17 Proven Ways That WILL Motivate Restaurant’s Employees

I have worked in so many restaurants and in multiple job descriptions so I know a little bit about the lack of motivation, how to get it back, and how to motivate other restaurant employees and even managers.

In this article, I’ll show you the proven ways that I have seen in action which will not only get the motivation back but boost the atmosphere and vibes at work! The key to having consistent and reliable motivation at work is without a question the happiness of employees and thriving to get that feeling when they are glad to come to the place.

I’m excited to start our list of things you can implement to your business I guarantee that things like efficiency and the whole restaurant’s branding will improve when trying these things, let’s get started!

Take Training Seriously

Everyone that has ever worked anywhere, knows the feeling of being new and not quite familiar with all the equipment, supplies, and policies of the workplace. It’s good to start with the basics and train everyone properly so they have confidence in their work which will greatly improve the results they make, therefore motivation will raise as well!

Teach by Example

I have been taught and teaching in both ways and teaching by example wins every single time. For example, if the employee haves trouble with one of the equipment, don’t say how to do it but make your hands dirty and really show them how it’s done. After showing make sure that they understood what you were saying because in many instances new employees are shy to say that they didn’t quite understand the first time. Leading by example shows that you aren’t only a boss, but a leader which will lead to respect and that will increase the motivation of employees drastically!

Show Genuine Appreciation

Showing appreciation isn’t enough as it is but it needs to be genuine! Showing appreciation might be the most important thing in motivating restaurant employees. When the restaurant is having a hard time and there are a ton of customers and little employees, cheer your comrades and tell them exactly what they did well. Going into the specifics will multiply the effects on the appreciation. If things went south, then give appreciation from the efforts, but also feedback which leads us to the next step.

Give Feedback

Giving feedback is essential in every working environment and as we talked previously about appreciation, let’s focus on giving feedback from unsuccessful work. If everything goes south it’s normal that everyone feels anxious and irritated, however, when giving feedback from unsuccessful work it’s important to not beat down so hard but focus more on giving constructive feedback. What could have been done differently? Thinks to focus and improve on? Go really specifics but give feedback with respect so the motivation won’t just be thrown away from the window.

Show Advancement Opportunities

It’s important to have some kind of advancement opportunities so the employees don’t feel like ”this is a dead-end job” and quits before it even starts. Offering more areas to work in and making it clear that after a certain period of time or a consistent job well done it’s possible to have more responsibilities, more salary, and advancement in the career will keep employees motivated for a long, long time.

Offer Proper Tools

Having the proper tools will improve motivation like you wouldn’t believe! Having a proper POS system, up-to-date equipment, and proper kitchen supplies will greatly boost efficiency. Everyone knows how annoying it is to cut with a dull blade, and using a piece of equipment from the 1950s… Also, use modern technology as much as you can and you will see a lot of time being freed. Also, offering quality working clothes goes a long way and will be appreciated.

Be Flexible

Being flexible towards employees is extremely important if there is a reason of course. If an employee asks that is it okay to transfer shifts from the next weekend to go for a road trip with friends, or that a family member needs some help tomorrow and needs to move the shift a couple of hours later it’s important to say ”yes it’s totally fine” from time to time. This will keep and even improve motivation drastically.

However, being flexible works both ways and if you find yourself short of workers for today or someone calls in sick, you can ask that is it okay if someone stays a couple of hours long and it usually is. Besides, if you work in the restaurant business then you know how it is and there isn’t usually much choice anyways…

Focus on Health and Safety

Neglecting health and safety will decrease motivation and the efficiency of tasks at hand. It’s really important that everybody feels safe at work so offering proper safety shoes, creating a cleaning list, and providing a break room where employees can take a breather when it’s break time. Also, having ergonomic countertop heights and enough space to move is essential for workplace happiness which will always lead to motivation.

Pay Raise/Bonus

Yearly bonuses for the employees or pay raises will replenish motivation greatly and after all, everybody is there to work for compensation. However, in order to offer pay raises and bonuses, there should be a reason for example long and consistent good work or worktime milestones are great examples of reasons to give pay raise.

This walks hand in hand with appreciation so when the time for pay raise has come, you should offer it to the employees before they come and ask for it.

