Recognizing, Rewarding and Retaining Wait Staff

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Wait Staff Blog PostIn May, Restaurant.com discovered the difference a skilled wait staff can have on a customer’s dining experience in our National Waitstaff Day survey. Some of the most valuable insight we gained from our survey of 2,125 respondents was that 95% of restaurant goers believe their experience can be made with outstanding service and, conversely, ruined with poor service.

We also learned that waiters tend to have more influence on the decisions of their patrons than they may realize. Diners are very responsive to the suggestions of a knowledgeable waitsaff, with 71% reporting that they are more likely to order a meal when it is recommended by the server.

With the power in the hands of your waitstaff, it is important to recognize, reward and retain strong service for the future success of a restaurant.

Recognition

There’s no doubt that your staff is a crucial part of your restaurant’s success, so it’s important to make sure they know that.  It’s good to be on the same page with your staff, and verbal acknowledgments will go a long way. Let your staff know that their service helps bring in more customers, which means more tips for them (especially if their service is outstanding!)

It’s also good to have an official or written system of recognition. Some restaurants have an employee of the month or host comments on a community board. Others, like North Beach Bistro in Atlantic Beach, Fla., give recognition for good service during their employees’ pre-shift rundown.

The impact of quality service is why management at Pier 49 Pizza in Pocatello, Idaho treats the waitstaff as a sacred entity. All employees work in the kitchen until they have proven themselves capable of providing quality service to the pizzeria’s patrons. Once the employee makes their way out of the kitchen, they also see an increase in overall pay.

Reward

One of the most common ways restaurants reward good service is by reflecting it in their schedule. Servers want to maximize the tips they bring in from each shift, which means battling for more hours and premium dining times. Reward your best wait staff with the hours of their choosing. A happy and comfortable server will likely translate to a happy and comfortable customer. Just make sure that you set aside some of your best servers for each meal you offer.

Some restaurant owners and managers offer gifts to their employees in the form of cash, gift cards, uniform upgrades, tickets to food shows, office parties and bonuses to show their appreciation for great service. Marco’s Trattoria and Pizzeria in West Hollywood, Calif., offers an ongoing $10 reward incentives program for the server who sells the most dinner specials, sells the most wine/beer per shift or sells a $75+ bottle of wine.  Others will offer their employees free meals on their days off or after shifts, discounts for family visitors, or a bottle of alcohol. If you are hard pressed to think of a proper gift, ask your wait staff what would incentivize them to work harder.

Retention

Of course, there is more than one reason for rewarding your best waitstaff. Besides the simple act of showing your appreciation, you are also trying to incentivize your staff to continually improve their performance. Incentives help retain your best waitstaff, keeping your best employees loyal to the restaurant and management and your most loyal customers routinely coming back.

Our survey found that 56% of respondents had requested a specific waiter after a good experience and 62% of respondents reported they would write up a good review for a restaurant after quality service.  Maintain those outstanding servers, and you’ll reap the rewards across the rest of your business.