Bring on the Merry for Your Hard Working Staff This Holiday Season
“Cash alone doesn’t provide the connection we’re trying to make nor does it necessarily generate thankfulness.”
- Jason Plutz VP of Operations Cooper’s Hawk
To employees, the holidays can mean packed tables and plenty of overtime, so how do you keep the Grinch away and nurture seasonal spirit? We asked Jason Plutz, senior vice president of operations at Cooper’s Hawk, one of the five fastest-growing restaurant organizations in the country; Jason Kaplan, CEO of JK Consulting; and Meghan Kavanaugh at Upserve, a leading restaurant management platform.
Restaurant Inc.: A few ways to get restaurant staff in the holiday spirit?
Extend hospitality with food and wine to your staff, and they will be inspired to make guests feel the same way. Each of our locations holds its own team event to set the foundation for a joyful season. We’ve seen holiday breakfasts, pajama parties, ugly sweater contests and cookie swaps. Also important is letting team members know their schedules through New Year’s Eve by the first week of November, giving them time to plan their lives and enjoy the holidays.
Conduct fun competitions such as the station with fastest service for front of the house, and best attendance for back of the house.
Call an all-hands meeting ahead of the holiday rush to chat through schedules and menus and make an evening of it by asking your bartenders to experiment with holiday cocktail recipes for all to enjoy.
RI.: What kind of incentives prove most motivating?
We keep our prizes small and easy to execute, such as gas cards or Home Depot gift cards that provide real value and an experiential memory each time it’s used. Larger prizes can motivate if paired with a greater purpose. For instance, our driving development program has generated a high level of engagement by connecting with the goal of internally developing our organization’s future leaders. We’ve given away 11 BMW luxury sedans since the program began!
Give employees the chance to earn extra money with better shifts during the holidays or reward them with prizes they can use in their daily lives, like a big screen television.
Many servers are still motivated by tips, so they may be buoyed by the fact that restaurant sales grow between four percent and six percent year-over-year in November and December. Reward them for a job well done by offering more flexible hours after January.
RI.: Any final words of advice for operators as they prepare for the busy season ahead?
Collaborate with the people who work on your front lines on what’s reasonable to provide as an incentive. Don’t assume you know what they want.
Consider daily competitions to spread the wealth and don’t create animosity with a prize like a huge vacation earned by just one employee.
It can be fun to engage staff in decorating the restaurant or designing a new holiday menu, but ask how they’d prefer to celebrate and allow them to vote on it.