Have an Open Door Policy

Having an open-door policy is extremely important in any workplace. If the employee has a question or a problem it’s essential that they can come and get help from the boss. Also, taking constructive feedback from your employees and that they have the opportunity to say something if things have gone south on your part is a great indication that you have done your work extremely well. However, saying something about the boss’s work is intimidating so you haven’t probably done a bad job if the employees don’t say anything if you have messed up.

Offer Benefits

Offering benefits will go a long way in order to keep the motivation at high levels. I personally appreciate additional benefits and it really shows that the employer cares. And yes additional benefits will probably cost extra but remember this what so many don’t understand or neglects on purpose: The more you give to your employees the more you will receive from them and the profits come multiplied when things are in order in the working environment. Below you can find a small list of different benefits to offer.

  • Insurances
  • Healthcare spending
  • Gym membership/discount
  • Free meal/discount at work
  • Employee parking
  • Recreation activities
  • Coffee & Snacks

Take notice that you certainly don’t need to offer everything and if you are a small or medium-sized business, it goes without saying that some ideas from the list are unaffordable and that is perfectly fine!

Pre-Taste Menu Dishes

This is probably my personal all-time favorite! When new seasonal products come to the menu it’s a refreshing moment to gather up staff and try the new dishes and foods that are coming to the menu. This will increase motivation and team spirits which will strengthen the cooperation of all the employees and managers in the workplace.

Arrange Competitions

Arranging different competitions within the employees will get their competitive juices pumping and in addition to the improved motivation, sales, and efficiency, it’s fun! I have listed some great examples of competitions below!

Menu item bingo

Make simple bingo sheets and choose items to upsell from the menu and the first employee who completes it wins and gets to yell BINGO!

Upselling contest

A simple upselling contest can be fun and profitable. Choose a specific timeframe and the person who upsells the most wins!

Perfect check contest

The first one who sells an appetizer, beverages, main course, desserts, and a digestive beverage wins. Simple, tough, and fun!

Drink contest

This one is a blast as well! Pick a timeframe and the person who sells the most specific drinks get’s home with the trophy.

In addition to bragging rights, prizes are expected! Also, our next subject will be a great idea for announcing the winners and more!

Have a Wall Of Fame

Having a ”wall of fame” where you have 12 frames to represent the months of the year, you should hang the employee of the months for each month or announce the winners of the internal contest. In this way, there will be improved motivation thought the year and you shouldn’t hang the frames in the back of the restaurant, hang them near the entrance so the customers can see them as well.

Goals Within Staff

In addition to competitions among the employees, having common goals will be another goal that will boost motivation throughout the year. Let’s say that the goal is to improve profits from the previous year by 3% and if it succeeds, certain bonuses for the staff would be more than deserved. In this way both the restaurant and employees benefit from common efforts.

Arrange Recreation Day

This one is another of my personal favorites and the way it can boost team spirits are unreal! Arrange recreation day once, maybe twice a year and go wall climbing, play laser tag, to an arcade, or anything between and go to a restaurant where you guys can do the eating for once. Also, a little partying afterward won’t do harm at all!

The next day at work is always different in a very positive way and the relations between employees and managers have gone deeper and the mutual respect and motivation have raised to a whole another level.

Mix Things Up

Whether it’s New Year’s Eve, St Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or anything else it’s super fun to get a small dress code going on for example using fitting hats to the occasion, getting a color code for the day, or going full costumes will make it exciting to come at work and motivation and joy will raise which will always lead to a more profitable day.

Also, it doesn’t need to be a holiday even there are quite plenty of those, you can also great your own events and when an employee gets a special amount of years worked, you could throw a small surprise event at work or anything that comes in mind. The sky is the limit here.


I have worked in dozens of restaurants and seen both sides of the business. The restaurants that aren’t using nearly any of these steps are nearly always miserable and poor quality walks hand to hand with misery. On the other hand, I have worked in restaurants that implement most of these strategies and it is like another world filled with joy, friends, and proper workmanship which leads to more efficient work, which leads to more money for the restaurant.

It goes without saying that there are a lot of outside factors that affect the mood of restaurant employees in their personal lives outside of work, and there is nothing much you can do to improve that. But what you can do is to offer a safe place to work with the essentials done right, which will reflect as respect to you too that leads to better outcomes and benefits for everybody!

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Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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