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How to Encourage Restaurant Staff Participation | Superorder

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March 20, 2024

Tips to Increase Restaurant Staff Engagement by Creating a Feedback-Friendly Culture

Running a successful restaurant requires being open to constructive criticism from all angles. Whether you have a casual eatery, an ambiance-focused sit-down restaurant or a cutting-edge cloud restaurant, your success hinges on your ability to accept feedback and improve. While most restaurateurs focus on what customers think and need, your willingness to accept input shouldn't start and end with patrons.

Feedback from your restaurant staff matters, too. Creating a feedback-friendly workplace culture can make all the difference in any industry. But in the restaurant business, it can have a ripple effect throughout your entire operation! When your team feels comfortable enough to provide feedback to leaders and decision-makers, they're empowered to work harder, boost productivity and stay engaged to create a far better customer experience.

This guide will teach you how to cultivate a workplace culture that flourishes with feedback and never-ending improvement.

Why Staff Feedback is Important

Getting feedback from your restaurant staff is important for many reasons. From a practical standpoint, it can significantly improve your operations.

Most restaurateurs aren't on the front lines of their business. You might be there every day to keep the ship sailing, but you're not the one interacting with customers, accepting orders, preparing food, etc. Your staff has more insight into the day-to-day happenings of your business than you do, so their feedback can make a difference when improving operational efficiency.

However, having a feedback-friendly culture plays a bigger role in helping to improve performance across the board.

People like knowing that their thoughts and concerns matter. When you accept feedback and apply it to positively change your business, your team will feel part of something bigger than their position.

It's about empowering your team and helping every staff member reach their full potential. Psychologically, providing feedback can feel cathartic. It's a chance for your employees to get concerns off their chest while being a part of improvements that directly benefit them and the restaurant's bottom line.

That inclusion makes all the difference. It significantly boosts empathy, trust and overall morale. That results in more productivity and better performance from the bottom to the top.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant that felt “off?” Maybe the employees looked unhappy or were only there for a paycheck. Sometimes, you might see staff members who look downright fearful to be where they are!

Often, those “off” vibes are a product of an environment where employees' feedback has no value. People become hesitant to bring up concerns for fear of pushback or retribution. Instead of feeling like a valued employee, they feel like nothing more than a body that's there to serve.

It's an unhealthy environment to work in that can be physically and emotionally draining.

That's not what you want for your team! Instead, you should prioritize creating a confident and empowering workplace culture. By accepting and encouraging feedback, you tell your employees they matter, which can lead to beautiful results.

How to Cultivate This Environment

Improving a work culture isn't easy. Many people go into these positions with preconceived notions of how things will be. That applies to any industry, but anyone who's worked in a restaurant before likely has bad experiences that make them hesitant to provide feedback.

As a leader, it's your job to change what your team knows about working in a restaurant to create a more feedback-friendly environment. Here are a few tips you should try.

1. Ensure Your Employees Feel Comfortable To Express Their Opinions & Concerns

One of the best things you can do is encourage your team to provide feedback. Most of your staff will have strong opinions and concerns. However, most people aren't going to bring that input up with leaders because they often don't feel that it's their place.

Your goal is to change that!

You want people to feel comfortable enough to offer feedback. They should be open to expressing those thoughts while feeling safe.

Try having an open conversation. You can discuss the workplace culture changes you want to make and encourage your team to be more open. Be transparent and let your staff know that you're all ears!

Ease their worries about potential retribution. You can set boundaries if necessary. For example, you can create a protocol for feedback or set some ground rules to prevent personal matters from entering the fray. Whatever you do, let your team know that you're working hard to cultivate this new feedback-friendly culture and that they're free to engage and become a part of this shift.

2. Keep The Vibes Positive at Work

Positivity goes a long way! However, many restaurants focus too much on problems and corrections. There's nothing wrong with addressing issues, teaching your staff the correct way of doing things or offering constructive criticism. However, it would help if you also prioritized positive feedback.

Let your staff know what they're doing right! Acknowledge their hard work, thank them for their efforts and recognize their strengths.

Think of it as positive reinforcement. Employees who work for leaders who recognize their strengths have better morale and productivity. It's about making people feel good about what they do and acknowledging their contributions to your restaurant's success.

Creating positive vibes can make your restaurant a much more enjoyable place to work. Furthermore, positivity and praise can open up lines of communication you never knew your business needed.

