Preventing Restaurant Manager Burnout

Frontline employees are the vanguard of industry: the foot soldiers that battle for business success; the day-to-day movers and shakers of sales. That’s why engagement levels among hourly workers can exert such a profound effect on the bottom line.

It’s with good reason, then, that more and more companies are waking up and launching efforts to engage their retail associates, servers, hospitality crews, and workers in a slew of other positions across America’s frontline. Progress for such companies has been both powerful and sustained: large casual dining chains that have adopted ShiftOne see an average of nearly ten percent growth in guest satisfaction scores within six weeks.

Some engagement efforts, though, become so focused on the first line of business defense that they de-emphasize the next tier: in-store management. Sales competitions, leaderboards, team happy hours — these strategies all gravitate around the entry-level hourly employee, putting more work on managers’ plates while doing little to engage them directly.

The fact is that preventing burnout on the frontline often means adding heat to the not-quite-frontline. While it’s true that managers are frequently selected for their positions because they are tempered to handle the pressure, enterprise engagement strategy should not omit consideration of how changes might impact managerial outlook.

Before selecting an engagement platform, corporate decision makers should consider the following best practices and ensure that managers, as well as the frontline, remain a priority.

Add Bandwidth Instead of Subtracting It

Every manager’s mental handbook contains a few basic engagement techniques: perhaps a receipt-based sales competition around a new special, or curating a back of house leaderboard with guest satisfaction scores or positive customer quotes. One GM ShiftOne works with went so far as to keep a massive spreadsheet of up-to-date bonus earnings to encourage underperformers to step up their game.

When managers have less monotony on their plate and more time to bring their personality to the customer, engagement flourishes.

The glaring problem with all of these strategies: they’re labor intensive. Calculating, counting, and updating are black holes of bandwidth, sucking up precious time that managers could be using to do what they’re best at: interacting with guests on the floor.

The solution? Selective automation. The best engagement platforms tether directly to pertinent data streams and update leaderboards on a seamless mobile interface with no administrative work required. Turn the notch up to 11, and you’ll find automated recognition systems that churn through data and reward badges and achievements to top performers on a public feed. When managers have less monotony on their plate and more time to bring their personality to the customer, engagement flourishes.

Empower Managers to Directly Engage Employees

Automation is excellent for efficiency, but organic interaction will always have a prominent place in the workspace. Workers derive energy from management, and if they feel that the only recognition they’re receiving is from a robot, the effort will backfire and employees will become disenchanted.


Genuine acknowledgement — person to person — is crucial. That’s why communication capability is an integral component of any engagement platform, and why the ideal platform should be mobile-first. 

This allows managers to whip out their device and check on each individual employee’s performance with a few taps. A few more allow them to send customized messages of congratulations to those who are excelling — and words of encouragement to those who are not.

Promote Inter-Shift and Inter-Store Competition

Intra-store competitions are commonplace, giving each employee extra impetus to step up their sales game and distinguish themselves from the pack. Such events do little for managers, though, aside from piling more tasks onto their to-do list.

When the lens is expanded to a team perspective rather than an individual one, however, different shift managers can experience that same sense of competition. The effect is dual-pronged: managers are engaged, and are even more stimulated to motivate the employees they’re responsible for on shift to excel.

Amplify the effect by going one step further towards the macro picture and planning regional competitions between stores, where entire staffs are united in a challenge to beat out neighboring locations, binding the entire team together.