5 Ways To Inspire Your Restaurant Staff

I’m Dave Allred, also known as TheRealBarman, and I’m here to share essential restaurant management tips, tricks, and strategies for running a world-class bar and restaurant. If you’re looking to create a thriving and motivated team, you’re in the right place. Remember it’s your job to inspire them and create an atmosphere and community where your employees WANT to work.

In this blog post, we’ll explore five key ways to inspire and motivate your restaurant staff, helping them become dedicated and enthusiastic members of your team.

1. Make Them Feel Like They Matter

restaurant management

The Power of Feeling Important

Your employees are not mere cogs in a machine; they are the lifeblood of your restaurant. To inspire and motivate them, you must make them feel like they matter. What the hell does that even mean?

Well, for most people, feeling like what they do matters is more important than money. Sounds crazy, I know, but they can find another job that pays similar.

If you make them feel important, that connection will keep them there for a long time, which is significant because research shows that employees who feel like what they do matters are less likely to quit their jobs, which reduces employee turnover, which not only saves you money, but more importantly, it saves your sanity.

A mission statement that defines your restaurant’s purpose and emphasizes their role in achieving it. When they have a strong “why,” they can handle the “how” and “what” with unwavering dedication.

Tell them why it positively affects other people. If they have a big enough “why”, then they can handle the “how” or the “what” without blinking an eye. That means you need to create a mission that clearly defines who you are as a restaurant and why it should matter to the employees.

If you haven’t watched my video on how to create an amazing mission statement for you restaurant, you might want to do that now as it directly correlates to what we are talking about today. It’s right HERE. You can do that now or later, totally up to you.

2. Involve Employees in the Process

how to run a restaurant

Fostering a Sense of Ownership

Foster a collaborative atmosphere by involving your staff in decision-making. When you ask for their opinions and ideas, they feel like it’s “our restaurant” instead of “your restaurant.”

You want to create an atmosphere in which you are all working together toward a common goal and the common good to make the place you all work at the best it can be. You want them to take pride in where they work because they will become self-motivated at that point.

Encourage them to contribute to menu ideas, promotions, or operational improvements. So when you sit down to have employee meetings, ask them what they think.

For instance, let’s say you’re meeting with the bartenders. You might say, “Hey, we’re coming out with a new cocktail menu. You guys have any ideas? And then make sure to put some of their ideas on the menu. In fact, maybe every bartender gets to put one cocktail on the menu (approved by you of course) and they get to name it. When they see their ideas in action, it creates a deep sense of pride and investment in the restaurant’s success.

Imagine the pride they’re going to feel any time anyone orders their cocktail. That connects them to the restaurant. That makes them want to remain there forever. So think about how you can include them in the decisions.

Remember, even just hearing them out is valuable, even if you don’t implement all of their ideas.

3. Acknowledge and Appreciate Your Employees

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The Power of Recognition

Acknowledge them. There is nothing more motivating than being acknowledged for the work you do. When you look an employee in the eye and say, “Hey, thanks so much for covering Sarah’s shift at the last minute. You really saved the day, and it means a lot, so thank you.”

When you tell them that sincerely, I’m telling you right now, they will never want to let you down again, because you are someone who notices the good that is done, which means you’ll probably also notice the bad, and they definitely don’t want to be noticed for that.

With no acknowledgement or feedback to make them feel valued, they will slowly start to wilt. This is what happens with most businesses. They are left unattended, unnoticed and unloved.

But when you water them with acknowledgement, they bloom and thrive and give off oxygen for everyone around them to breathe. That’s called a metaphor, you knuckleheads.

Make Sure To Notice Employees For Good Deeds

Now, if you really want that motivation to run deep, acknowledge them in front of their peers. Man, that makes you feel like the cat’s whiskers. It triples that feeling of value. Just being noticed for doing good deeds. So acknowledge them during pre-shift meetings. If you don’t do pre-shift meetings, start now. They’re important.

If you aren’t sure how to run pre-shift meetings, make sure and watch my youtube video on how to do this HERE. Get a clear idea of how want to run them and be consistent. I promise you it will pay off.

When you are acknowledging them at the pre-shift meetings is where you have a chance to make them feel special. It could be for anything. How the were helping out like we talked about earlier, or maybe they won the wine selling contest you had, or something as simple as:

“Hey, Dan just got engaged, let’s give it up. A lot of hearts are breaking right now as we speak.” Whatever, you get the point.

Take the time to make each one feel like they matter. Now, that doesn’t mean you go around thanking them every 4 minutes. That’s irritating and desperate, which are not qualities we look for in a leader. Your acknowledgement has to be sincere and warranted.

You can’t be like, “Hey, Janet just tied her shoes without getting her fingers caught in the laces this time. Way to go Janet.” Use your acknowledgements wisely so they pack a punch. Don’t just make shit up so you can acknowledge somebody.

Acknowledgment is a powerful motivator. It’s basic how to run a restaurant in a smarter way. When you sincerely thank your employees for their contributions, it reinforces their dedication.

Expressing gratitude for their efforts, especially in front of their peers during pre-shift meetings, boosts their sense of value and pride in their work. Effective recognition not only motivates but also strengthens the sense of belonging and camaraderie among your staff.

4. Lead by Example

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Setting the Standard

Yes, I am fully aware that this is the most overused statement ever uttered in leadership education, but there’s a reason it’s overused: it’s important.

People learn by what their leaders and teachers DO 99% more than what they SAY. So you can’t just write out an employee manual and hand it to them and say “There, I’m a leader.” Instead you need to be an active leader. A leader who jumps into the trenches and helps out.

The leader who reminds everyone of the mission. The leader who doesn’t back down when things need to be said. Don’t turn away from confrontation.

