious. Small expense gifts like birthday cards. balloons, cakes, and coffee go a long way toward increasing morale.

6) Monthly Sales Goals. You can offer rewards like $100-500 for whoever does the highest sales. You can even up the ante and offer $25 gift cards to all the members of the team of the location that tops the charts in sales for every month. This will help the sales charts climb higher and higher.

7) For many people it’s not just about the money. Their picture on the bulletin board or framed on the wall alongside an “Employee of the Month” badge would mean a lot. They can be proud of their hard work and feel good in front of their peers.

 8) Longevity Bonus. Not long ago I created small pins and badges for people that have served our customers for 10, 15, or 20 years or more. I am sure you have seen this worn on supermarket cashiers. This may help reduce turnover, as people are proud to be part of a company for so long.

 9) Extracurricular Activities. Things like hiking, rowing, or playing sports create a bond between people and makes teamwork stronger. For our 50th anniversary we held a huge soccer match at a park in Glendale and had each location play against each other. It was an entire day of fun, sports, free food since we brought steak and BBQ, and the entire families of associates were thrilled.

 10) Free meals. Offer the meals employees eat at the restaurant for free. If you can’t afford to do that at least offer them a discount. We recently went from a discount to completely free. I am not sure if we will be able to continue to do so with the minimum wage increases coming, but that’s a topic for a whole different chapter.

 11) Allow naps. There are many studies done showing that taking small naps increases productivity for the rest of the day. Do not let anyone get in trouble for sleeping on their breaks, and allow for a nice, comfortable area where they may do so if space permits.

 12) Identify Employee Expectations. Employees can’t do their job well if they don’t even know what to do. Spell this out for them by having written policies which is the next point.

13) Have Written Policies. Employees should know what is expected of them and what rules not to break. You will often see managers upset at employees regardless of the fact that employees were never told about all the rules. This rulebook can be updated and should get better with time.

14) Reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. It is not enough to just reward good behavior; we must also hold those that break the rules responsible as well. While you should not overdo it, appropriate rewards and punishments go a long way toward showing everyone that fairness is being practiced. Document bad behavior and take appropriate and timely steps to correct it.

15) Consider bringing in a coaching service or individual. This can do wonders for improving performance and boosting morale, specifically in the short term. The best coaches are worth their weight in gold and will make you 10x whatever you pay them.

16) Lead by Example. The people get inspired when their leader puts on the same gloves and uniforms they do and gets into the heavy-duty work. I often prepared food myself alongside our crew. I still help take orders and answer the phone, so if you call one of our restaurants that may very well be my voice on the other end of the line. Let the crew see that the boss is not above the fray, and also let them watch you being kind and generous to customers so they can mimic this behavior.

17) Communication is Key. Keep the lines of communication open between the owners, managers, and employees. Nothing is worse for morale than shut doors and owners who never visit or care about their restaurants. And yet you see this happening in so many franchise locations, where owners drop in less frequently than Santa drops down your chimney.

18) Pay them well. Often in the restaurant industry you will find it difficult to find truly excellent managers or especially fast and effective cooks. When you do find someone like this, pay him or her better than the competition. Losing key team members can be a major blow that is not worth the extra money you stand to gain by being cheap.

19) Hire the Motivated. Motivation and having an upbeat personality is not something that is easy to teach. Many say that it’s not even teachable at all. Hiring people that are already motivated to excel and having an optimistic disposition makes your job as a leader much easier.

 20) Use deadlines. Nothing motivates people more than deadlines. Taking myself as an example, I start out projects with clear deadlines that I place on my phone with alerts a week and a day before the actual deadline, so I can work backwards. Try to be an exceptionality expert and not a perfectionist.

 21) Refuse to listen to people’s limitations. People that are unable or unwilling to walk into the future create excuses. As a leader, your job is to motivate people and give them the tools to overcome their weaknesses. Accelerate growth by consistently introducing new technologies and tools for your employees and customers. Fight resistance with training and consistency.

 22) Set high expectations. You’ve heard many people say this. That old quote of shooting for the stars and you may get the moon still holds true. If you write down goals for every month, communicate them to everyone and give your people the tools to get it accomplished, they will get it done

23) Don’t major in minor things. It would lower morale of the leader of a group doesn’t even know which set of problems to approach solving first. Target the most important things and let the small stuff take care of itself. Focus on team building, food quality, and service.

24) Use Secret Shoppers. There is nothing like objective analysis to tell help tell us what we are doing right and where we can improve. Consider hiring a secret shopper program facilitator to help get your locations back on track. Provide the feedback during corporate meetings and let managers know where improvement is needed.

 25) Use visual aids. The posters on how to prevent injury help the cooks not cut themselves or get a serious finger or hand injury. The counter cards we use show customers and cashiers alike the top selling catering menu items. These subtle things help employees feel great because they make staying safe and performing well easier.

26) Create a vision and mission statement. This is a long-term solution for the entire organization to stay motivated. When the team goes off-course, people can look to these vision and mission statements like a map. And just like a GPS, they will guide you back to the right path.

 27) Be stable. Nothing kills a person’s spirit faster than being around a person that acts like a bipolar dictator. Be consistent, and fair-minded toward your decisions. Reward employees publically but scold them privately. Be a person that shows patience and is reliable.

 28) Participate in charities. People feel great about a restaurant that is about much more than just the bottom line. Participating in charities and fundraisers boosts morale of customers and employees alike.

 29) Hold Effective Meetings. . A company without any meetings is like playing soccer in the dark. Nobody knows what anybody is doing and everyone looks clumsy. Have the meetings be organized with a clear timetable; allow people to speak only during their allotted time, and set clear expectations for the meetings. Email everyone the topic beforehand so they know what to expect.

 30) Hold a pre-shift cheer. As the owner, you are the cheerleader in chief. Hold a meeting before the start of the day and motivate everyone to do his or her best! Have them at their stations and ready to tackle the day by being proactive and having their stations stocked, and fully ready for attack! This is especially true for those days with large catering orders, huge catering parties or charity functions.


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