We all know we should praise our restaurant employees, but the excuses to skip it are almost as great as those we use to blow off exercise… we’re too busy, we’re too tired and we’re not completely convinced it works. And why should we be? The last time we told Tina “great job,” she blew off her next shift. So, obviously praise wasn’t motivating her, right? Not exactly.

Pointless, pre-planned or vague praise isn’t effective and, in fact, can actually damage a restaurant manager-employee relationship. But when employees are praised correctly and consistently, it’s hugely beneficial to the person receiving the praise and the people hearing it. In turn, it’s also beneficial to your customers and your bottom line.

Here’s how to make your praise worthy:

  • Praise the performance, not the employee. If you tell Tom that he’s absolutely terrific, how do you discipline him later when he comes in late (again)? Instead, tell Tom that he did a great job recording and re-organizing the inventory and that you appreciate his effort and innovative spirit. Be specific and sincere… and leave the door open for talks about improvement.
  • Pass on praise (literally). Don’t put “praise employees” on your daily restaurant management to-do list. When you go hunting for something to compliment (and stretch the value of an action), your employees will see it coming… and they won’t buy it for a minute. Instead, consider the term praiseworthy and make sure the performance truly is worthy of praise before you comment on it.
  • Publicly praise. The old management adage, “Praise in public, reprimand in private” still holds true. Praise the specific performance of a restaurant employee (skip compliments on haircuts and avoid those “she’s got a great attitude, doesn’t she?” comments) and do it in front of other employees, managers, owners and guests.
  • Be punctual with praise. You can’t always publicly praise an employee during a shift, but when you wait days after the action’s been completed, it’s less dramatic for everyone.

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