Don’t Fire Your Lazy Employees, Motivate Them…and Here’s How

Time is money—anyone in the restaurant industry knows it. You don’t want to waste time on a lazy employee, right?

When it comes to lazy employees often times your first response might be to just fire said employee. But, if your restaurant business model is suffering as a result of the “fire ‘em!” mentality, you may just need a shift in thinking.

Dealing with lazy employees requires a mix of tough love and the acceptance that you might be part of the problem. Learn how to motivate your less-than-enthusiastic staff and you can grow your business to be the best it can be.

Slackers Might Just Be Bored

Your more apathetic employees aren’t necessarily slacking, they might simply be looking for a challenge. Sometimes it is a matter of being comfortable—too comfortable. People who become intimately familiar with an environment tend to let their guard down. Not only that, but being comfortable means knowing where the boundaries lie. That’s largely the cause of doing just enough to get by.

If someone strikes you as lazy, brainstorm ways in which you can challenge them. Managers have the power to empower. You should be finding ways to keep your employees engaged and on their toes. It’s hard to be bored, when there is a full list of tasks to get done.

10 Ways to Motivate Employees

As a restaurant manager, the first step is to isolate the problem, not the person. In other words, there is probably something (perhaps in your business or restaurant business model) that’s causing one or more employees to be lazy. Maybe it is a lack of things to do; it could even be a hierarchy or a company policy issue. Consider what the core of the issue could be as you weigh the options for how to motivate your employees.

Here are ten things you can do to turn lazy employees into productive members of your business and improve staff performance:

  1.      Lead by example. Take the lead whenever you can and demonstrate how important your employees’ roles are to the company. In the training process, there is opportunity to add gravity to more minute tasks. For example, telling a runner/busser to be proactive and consistent about checking the bathrooms, to ensure no customer goes without toilet paper or walks into a dirty bathroom
  2.      Show genuine appreciation. Keep your employees accountable by noticing the bad and the good of what they do. Saying thank you goes a long way; and relaying a thank you from a customer can go even further. This a great way to motivate because it shows the work they’re doing matters.
  3.      Make advancement tangible. Too often, how employees rise through the ranks is a mystery. That causes frustration and instills a sense of secrecy or perhaps favoritism. Put forth standards and expectations and how the rewards can be achieved.
  4.      Give out perks, regardless of position. Speaking of favoritism, this is a prime example. From managerial staff to dishwasher, the same perks should be available across the board.
  5.      Try competitions. Small rewards can have a huge impact. Purchase several gift cards and let the winner choose. But again, be sure every employee has an equal chance at this perk.
  6.      Provide an open forum. Don’t let your ego get in the way. If there’s a problem, ask for input to solve it.
  7.      Give your employees a real break. That is to say, a place to unwind. A couple of tables and some uncomfortable chairs won’t do it. Jazz the area up, make it private and you’ll send a message that you care. As an additional portion, insist that your employee take the break they are legally due. Long shifts on your feet are strenuous, and if you show concern for their energy and their health, they may be less likely to take advantage by taking frequent and unwarranted breaks.
  8.      Promote camaraderie. You shouldn’t be the only one giving out praise. Encourage coworkers to express their appreciation among their peers and foster a team environment.
  9.      Make company goals clear. Nobody likes being in the dark. Reinstating company goals and how they apply to you employees’ work will give them a clearer sense of the outcome their attitude, work ethic, and tasks achieve.
  10.  Change it up now and again. The same dress code every single day or the same this or that every single day is bound to bore. So, reserve some days for breaking the norm and watch morale improve. Maybe you dress up for Halloween, maybe you can have an Ugly Holiday Sweater day for the Holidays. Get creative, everyday doesn’t have to be the same!
 An Extra Perk

Motivated, happy employees directly results in providing great customer service and more loyal guests. Keeping your front-end staff like servers, bartenders, and hostesses informed and empowered means they will likely speak highly of their workplace and your restaurant, making them a walking advertisement for your establishment.


When employees don’t perform, it’s basically the same as losing money; and businesses with problematic employees spend more operating capital in order to deal with issues that arise. But these difficulties can be corrected and in most cases, self-corrected. And for those who don’t respond no matter the approach, there’s an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by bringing in a replacement that will get the job done. However, before filling and handing out pink slips, there’s a significant amount of resolutions that can be tried.