by Jen Cheney
The saying goes, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” and it's very true when it comes to restaurants. There are many different roles needed to create that perfect dining experience for customers, whether you’re a family restaurant or a fine dining destination. One of the most critical parts of creating that dining experience is a foundation of well-trained and motivated staff. When it comes to the staff in your front of house, making sure they are happy and motivated is one of the manager’s top priorities (or at least it should be). So how do managers cultivate and retain an enthusiastic staff? I spoke with hundreds of front of house staff from all over the U.S., and here is what I learned:
Making sure you have all the staff you need for a busy night, but not over-staffing on a slow night, can feel like a job within itself. You must be part mathematician, part clairvoyant, and in many cases — a politician. Servers need to be supported and not overwhelmed during the rush, and they are itching to be cut on an overstaffed slow night. It's important to keep the staff’s availability accounted for, and then have a clear idea of what the needs for the upcoming weeks will be. The Analytics feature in the Hostme App provides real data for your restaurant that will show you when your peak times are, as well as when things slow down, and can help track individual servers, sections, and even individual tables. That invaluable information takes away the ambiguity of what will come by giving you an easy-to-understand look at what your restaurant has already done. Armed with this knowledge, managers can quickly and more accurately plan their schedule well ahead of time, and with a good deal less drama!
Making sure that all staff members are on the same page starts on the first day of training, and maintaining that after they are on the floor is very important. One server’s biggest stress is: “Inconsistency with rules and policies and how they're enforced.” Having clear guidelines and expectations will not only keep the wheels spinning smoothly, but also keep the perceptions of favoritism at bay. Keep expectations clear, and make sure to Water the flowers, and not the weeds. By this, I mean: keep pointing out the positive and highlight the great work. When the time comes to correct the course for individual employees, make sure it’s direct and given with the clear intention of helping the server improve. Another server added, “If you need to address an issue with an employee, do it at the end of a shift, not during. It is no help messing with their mojo. Just don’t.”
Support comes in many forms, and making sure your staff has what they need to succeed makes for a rewarding night for all. A manager/server in Wisconsin said this, I would never ask my staff to do something I haven’t done myself or wouldn’t do myself. I get my hands dirty right along with them.” The best kind of manager delegates the work, but is there to lend a hand. Support can be making sure the manager is there to help the food be delivered to tables, ensure that the host stand is running smoothly, and help with guests. But being everywhere at once is not possible, so making sure your staff has the right tools can be a time saver and have a huge positive impact on morale. For example, using a reservation and table management app, rather than the antiquated paper and pen or the dry erase system. Hostme offers table management that tells the hosts which server is next to be sat based on their current number of guests, which keeps rotation fair. It also will give data-driven wait times based on your restaurant’s analytics, which takes the guesswork off your host’s shoulders and keeps both guests and servers happy. As an added benefit, hosts are able to focus on welcoming patrons.
I hope this sheds a little light on a few things your staff may be craving, luckily, these main points are easily achievable to help create a fantastic work culture in your restaurant.