As a restaurant manager, you need to act as if this place where you work matters more than anything on the planet. More than your house and your friends and your dog and your wife and your kids. Ok, sorry, too far. Not more than your dog. Let’s not get crazy.

The point is, imagine working for someone that has energy and actually cares about what they’re doing and they care about you. I mean, don’t walk around the place like a spazz. There’s a balance to be maintained.

People like enthusiasm and energy but they don’t like enthusiasm on crack. Where you’re like, “How ya doin’ today? Isn’t it the most wonderful day in the entire history of days in all the universe? Don’t you just love cleaning out the floor drains and scooping out the dead fruit flies that have been nesting down there? Oh golly life’s good!”

Yeah, that guy sucks. Don’t be that guy or gal.

Leading by example means that you need to be the disco ball in the room at all times. The center of the party. And you can do it demurely and calmly.

But be the leader who lives the vision you are preaching so that they all follow in your footsteps. Which brings us to the finale…

5. Hold Them Accountable

how to manage a restaurant

The Importance of Accountability

In restaurant management you need to hold them accountable for their actions. Yep, I can see your brain working. You’re like, “I like the idea of holding them accountable, but how does that motivate and inspire them?”

Here’s how: when you are the type of leader who sets the rules and boundaries, and then holds your team accountable for those rules, you are someone your team trusts and respects and follows.

It makes them feel safe that someone is in charge and knows what they’re doing and they aren’t letting people get away with shit.

When you make rules, or you create a mission statement identifying who you are as a company and what you do, but you don’t hold anyone accountable to the mission, they view you as weak and they start to believe that where they work as a joke, which deflates their pride in where they work, which in turn makes it feel like what they do does not matter.

You see how all the pieces just tetris perfectly together? At any rate, this means you need to be capable of confrontation. Not like angry confrontation. Don’t go around screaming at people. But when an employee blatantly ignores your rules or isn’t doing their job, you need to nip it in the bud and confront them about it.

That might be hard for you, but the more you do it, the easier it will become and the better you will feel about yourself. In addition, if someone appears to be unmotivated and they simply aren’t hustling or doing a very good job, you need to sit them down and tell them to their face: 

Use a strong voice

“Right now, I don’t see you putting out the effort we need in order to be a world-class restaurant. However, I believe you’re capable of being a stand-out server, or bartender or busser or cook, whatever. Here are the strengths I see in you.” And then list off three or four strengths.

And if you’re like, “My staff doesn’t have any strengths Dave. They’re a bunch of morons.”

Well, 1) that’s just plain cruel, but 2) if that’s true, then those individuals probably shouldn’t be working there. I mean if you truly believe an employee has no strengths, then why did you hire them in the first place?

That sort of makes you the moron, doesn’t it? Just sayin’, dog! I’m just sayin’ that hearing from their boss that they are capable of being a standout anything will make them feel good about themselves and motivate them to try harder because they don’t want to let you down.

But in order to motivate them to rise up, after listing their strengths, you need to follow up with: “With that said, those are your strengths I see, but I know that you have the capability to perform at a lot higher level than you are now.” You let them know that you see the value in them, but that it’s not enough in order to work at this amazing place of yours.

That’s called accountability. This all goes back to your mission statement and your culture. I mean, why would any employee listen to you when it comes to working harder or performing at a higher level?

And the answer is–well, if you saw my video on building a mission you’d know now, wouldn’t you? So go watch it. Ha! Gotcha. Some people call that clickbait. I call it “building suspense and anticipation.”

Ok, now, before we go, you’re probably sitting there like, “You missed one Dave. What about money? You didn’t even mention the bling bling.”

The Role of Financial Motivation

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Money Matters, but it’s Not Everything

People are motivated by money, and don’t try and tell me different. This is true. Money is a big motivator, and it should be one of your biggest areas of focus: to make sure your employees are well-paid. But the way to succeed in helping your employees make more money is an indirect strategy. It’s not paying them more per hour out of your pocket.

It’s making sure your place is so amazing that it’s packed all the time, because our industry works off tips. And the more sales the restaurant makes, the more money the staff makes.

So your job to motivate the staff money-wise is to become an expert at marketing and getting butts in the seats, and I have more videos for that as well.

In addition, you need to understand that motivation is not one size fits all. Different people are motivated by different things. And we call this intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within.

These people are driven by the personal satisfaction and enjoyment in their jobs. They are driven by a desire to achieve goals and be great at what they do.


Extrinsic Motivation is the type of motivation that comes from external factors such as rewards, recognition, or money. So if you’re really good at your job in restaurant management as a leader, you’ll be able to identify which of these is more inherent in each of your employees so you can motivate them properly.

But in general, most people are made up of a combination of the two. It’s just identifying the percentage or portion that makes up each part of the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

So I hope that all makes sense and didn’t confuse you too much.  I’m sure you’re as smart as a yankee doodle dandy.

Restaurant Management

Motivating and inspiring your restaurant staff is an ongoing journey that requires a mix of strategies and a deep understanding of your team’s unique needs. By making them feel important, involving them in decision-making, acknowledging their contributions, leading by example, and holding them accountable, you can create a motivated and dedicated team that contributes to your restaurant’s success.

Remember, it’s not just about the money; it’s about creating an environment where your employees genuinely want to work, grow, and thrive. So, go out there, inspire your team, and make your restaurant a place where excellence shines. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

If you want more restaurant tips, go watch my youtube channel (TheRealBarman) HERE or listen to my podcast (TheRealBarman) HERE. I’m here for you and if you have any questions, reach out to me via email HERE. Check out my Restaurant Management Masterclass HERE. Whatever you do, make it a good one and be the best boss you can be. Cheers!