Improving Restaurant Employee Accountability

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant owners scrambled to adjust to new laws, procedures and safeguards. For many, it meant shutting their doors temporarily or operating with reduced staff. If good help was already hard to find, then the pandemic exacerbated that challenge.

Now that most restaurants have opened their doors, they’re realizing that the landscape has changed. There are fewer customers, more takeout, and a lot of new faces in the industry. Owners and managers can struggle with keeping their teams accountable and up the standards they expect. Here are some ways to do so.

1. Clearly Define Responsibilities 

The tone you set from the interview and throughout training will dictate the level of dedication your new hire provides. If you’re aloof and show them you don’t care so much about the details, then chances are they’re going to follow your lead. 

On the flip side, if you spend the time to train them right with a powerful sense of responsibility and attention to detail, then they’ll take more pride and ownership in their work.

The best way to do that is by creating a scoreboard and detailed onboarding program for each role. The scoreboard should lay out exactly what their daily responsibilities are alongside a clear performance evaluation schedule. The employee onboarding schedule should have crystal clear milestones for training and performance. Again, the more structure up front, the more invested they’ll be.

2. Get Back in the Kitchen

Restaurant owners and managers spend time out of the kitchen doing paperwork and administrative work. Make it a point to start the day by doing your rounds throughout the restaurant. Ensure that the night crew did the proper cleaning and prepping for the day ahead. Make sure each station has everything they need and that all your employees are ready for the day. 

Later in the day, set some time aside to talk with the cooks, taste the food, do more cleaning checks, and test your newer staff on the menu. That physical presence and routine signals to your staff that your restaurant isn’t the place to neglect duties or serve mediocre food.

3. Don’t Neglect Your Superstars

Just because top performers don’t need as much hand holding doesn’t mean they don’t require your attention. Superstars are looking for a challenge and will often set a high standard of team accountability for the rest of the staff if you keep them engaged.

One of the easiest ways to engage your high performers is to have one-on-one meetings with them. Take them for a walk or get them out of the restaurant for a bit and see how they’re doing. Ask them what they need that they’re not getting and enlist their help with inspiring the staff to take more personal ownership and pride in their work. 

While you’re at it, ask them for advice on how you can improve the restaurant. They probably have more ideas than you think and will happily work harder and inspire the staff if you help them feel more invested in the restaurant’s success.

4. Tie Rewards to Individual Performance

The last twenty or thirty years were full of participation trophies and incentives to do the bare minimum. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t shift the tide. Consider tying rewards to performance instead of handing out blanket awards, gifts, and praise. When people get great reviews or surveys, call it out to the staff and give them gift cards or spot bonuses. When the holidays are coming up and you see your servers crushing it with upsell drink orders or pushing specials, then offer them extra time off around the holidays. 

The same thing goes for promotions. Don’t give it to the person who's been with you the longest. Reward those who give the greatest effort. That’s how you create a culture of high-performers and a sense of competitiveness.

5. Lean on Your Software

Improving employee accountability doesn’t have to be an awkward process reserved for one-on-ones. Sometimes all it takes is the right set of tools. A POS fosters accountability by making it easier to track inventory and count up how much cash is in the register and more.

The same things goes for employee scheduling software. Many of these tools have built-in GPS, so you know who’s clocked in, at what location, and whether they were late or missed any time punches. Employee scheduling software can also remind people when shifts are coming up, changes to the schedule are posted, or if there’s a colleague requesting a shift cover. This puts accountability measures on autopilot.

Ultimately, there’s no single solution or overnight change that will make your restaurant an accountability rich machine. The best thing you can do is remind employees of the bigger picture and inspire them with your own consistent actions.