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Engaging Staff


Engaging Staff

Staff Engagement's Critical Role in Business Growth


As a restaurant owner, how do you keep your employees engaged.   Making customers happy is elemental, and yet the daily grind of serving food can wear staff down? Here are three ideas to motivate your staff.


Be receptive to your staffs' ideas. If you allow them to execute their ideas and they are successful, the rest of the staff will buy-in. Your employees will experience a taste of success by helping your business succeed. 

Here is an example: When I ran my cafe, we had daily specials.  We invited staff to choose a lunch special that was fun, interesting, and a riff on well-loved favorites. At first the staff was timid—afraid to make a mistake. I encouraged them and assured them that I felt their engagement was important in growing the business. After a few days when they saw no idea shot down, everyone jumped in. A competition started. They called it “The Chicken Salad Throwdown.” Our menu had two different chicken salads: a curry chicken salad, and a traditional chicken salad. Customers often claimed one version or the other as their favorite. Staff put them on special, polled customers during the day and posted the results on FaceBook. like, “Curry Chicken Salad stole the show today.” The staffs’ social media posts created customer engagement and an excitement about the cafe. We expanded the contest by making other chicken salad specials. Our foot-traffic increased and morale among the staff was high because they played a crucial role. By keeping the employees engaged in the business, the, in turn, encouraged customers to come in to see what was happening. 

let staff know your money goals, and share your numbers

let staff know your money goals, and share your numbers


Sharing business profits and losses seems like an incredibly daring move. My staff finally understood our business when I let them in on numbers, asked them to set goals, and taught them food costs!  It was the single most valuable lesson I learned from running my own cafe--give them the tools (numbers) and they will make smart plans. When they see the statistics and trends, negative or positive, they are empowered to act on that information. If staff are unaware that sales are up or down, every day is the same to them. 

When I owned my cafe, my GM or I updated staff every morning on events affecting business for that day. For example, I would say, “We are going to be busy today. We have two catering for 100, great weather AND opening day at Orioles' ballpark. The cafe will be swamped. Lines will be long.  Get organized, get stocked. Check your station. …and have fun!” They enjoyed knowing what was coming up and felt prepared for the day's business. Maybe even appreciated being given an overview, so they were psychologically prepared. 

Everyone wants and needs a pleasant working environment.  

Everyone wants and needs a pleasant working environment.  


Seems obvious, right?  It’s up to the owner to create workplace ambiance, it doesn’t just happen. A key to creating a pleasant working environment is by setting up effective systems to support your staff. Strong systems keep your staff professional, your customers confident and your staff turnover down. Good music helps too.  If Operations and Distribution systems are strongly in place, the staff will invest their time in your business because they know they have owner support. A pleasant working environment is the byproduct of these techniques. 

The best example of employee engagement is Zingerman's. Look them up and add the link to your case study library of good business practices. This delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan has become much more than just a place for a sandwich. The carefully educated staff handles all situations with aplomb. Zingerman's created their own employee training program called ZingTrain, which they share online. Their passport tracks what they know. Employees feel empowered in customer interaction because of good training. The business has grown tremendously in a healthy way. I recommend you start your study with Zingerman's 12 Natural Laws of Business

It is essential to engage your staff in your business. Involving your employees, sharing the numbers and making a pleasant working environment makes your business stronger and attracts more customers. Use these three ideas. They will lead to positive results. Here are some helpful links to read further about growing your business through staff engagement.