In restaurants and bars, many traditional professional practices fall by the wayside. A great deal of establishments lack the structure, others have a staff so small that many of these practices may seem unimportant. A more unfortunate reason is that many establishments have apathetic management teams who either do not realize the importance of such practices or even worse – do not care.
One significant practice that I notice being neglected at many restaurants is the practice of providing meaningful feedback to its employees. Yes, what I am talking about is performance reviews. Both managers and employees across all industries are likely to let out a begrudging groan at these two words. Despite this, performance reviews need to be done and when done correctly, can be a positive experience for both management and employees.
Why Conduct Performance Reviews?
The reasons to provide meaningful feedback to your employees has filled business management textbooks for decades and for good reason. Coaching and developing your employees should a paramount goal of any business. I could go on and on with a list of reasons why but for time’s sake, I will boil it down to the three reasons I see as most important: They let employees know where they stand, improve communication, and provide a sense of horizon for your staff. These benefits can lead to a more productive staff, higher morale and ultimately better business.
Letting Employees know Where They Stand
Providing meaningful feedback to your employees is to let them know where they truly stand in your establishment. Whether they are a rockstar server or a liability who doesn’t pull their weight, your employees need to know how they are doing.
For your top performers, letting them know their value to your business can both increase their morale and encourage them to be leaders to their fellow staff members. This can also be a segue into developing your best employees into more important roles, which we will go into more detail when we talk about providing a horizon for your staff. For your underperforming employees, a one on one situation might be just the thing they need to do some self-reflection and realize they need to do better. This is especially important for employees who have been with your establishment for a long time. Best practices are often forgotten by staff members the longer they work and become comfortable with their establishment and management. Performance reviews are an excellent way to refresh a great work ethic. Further, when it comes down to it, if bad work habits are addressed in a performance review, it makes it easier for managers to let problem employees go if need be, making more room for new talent.
If you’ve ever managed a bar or restaurant, you know communication can be wildly unprofessional compared to many other workplaces. In my eight years in the service industry, I’ve been screamed at, berated in front of guests and had just about every obscenity hurled my way by both managers and employees I was managing. It is easy to forget how important honest and constructive communication is in every workplace, including restaurants and bars.
Here’s the thing, as a manager or owner, you can try as hard as you can to address problems as they happen. For example, if you have an employee who has a problem with using their phone during business hours, you can tell them while they are serving their guests that they need to be off their phone. Unfortunately, this is likely to go in one ear and right out the other. Although they may not be doing their job the best to their ability, I guarantee they are still thinking about their guests, making it easy to forget about any feedback you try to give them on the floor.
This is where a more formal, one-on-one conversation will be much more effective. By sitting down with your employees, you have 100% of their attention and your words will carry much more weight. That employee with the phone problem will remember a conversation if you address it professionally and lay out your case and consequences if their behavior does not improve. The conversation could go something like this:
“Bob, you are a valuable server for our establishment, you generally provide sufficient service for your guests and your sales reflect that. Unfortunately, you have had a problem with being on your phone while you should be checking on those guests. Whether it is true or not, it tells me that you find whatever is happening on your phone is more important than your guests and your job which is unacceptable. Further, you are setting a bad example for your coworkers, especially newer employees. We need you to work on this or else we can’t keep giving you the sections or shifts you usually expect.”
Sitting an employee down and telling them this as part of their review will be much more effective than saying “Hey Bob, get off your phone.” In the middle of a busy shift.
The communication can be effective for your best employees as well. It is easy to become jaded in a serving/bartending job, this can cause your staff leaders to lose focus. Sitting with these employees and telling them how much they matter to the business and providing them with a horizon (we will talk about that next) can be a great way to refresh their morale and encourage them to keep doing a great job.
Finally, the improved communication goes both ways. Any good performance review should be a real conversation and not a manager droning off 1-5 ratings and scripted responses. As a manager, you should be ready to receive feedback on the establishment and the job itself. This is a great time to find out where you could improve work for your employees and ultimately run a better business. Back to the example of Bob on his phone, you may find out that your employees are going too long without being able to take a breather. Maybe your floor managers need to be more present to ensure your staff members are receiving the breaks they need.
Overall, improving communication seems like a no-brainer when running a business, it is just the proper execution that is often not happening. Get your reviews done to ensure communication is at its best
Providing a Horizon for your Staff
You may be wondering “What exactly is horizon?” Simply put, horizon is what your employees see in their future with your business. In the service industry, this is something that is incredibly important and often completely neglected.
Providing a sense horizon is especially important to newer staff members. In my opinion, every employee should be reviewed within 90 days of employment, especially if your establishment starts all employees at the bottom of the totem pole. For example, if you start all your employees as food runners, sit them down after 30 days and tell them what they do well, what they could improve on and finally ask what their goals are. Do they want to serve? Do they think they would be an asset behind the bar? Once you find these goals make a real plan with them on how they will reach those goals and how you as a manager can help.
Horizon is also important for long-time employees. As mentioned before, it is so easy to become jaded in restaurant and bar environments, especially if you feel like you have plateaued in your position and have no horizon. While you are reviewing your employees, who have been with your business for years you should still be talking about horizon in any way you can. Maybe there is another area that employee can be cross-trained in. Maybe management is in the cards. No matter what it is, providing some sort of horizon for these employees can ensure they feel refreshed and that they have a future with your establishment.
Overall, providing horizon will help you retain your most talented and hardworking employees, no matter how long they have been with you. If your employees feel like they don’t have a future with your business, don’t expect them to do a good job or stay long.
In the end, I cannot stress how important providing real feedback through performance reviews is for any business, including restaurants and bars. What I have mentioned here is just a few reasons among many more. If you are a manager or owner and are not conducting reviews, I suggest you start sooner rather than later if you care about the future of your business.