Group Synergy—Keeping your Staff Onboard

Repost from 2017.

According to Merriam-Webster, synergy is defined as “a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements.” This type of team works as a synchronistic whole. They are fluid and adaptable and help out where needed, not by what is dictated according to their job title or description. You can spot a synergistic team when you see servers helping bartenders and your expeditor in the prep area. They work together for the common good. This type of team work isn’t due to happenstance, it’s created.


Restaurants are known for their extremely high turnover rates. The National Restaurant Association estimates an average turnover rate of about 70 percent. Considering the cost of training and loss of productivity—a constant transitioning is costing you a good chunk of your profits, not to mention the loss of your team’s sense of cohesiveness that develops only with time.


Employees want to feel like they have a stake in the game. This can be accomplished through rewards, incentives and acknowledgement.

  • Reward your server that has the highest sales every month. This can be anything from a gift card to a gift basket.
  • Every restaurant knows the importance of customer reviews found on online channels such as Yelp. Promote great reviews by giving weekly or monthly cash incentives to the employee whose name or product received the most shout-outs. If one of your line cooks suggested a special that is getting raves—reward. If your bartender is getting repeated reviews for exceptional service—reward.
  • It doesn’t always take cash reward for an employee to feel appreciated. A simple “good job” can put a big smile on someone’s face and instill the desire to show up for their next shift.


Almost all employees want to feel that there is the possibility of growth and expansion. This doesn’t necessarily mean they all want to be managers. One of your best dinner servers may very well be quite happy there because it gives them the opportunity to surf during the day, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to grow in other ways. It’s human nature. In order to keep your best and brightest, consider promoting from within and allowing those that repeatedly shine to pick their shifts. Offer training courses or quarterly seminars in select personal development topics for employees that go above and beyond the call of duty.


An engaged employee is one that is involved. You engage an employee by communicating with them from a place of honesty. You share the restaurant’s successes as well as failures. You listen to them and their suggestions and learn about their likes and dislikes. You’re approachable and supportive and they know that the better you do, the better they will do.

Team Spirit

Develop a team spirit by implementing off-work gatherings. While these can be challenging if you are open 7 days a week, try your best to schedule something. Not every employee has to be able to go to each event. An optional trip to a brewery to learn about a beer you serve is a fun group activity where they learn applicable information. Holiday parties are also a great way to increase morale. 

Take time to train staff members a little at a time in areas that may not be their expertise. This one act lets your staff know that while there may be a BOH and FOH, your restaurant is a team environment where everyone pitches in where and when they are needed for the benefit of a cohesive whole.


Great leaders lead by example. If you want your employees to show up with a smile and leave their personal woes at the door, you and your managers must do the same. “The leader sees things through the eyes of his followers. He puts himself in their shoes and helps them make their dreams come true. The leader does not say, “Get going!” Instead he says, “Let’s go!” and leads the way. He does not walk behind with a whip; he is out in front with a banner.”—Wilfred Peterson, The Art of Living.


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