‘Tis the Season…to be Nice to the Staff

Thankfully, Black Friday is behind us. It’s wonderful to welcome the holiday season, but to have a constant loop of footage showing lines at “We Open First” retailers is annoying and proves how demented we have become over something as simple as a DVD sale.


From listening to the various media hawks we will all be fine as sales increase, business booms and the next six weeks bail us out of the deficit doldrums we all have experienced so far this year. From now until the New Year,  each of us all be anticipating, projecting, guessing and hoping that we generate enough business to have a decent P&L when we ring in 2011.


Holidays symbolize joy, cheer and good will. Yet, the stress and tension often mounting in our kitchens, our dining rooms and our financial offices makes us less cheery and joyful than our employees need experience.


I know the feeling of dealing with too much stress. In my decade of ownership I blew up my fair share of employees because I was unrealistic.  Too much catering, not enough catering, too many payables, too few receivables and never enough cash in hand or large enough balance in the checkbook continually tugged at my joyful personality on occasion turning me into a culinary Grinch.


In a business where a pleasant game face is not an asset but a requirement at least while walking through the dining room and greeting customers, we often turn from Jekyll to Hyde due to the mounting momentary problems. But, this is the season to have a little compassion, especially for our employees.


We should always be aware of the staff’s feelings and mood. When they’re in a bad mood, service suffers, customers complain, tips decrease and the downward spiral continues until it bottoms out at disaster.

The stress the staff experiences should always be taken into consideration. It’s a festive time and owners and managers need to convey that to our customers and employees.


Employee contests are a great way to boost staff spirits. Whether you believe it or not, weekly or nightly employee contests do boost sales, morale, and attitudes. A simple way to widen the smiles is to schedule a few contests based on your server’s qualities. If one server always sells the most desserts, design a contest around desserts.  The most wine sold: contest. The most after dinner coffee drinks – contest. Make the prizes worthwhile. It is the holiday season and a bit of extra cash helps everyone. A $25.00 bonus for each of the contests would be a great prize. And, go to a neighboring restaurant and trade some gift certificates for $25.00. Your neighbor can give yours to his staff and you can award his to your staff. (This is also a great way to get to know your neighbor’s best servers. Losing servers won’t be getting too many certificates.) Make sure the certificates are not valid until after the New Year. You’ll need to fill those seats after the holidays are over.


And in the meantime, don’t let the stress get to you. Enjoy the season. Take advantage of a periodic break out of the restaurant. Thinking a few minutes by yourself in your office is relaxing may not be the perfect remedy for stress: Offices ate frequently the den of financial stress with files, invoices and payment reminders scattered and piles on desks and file cabinets. Get off the property. Go have a cup of coffee. Take a walk. Breathe deep. Relax.  It will be good for you, the staff and your customers.


Let the season begin.