When Karen arrives late (again) and Steven is out back on his cell phone (again) and customers wait and other team members cover and fume (again), it’s easy to blame Karen and Steven for the low morale and poor service. But the truth is, it’s not their fault. Ultimately, every employee problem that you have—bad attitude, shoddy service, laziness, low standards, poor work ethic, etc.—is your fault. Really.

Your employee’s attitudes toward you and your restaurant are created based on how lowest-performing employees are tolerated by management. The simple truth is you hired them (or kept them), tolerated (or ignored) them and failed to motivate or train them. Ultimately, you’re to blame. Those are the facts. Now what to do you do with them?

You take control of your staffing challenges. Remember, you have the power to hire, fire, train and cultivate employees—and you have the obligation to do so for your customers, your company, and your team members. Here’s how to get started with smart restaurant staffing strategies:

  • Hire smarter. First impressions are important, but many employees can perform well in interviews and fail in the job.
  • Be fair. If you find yourself continually defending an employee, ask yourself why. Truly great employees rarely need defending. Often, they go unnoticed because they do their jobs well and don’t get involved in workplace dramas. The employees that “need” defending are typically those who are great when you’re around. If you give special breaks to “special” employees, you’ll alienate the rest of the team… especially when those team members know that the “favored” employee is less than great.
  • Bump the bad apples. It’s true that one bad apple truly can spoil the entire basket. Instead of lowering your expectations to meet the needs of your team member, find—or promote—a team member that meets those expectations and get rid of those who don’t… even if that means being shorthanded for awhile.
  • Train, train, train. Your servers must be professional salespeople and your supporting team members must be just that, supporting. Continually challenge and reward your salespeople by providing them with real sales goals, training them in sales techniques, and clearly showing the “commission-based” rewards of their efforts. Be sure to share those sales facts, goals, and accomplishments with the rest of the team and show team members how the operation’s salespeople contribute to job security and raises.

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