Recognizing top servers can make a huge difference in both restaurant morale and sales. So how do we recognize our top dogs? Giving employees performance based raises is less likely to benefit the server and the restaurant in the long run. Instead, one time gestures of gratitude and appreciation go a long way.
There are two ways to recognize your servers when they go above and beyond. Verbal acknowledgements and tangible rewards. In my experience, both are equally important, and should be used together to create the best recognition program.
First, verbal acknowledgements. Although I call these verbal, they can also be written. They should be given out daily, as soon after a notable performance is observed. Whether this is based on sales, guest experience, or guest feedback, immediate acknowledgement is the key. We have all been servers and bartenders, and if you are still in a front of house, floor management role, you deal with this reality on a daily basis.
Guests are very quick (in person and online) to spout off when they are unhappy. This can take a serious toll on morale and motivation. We are also very quick to try to correct the problem, utilizing corrective action against our employees. On the other hand, guests and managers rarely acknowledge when everything goes according to plan, or even when they are wowed by a server or bartender.
If you strive for a happy (and therefore friendly) staff, any time you get great guest feedback make a point out of enthusiastically thanking and praising the employee. This can be in the form of one on one feedback “Hey, I just stopped by table 31 and they said you offered great recommendations!” or in pre-shift meetings so that other staff can observe the feedback and have something to strive toward.
At some restaurants, I’ve even started a bulletin board for positive guest feedback. This serves as a constant reminder that yes, people can be grumpy, and like to complain, but that we (as management and ownership) also notice and appreciate when our staff wows guests in a positive way.
I also find that contests are a great way to get the staff motivated. Server reward apps such as Tipzyy and Springzy can help run those contests so it is easy for management and engaging for servers. With Tipzyy, the program educates servers to improve sales, customer experiences, and to increase beverage sales. It also supports learning in a flexible manner with mobile devices and handles reward fulfillment. Springzy has a similar gamification model in app but is more focused on the Fast Casual segment.
Finally, while recognizing individual performance is great, you can also incentivize the whole team, especially for a larger goal. For instance, one restaurant I worked at had a 3.5 star rating on Yelp when the new GM started. She told all of the managers (including hourly key holders) that the day we hit 4 stars, we would each get a $500 bonus, and that for every month we maintained 4 stars, we would get an extra $100. I have never seen so many tables touched, or managers chatting and giggling with so many tables.
In short, recognizing your top performing staff doesn’t have to be absurdly expensive, and absolutely should be a part of our daily routine.