Business Insights

Empowering Restaurant Employees

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Enabling Your Staff

Giving FOH staff the power to do the right thing for guests brings several benefits. From a management perspective, this strategy builds customer loyalty, increases positive comments on social media, boosts employee productivity, and reduces the need for micromanaging. From your staffers’ point of view, empowerment underscores your trust in them, and allows them to create win-win solutions. Employees who feel valued and satisfied are more likely to stay with your company.

Motivational Speech

Putting the right spin on customer complaints during training is key. For example, let new hires know that it’s in their best interest to handle issues on the spot. If customers believe they’ve had a bad experience, they may never say anything – except to their friends –and may never return. From that perspective, guests who speak up should be welcomed.

Motivational Action

Thanking employees is key, and mentioning specifics reinforces beneficial behaviors. “Love how you handled that situation with the wrong order; you really made our customer feel taken care of.” Think of easy, creative ways to reward outstanding service, with a personal touch. Some of your team members would enjoy winning an Employee of the Week award; others would be pleased with a piece of cake to take home to their child.

What to Do

Checking in frequently with guests goes a long way toward heading off potential issues. Servers should know how to ask questions, from “Are you enjoying your burgers?” to “I’ve noticed you put on your coat; are you uncomfortable with the room temperature?” The first goal is to empathize; the second is to put things right. Give staff the foundation for great decisions: Provide a list of make-goods to offer, along with encouraging them to be creative – and intelligently frugal. Options include simply replacing an item, selecting from a hierarchy of discount percentages, or awarding a full comp. Other ideas? Move guests to a table with a view, or offer an appetizer or dessert to try on the house.

Wrongs and Rights

Situation: Customer complains about slow service

Less helpful: You’re slammed, so just do your best

More powerful: Apologize, focus more on that table and bring in assistance serving them, if possible

Situation: Customer isn’t satisfied with food or beverage item

Less helpful: Simply return the item to the kitchen and discount or comp the item.

More powerful: Ask for specifics if necessary, say “sorry! and query what you can do, and do it quickly; inform kitchen staff and perhaps keep dish for later learning.

Situation: Customer leaves behind a valuable item

Less helpful: Toss item behind the host station.

More powerful: Put item in designated, secure area and follow procedure, including notifying manager/attempting to contact customer.

Manager, Please

Staff empowerment goes hand in hand with manager involvement. Well trained employees know when to ask a manager to step in. Loud arguments and physical or verbal abuse of staff or customers is certainly one instance. Sometimes liability may be an issue, e.g., accidents and injuries. It may be important not to comp a meal in those situations, and to create incident reports. Compile guidelines for when to involve a manager, as well as clear steps for managers to follow.

Note: Part of the manager’s role is to be proactive and give customers fewer reasons to find fault. Stopping by tables goes a long way with customers. Optimum ticket times, adequate staffing – those have a huge impact on customer service.

What Is Empowering?

1) Tools & Training
2) Permission to Act
3) Confidence to take charge

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