3. Transparency Among All Staff is Important (yes, even management)

One major challenge that many workplaces struggle to overcome is a lack of transparency. Employees who aren't in the loop don't feel comfortable expressing concerns and opinions. It creates unnecessary separation between management and on-the-floor staff, creating a subconscious “us versus them” mentality.

That's unhealthy for your business, and a lack of transparency discourages feedback and open communication.

Be transparent about the good, bad and ugly. Discuss how your restaurant is doing, your team's strengths, issues you must resolve, etc. Transparency should exist from the top down, and you must encourage management to share the same openness. The goal is to have that transparency trickle down to every level of your business.

Consider holding meetings regularly. You can discuss important matters, encourage people to share opposing opinions and keep everyone informed about what's happening with your restaurant. Make sure everyone's voice rings loud and clear. In meetings, the loudest voices in the room can easily take over.

Avoid that by allowing every staff member to speak up. Remind everyone that you're all in this together. People will start to feel that their contributions matter when you start being transparent from the top down.

4. Show Your Employees Respect

Everyone deserves respect, from restaurant managers to janitorial staff. Unfortunately, many employees feel they don't receive respect from leaders, so they don't speak up!

It's important to assume the best in people and treat everyone equally. Receiving feedback can be tough, especially when you hear things you don't like. But respect your employees for expressing their concerns.

Many small things can indicate a lack of respect. These include cutting people off, shifting the blame to others and letting egos take over. These seemingly small issues create unhealthy dynamics that discourage people from speaking up.

Take some time to reflect and consider how you contribute to those dynamics. No one is perfect! What's important is that you actively try to improve and prioritize giving respect to others. As a leader, it's also important for you to step in and set an example.

Step in to squash the drama if you see signs of disrespect during a disagreement. The same goes for gossip culture!

Aim to make everyone feel respected. You want to squash the idea that speaking up is brave or that providing feedback is rude. Instead, your staff should feel respected enough to speak their truths and improve the team.

5. Understand Psychological Safety is Just as Important as Physical Safety

Physical safety is crucial in a restaurant, but employees must also feel psychologically safe to open up and provide feedback. Psychological safety refers to being comfortable enough to share anything with leaders and team members without fear of punishment, resentment or other ramifications.

Earlier, we mentioned that some restaurant employees go into a new workplace and feel unsafe due to past negative experiences. That's more common than most realize. When people sense that speaking up will lead to retribution or embarrassment, they stay silent.

To create a feedback-friendly culture, you must make everyone feel safe enough to use their voice. There's a lot you can do to improve psychological safety. Creating a positive work environment, respecting others and encouraging full transparency make a huge difference.

Your team needs to know where everyone else stands and feel secure in their role to feel safe. Prioritize psychological safety, and you can build a much stronger team.

6. A Relaxing Environment is a Happy Environment

Restaurants can be fast-paced and stressful. But that doesn't mean you can't create a more relaxing work environment.

Relaxation doesn't mean laziness. It's about being confident in what you're doing and enjoying your time on the clock!

Try encouraging your team to get to know one another. You can play games, facilitate organic conversations and do team-building exercises. The goal is to allow your team to develop bonds naturally.

When employees genuinely like the people they work with, it's much easier to get through the day and overcome the stress of the job. It also helps build trust and inspire people to speak up about concerns.

7. Be Inclusive

Our last tip is to be inclusive and ensure everyone feels like they're part of the team. Invite everyone to be part of the restaurant family! Allow each staff member to use their voice and listen with open ears.

People who don't feel included in important conversations will shut down and hesitate to provide feedback. It becomes an “insider versus outsider” situation that can create toxicity in the workplace.

Everyone's thoughts and opinions matter. Listen to your staff and validate their concerns. Include everyone in the conversation and prioritize inclusion to create a healthier work environment.

Get Started With Superorder Today

Feedback-friendly work cultures are the ticket to success in the restaurant industry. Your staff has valuable input that can improve your business in many ways, but they may hesitate to speak up. Opening up the lines of communication and encouraging your team to speak up can make all the difference, allowing your restaurant to reach its full potential while becoming a fantastic workplace.

When you're ready to elevate your restaurant business, check out Superorder. Superorder is an all-in-one restaurant management platform with game-changing tools to help your business grow. Manage your orders, handle disputes, gather feedback, send out surveys and more from one easy-to-use software platform. Get started with Superorder today and see how it can help your restaurant reach new heights of success!

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