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Blog | Employee Engagement | Restaurant Life

5 Ways to Jump-Start a Holiday Employee Rewards Program

If your restaurant doesn’t have an employee rewards program, the holiday season is a perfect time to start one. As a successful restaurant operator, you love your staff — they’re the beating heart at the core of your business; the people who are putting in long hours in your stores, making sure that your customers […]

If your restaurant doesn’t have an employee rewards program, the holiday season is a perfect time to start one. As a successful restaurant operator, you love your staff — they’re the beating heart at the core of your business; the people who are putting in long hours in your stores, making sure that your customers get a great experience every time they walk in.

But this is the restaurant industry we’re talking about here. It can be kind of tough to organize staff appreciation days when everyone is moving at a million miles an hour. Still, your employees need to know that you care. It’s not just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business in the long run. Acts of recognition through an employee rewards program help to foster a more engaged workforce, and research shows that engaged employees are more productive, driving increases in retention, customer satisfaction, and sales!

With that in mind, what better time to show your appreciation for employees than during the holidays, when traffic has slowed down and everybody has a second to breathe?

1. Offer Holiday Performance Incentives

Holiday incentives can stoke a bit of friendly competition among your team members, boosting both engagement and morale. It’s an easy way to make work more fun and inject some holiday cheer into the atmosphere. By “incentives,” we don’t necessarily mean hard cash, either. (Although, that is always an option.) Here are just a few of the things you can offer through an employee rewards program:

  • Gift cards
  • First choice of preferred shifts
  • Extra break time
  • A personalized gift

You can really get creative with your incentive programs, too. Let’s say your restaurant is packed for New Year’s Eve. See which server can sell the most bottles of champagne — winner takes home $50 to Amazon. Your team will apply themselves and your champagne sales will likely see an increase! Or you could go with the classic “mystery shopper” move, and evaluate the quality of your stores’ customer service. The store with the best service gets a prize!

2. Send Personalized Thank You Messages

Communication with your team members is always crucial, but the holiday season is a perfect time to let your staff know directly how appreciative you are of their work. If your staff is small enough, personalized thank you messages to each team member can go a long way. But if your operation is too big, you can send out broadcast messages at the corporate, regional or store level with the right communication solution.

3. Plan a Holiday Party

Your team members are moving constantly. A holiday party gives them a chance to slow down and relax for a change. If you want to go the fancy route, have at it! Take them out for a dinner — and since this is the restaurant industry, some drinks. Definitely some drinks. Perhaps you make a reservation at a restaurant you and your managers admire, one that could be an educational or inspirational example for your team. If that’s not in your budget, have a catered breakfast or lunch at the restaurant one day. Or have a night out at the mini-golf course. A holiday outing shows your workers that you value their efforts and will build community in your stores.

4. Relax the Uniform

Do your employees have a uniform? Perhaps you could tweak the requirements around the holidays. Let Ben wear his best ugly sweater. Does Amy want to wear those little reindeer antlers? Have at it! If your establishment’s uniform is more rigid, perhaps a simple holiday pin will suffice? Giving your employees room for self-expression makes for a more personalized and personable workplace. Plus, you can all have a laugh at how ugly Ben’s sweater really is.

5. Establish Holiday Traditions — and Maintain Them!

Once you’ve decided on a holiday employee rewards program, follow through and keep the tradition alive. Your team members will look forward to it and your customers will notice that boosted morale year after year.


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