Hospitality Know-how

How to Motivate Your Hospitality Employees

We will show you the importance of motivating employees in the hospitality industry, the challenges you face, and the strategies you can use.

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Your kitchen and service staff face the daily challenge of creating delicious food and keeping your business running smoothly. On top of that, your employees face other challenges, from long hours to high stress levels and physical strain.

For this reason, it is important that you focus on motivating your team. According to a comprehensive study by Stepstone, only 37 % of respondents really feel truly motivated by their employers.

In this article, we will show you the importance of employee motivation, the challenges you need to overcome, and helpful strategies you can implement to promote employee motivation in your restaurant.

The importance of motivating your restaurant staff

Hospitality is the name of the game in the restaurant industry: every guest interaction counts! That's why your employees are the key to a positive guest experience and customer satisfaction.

They represent your company and help create a welcoming atmosphere that your guests will remember. Motivating your employees is critical to reaping the benefits of their hard work and promoting the long-term success of your business.

But employee motivation is not just about pay. Stepstone's Engagement Advantage Report shows that while money is important internationally, other factors have a greater impact on motivation.

Here are the top motivators for your employees:


Acknowledging and appreciating the hard work and accomplishments of your employees can go a long way toward boosting morale. Whether it's a simple "thank you" or a formal recognition program, acknowledging their efforts fosters a sense of value and encourages them to strive for excellence.

Relationships with colleagues and leadership

Positive relationships with coworkers and managers are critical to employee motivation. A supportive and collaborative work environment where individuals feel respected and valued increases job satisfaction and productivity. Building strong interpersonal relationships among team members and fostering open channels of communication can create a sense of belonging.

Work environment

The physical workplace plays a significant role in employee motivation. A well-designed and comfortable work environment promotes productivity and well-being. In addition, fostering a positive organizational culture of trust, respect, and inclusiveness contributes to employee satisfaction. Creating a space where employees feel comfortable and empowered to express themselves fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to their work.

Professional development

Providing opportunities for growth and advancement is essential to keeping employees motivated and engaged. Clear career paths, including training programs, skills development initiatives, and advancement opportunities, demonstrate a commitment to employees' long-term success. Investing in their professional development not only enhances their skills and capabilities, but also fosters loyalty and retention.

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In the hospitality industry, it is essential to understand the key factors that motivate employees. In an environment characterized by fast paced work, changing work schedules, and direct customer contact, employee motivation plays a critical role in operational success.


First, employee motivation has a direct impact on the quality of guest service. Satisfied and motivated employees are more likely to be engaged in their work and provide the highest level of service. The result? Satisfied customers who will return and spread the word about your restaurant.

Second, motivated employees help reduce turnover. Employees who feel valued and supported are more likely to stay with your restaurant. This not only reduces the cost of training new service staff, but also allows you to rely on an existing and well-established team that can work together efficiently.

The motivational factors mentioned above are the basis for developing various incentive systems and retention measures. Once you understand your employees' needs and desires, you can develop strategies to keep them motivated.

a cozy café full of guests

Facing challenges in the hospitality industry

The shortage of skilled workers remains a persistent challenge in the hospitality sector, which is widely recognized as one of the most labor-intensive industries. In particular, since March 2020, the U.S. hospitality sector has struggled with significant layoffs and job losses, underscoring its struggles amid shifts in the labor market.

The impact has been particularly severe in the food and beverage sector, which lost more than 8 million jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, affecting nearly two-thirds of its workforce.

As a result, restaurant operators are experiencing escalating difficulties in both recruiting and retaining qualified employees. While the pandemic has exacerbated this trend, its roots go beyond the immediate crisis. The many reasons behind this development can have a profound impact on the overall success and performance of the hospitality industry.

 High workload

In the hospitality industry, heavy workloads are a common cause of employee dissatisfaction. Long working hours, especially on weekends and holidays, are a fact of life. The associated lack of flexibility makes it difficult for employees to achieve a good work-life balance. This challenge is confirmed by the Employee Expectations Report 2022, which shows that work-life balance has become more important to 79 % of respondents since the pandemic.

 Lack of recognition

A significant factor contributing to staff shortages in the hospitality industry, and one that could be promptly addressed, is the inadequate recognition of employees in their positions. Consequently, despite recruiting efforts by hospitality businesses, many employees depart due to feeling undervalued.

 Minimal growth opportunities

Many restaurant businesses lack training opportunities. Without personal and professional development opportunities, your employees quickly lose motivation to stay with your business. This leads to constant turnover and a high need for new hires – and higher labor costs.

 Social and emotional challenges

Working in the hospitality industry requires not only technical expertise, but also a high level of social and emotional intelligence. Employees must be able to respond flexibly to guests' needs and remain friendly and professional, even in stressful situations.

For these reasons, the hospitality industry has a higher turnover rate than other industries. This makes it more important to motivate employees in the hospitality industry, as this is the only way to successfully manage the day-to-day business and ensure employee and customer satisfaction.

waiter serves a guest dessert in a restaurant

6 Easy ways to motivate your employees

To successfully motivate your employees, you need to focus on the human aspects. With the help of these strategies, you can make work more enjoyable for your employees and increase motivation in your company:

1. Work environment and recreation

Provide your employees with a clean, organized, and safe work environment. The working atmosphere also plays an important role in creating a pleasant working environment: promote respectful and fair treatment in your company!

Don't forget to provide enough resources for your employees to take breaks and relax. This will prevent fatigue and also increase your employees' performance.

2. Recognition and praise

Research shows that the majority of employees believe they would be more motivated and engaged if they received more recognition for their efforts. Therefore, take the time to recognize and praise individual achievements. Personal recognition not only boosts employees' self-confidence, but also promotes a stronger sense of togetherness within the team.

3. Rewards and incentives

In addition to verbal recognition, you can also introduce material rewards and incentives to reward your employees' performance. These can be bonuses, gift certificates, days off, or other benefits. Also, set clear and achievable goals. This will keep your employees motivated and prevent a drop in performance.

4. Teamwork and cohesion

Teamwork can also be a powerful source of motivation. Encourage your employees to support each other and share common goals. For example, organize team-building activities outside of the workplace (such as a scavenger hunt or escape games). This will build a sense of togetherness and improve communication and team spirit.

5. Professional development

As mentioned earlier, the opportunity for personal and professional development is also an important motivator. For example, offer training courses, workshops, and professional development programs to improve their individual skills and support their career goals. Take an interest in their development aspirations and help them realize their potential.

6. Automatization

Make your employees' day easier with a restaurant software solution. Manual processes are replaced with accurate and reliable automated systems, resulting in fewer errors and an overall smoother process.

Your staff can focus on more challenging tasks that require their skills and creativity instead of wasting time on monotonous or time-consuming tasks. As a result, your employees are more satisfied and motivated because they feel valued in their work.

By implementing these motivational strategies in your restaurant and responding to your employees' needs, you can create a positive work environment. In this way, you will encourage employee engagement and motivation, and ensure optimal cooperation.

Employees: key drivers of restaurant success

In summary, motivating your employees is critical to the success of your business. Employees are an important factor for any hospitality business and contribute significantly to a positive guest experience and customer satisfaction.

However, challenges such as skills shortages, high workloads, and low wages often make it difficult to motivate and retain hospitality workers. However, with targeted motivation strategies, you can respond to your employees' needs and successfully meet these challenges in the future. Recognition, a pleasant work environment, and opportunities for personal development play a critical role in motivating employees.

Remember, only motivated employees will give their best and contribute to an outstanding guest experience.

→ Everything you need to know about labor costs

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