How to Keep the Cooks in the Kitchen

/How to Keep the Cooks in the Kitchen

How to Keep the Cooks in the Kitchen

Running a successful restaurant business isn’t just about the food; it’s also about the overall experience of the customer. The only way to ensure that experience is as good as it can be is to ensure your staff are happy and productive.

Whether you’re dealing with chefs in the kitchen or waiting staff on the floor, keeping your team happy and motivated is crucial. Restaurant employees who feel valued and appreciated are less likely to leave your business prematurely — thus saving you money. But more importantly, happy chefs and servers will keep your customers happy, and that’s what really matters in any restaurant.

Be a leader to your team members. Consider the following steps to ensure that your restaurant employees are always motivated and content:

Invest in Your Team

The easiest way to invest in your team is to pay your waiting staff and cooks a salary that reflects their value to your business. However, there are other ways of investing in your employees, including the provision of training and giving them more responsibility and accountability as they gain experience.

While there is always a financial aspect to consider, you should try to keep the bigger picture in mind. Retaining more of your existing staff for longer will help you keep recruitment and training costs low.

However, there are hidden costs associated with continually introducing new employees to a business. For example, a tentative server who takes time to settle in may miss opportunities to upsell side orders. Similarly, a new chef may waste food as he or she becomes familiar with the kitchen and your menu.

By spending time and money on your existing team, you could save money in the long run.

Reward Loyalty

Losing employees is disruptive and costly to any restaurant, so it’s important to take steps to retain experienced and capable employees for as long as possible. One way to do this is to reward members of your team for loyalty and longevity. Offering cash prizes, pins or certificates at major milestones is one way of showing your appreciation for an employee’s long service.

Make Work Fun

Running a restaurant is a serious business, but this doesn’t mean you can’t create a fun and welcoming work environment. Give your serving staff the freedom to communicate with your customers in their own way, and allow your kitchen staff to talk with one another during prep work and slow periods.

If possible, provide all of your employees with a break room, and equip it with a TV, books, games and anything else that will improve morale and allow people to wind down.

If your employees can have fun together outside of the work environment, they’re more likely to collaborate more effectively during service hours. If your budget allows, organize regular team building events to foster spirit and respect among your chefs and serving staff.


Creating a little healthy competition among your employees can create a sense of fun — and squeeze that extra something out them when it matters most. Create a sales league table, or set a simple challenge such as selling side orders or cocktails. In the kitchen, you could make the challenge about waste, food quality or waiting times. At the end of the incentive period, award the winners with their prizes in front of their peers.

While you can offer cash or free food as prizes, you should know there are cheaper ways to incentivize your restaurant team. For example, you can reward high-performers with the opportunity to choose their own shifts for a week. Another great prize is a meal and drinks for the winner’s immediate family.

Acknowledge a Job Well Done

While it’s always nice to receive a few extra dollars for hard work and achievement, many employees will respond to a simple “well done.” There will be times when you want to give positive feedback in private, but it’s always more effective when given in front of peers. People like to be appreciated, and when they are, they tend to be more loyal and more productive.

To acknowledge your restaurant employees formally, try including an “employee of the month” award. It’s up to you whether you have separate awards for servers and chefs, but this could be a great opportunity to bring all of your employees together. Take the opportunity to tell your team why the winner was selected, since this can help other members of your team to raise their game.

Involve Staff in Key Decisions

Restaurant employees who feel they have a vested interest in a business are likely to be more productive. Involving your chefs and serving staff in certain operational decisions will give them a sense of inclusion and self-importance — and it might give you some useful ideas, too.

Hold regular staff meetings, and open up the floor to questions. If you have people who are reluctant to talk in front of the group, issue feedback forms that ask: “What can we do differently?”

Keeping your restaurant staff happy and motivated will maximize your retention rate — and that will have a positive effect on both customer service and your bottom line.

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