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Maintaining High Spirits in Low Times

At the best of times, the restaurant and hospitality industry experiences more than a 70% annual turnover rate, with a much higher number in some cases. Since the onset of the coronavirus and accompanying shutter of on-site traffic, of the approximately 15 million people working in the restaurant industry, around 8 million have been laid off. The pressures of these losses have had a net negative psychic impact on mental health around the world, leaving spirits low. The good news is that we’ll get through it, and we’ll come out stronger. When we do, we’ll need to reinvigorate our workforce, from restaffing business to improving restaurant staff’s morale, to ensure a happy and healthy team.

What Is Morale?

In short, morale is the feelings and emotional health of either an individual or a group, usually in relation to something else and typically associated with a task. For example, you can identify morale in a team sport or a business. You see morale in places where expectations and outcomes are codependent. It’s near impossible to gauge morale, which is a person-by-person issue that evolves. As a measure of engagement, morale is a powerful motivator to enhance your productivity and increase your revenue; studies indicate that low morale can lead to major financial losses. The moral of morales: it can be hard to qualify tangibly, but you know when you don’t have it.

How To Boost Morale

There are a lot of ways to motivate your employees, from financial incentives to benefits. While those are important measures to enhance your restaurant staff morale, they may not be easy to access during an economic downturn. Let’s look at some of the most accessible steps to boosting your team’s morale. 


Your staff wants to feel valued, and part of that is understanding why things happen. So, it’s no surprise that one of the top values that employees are looking for in a working environment is trust. Transparency is at the heart of trust, as you demonstrate to your team that you have nothing to hide. The beauty of transparency is that it builds and develops that trust. You’ve likely had to have some difficult conversations over the last several weeks, and those talks are much easier if you’re just honest in what’s going on. For example, if you had to lay off any staff over the pandemic, tell them exactly why. Assuage their feelings that it’s not personal but circumstantial. Most importantly, communicate that when appropriate, you want them back.

Set Clear Expectations

The difference between transparency and setting clear expectations is minor but straightforward. Transparency is the “why” and expectations are the “how” of the matter; it’s the instruction that your staff needs to satisfy their demands. Setting S.M.A.R.T., reasonable goals for your staff is the first step in identifying what they can do and how you can help in the future. You can monitor the outcome of those expectations through restaurant analytics, and in-person contact, to gauge success. Don’t be afraid to let your staff set goals for you too, which builds rapport — another step in enhancing restaurant staff morale. 

Be Kind

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies —’God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’” – Kurt Vonnegut

One of the easiest things you can do to help everyone is to show kindness. It costs you nothing but your patience and has the potential to go a long way to boosting morale. Additionally, the perks to kindness are reciprocal between both the giver and receiver. Taking the time to show, not just courtesy, but genuine decency and grace to someone can go a long way to improving your restaurant staff morale.

How Morale Affects Productivity

Investing in your restaurant staff morale can have a cumulatively positive value on your employee retention rates, while helping the people on your team through difficult times. Employee turnover is expensive, with training valued at an estimated $3500 per staff member. To put that into perspective, if you run a small operation with 40 people on staff, 28 members of your staff will leave over a year, per the national average reported above. At $3500, that’s $98,000 per year in training costs.

There’s a direct correlation between your efforts to enhance your restaurant staff morale and the community that you build in your establishment. Studies indicate that not only are happier employees 13% more productive, but they’re more loyal. Budgets are tight enough, and the quarantine’s onset has required the hospitality industry to run at a razor-thin margin. Retaining your staff through morale-boosting efforts is a great way to decrease your spend while giving back to your team.


Again, happy employees are more productive and more likely to stay around. Perhaps more importantly, the world is a complicated place, and one made more challenging through the pressures of the pandemic than many have experienced in a lifetime. Keep that in mind as you task out responsibilities, and consider taking things a little easier with your staff. Build the kind of environment that you’d want to work in, and employ the golden rule at every turn. 

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About the Author

Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot. At home, like the rest of the world right now, he’s finding time to play with the kids and create art.

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