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How to transform your restaurant staff in to advocates

Posted by Donald Burns on Aug 24, 2018 8:16:00 AM

A hype-man is a person whose main purpose is to bring the energy. They support the lead artist on stage by – as their title suggests – hyping up the crowd by dancing, rhyming, and pumping as much energy into the venue as possible.

If you’re wondering where you get one of these restaurant hype-men, look no further than your restaurant staff. As the face of your brand to customers and prospective employees, your staff are in the perfect position to excite others about your restaurant, more specifically your mission and purpose.

Investing the time and energy today that’s needed to transform your restaurant staff into effective hype men – in professional circles, we call them brand advocates – will yield huge benefits both in the short and long term. Here's how:

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Why are brand advocates beneficial?

Restaurants have two customers: Internal – your staff– 
and external – your guests.

It’s a huge misconception that your external customer is more valuable than your internal customer – that is, the people who have actually bought into your brand's mission, their time and energy into moving that same mission forward.

So, why should you divert your focus from external customers and invest your time into turning your team into brand advocates?

You get big return 

As with any investment, you’re looking for a return and the stats don’t lie: Gallup's meta-analysis of employee engagement shows that business units with high employee engagement have 28% less internal theft or shrinkage and 21% higher productivity.

It's a smart, cost effective business move

Staffing is a big concern for restaurant owners across the country: The United States is, at present, in the midst of a multi-industry labor short shortage and the “restaurant and accommodations” sector saw a 73% employee turnover rate in 2017. With the cost of turning one hourly employee hovering near $6000.00, engaging your team to become brand advocates for your restaurant is a smart business decision - especially because they live and breathe your business on the daily. 

Increased business visibility

Companies that have a strong employee advocacy program definitely increase their visibility. Messages shared by employees
went 561% further than the same message shared on a brand owned channel; brand messages are reshared an average of 24x when distributed by an employee vs. the brand. Saying you’re good is one thing; when your team says your brand is good, you make it into the bonus round.

So here’s how to start transforming your restaurant staff into brand advocates: 

1. Drive your team's learning experience

During the interview process, your new team member was likely very fired up about joining your restaurant’s staff; starting a new professional opportunity and chapter in your life is a very exciting time.

Sadly, many restaurants fail to capitalize on this “new job” excitement and put the kibosh on their chance to transform new staff into brand advocates day one.

Here’s how it usually goes: Your new staff member shows up for the first day and are told to read the 45-page employee handbook — sit in the corner, read the manual, and fill out paperwork. They then get a tour, maybe some basic OSHA mandated training, and then they’re let loose on the floor. This isn't how it should look like. 

Instead, on a new staff member’s first day, you should hold an employee welcoming party. You want to make their first day memorable in the best way possible; Make sure to clear your calendar so you have time to focus on really getting them excited about joining your team.

Once again, remember that your new team members (internal customers) must be treated just as great (and maybe even better) than your external customers (guests). On boarding sets the tone for how the employee is going to connect with your brand. Take it seriously, put some energy into it.


2. Treat your staff like assets

Your restaurant’s staff members are assets, not liabilities. 
If you think that restaurant staff are lazy and entitled, you will tend to find yourself surrounded by lazy and entitled people.

When you focus on the bad, you tend to get more of it. Focus on your team members’ natural strengths; find ways to help them flourish by playing to their strengths.

So your server may not be the best at talking to customers, but have you noticed that they’re incredibly adept at anticipating a customer's needs three steps before it happens? Maybe they consistently run other staff members food and drinks, while also managing their own workload. Impressive.

How can you learn about your restaurant staff’s strengths? Talk to your team more and find out what makes them get out of bed in the morning, as well as what makes them tick. Find out what their dreams and goals are in life, both professional and personal.

In today’s competitive job market, employees want to work for companies that give them opportunities to advance their career, whether that be developing new skills, learning from a mentor, or having a clearly outlined path of success.

Find a way to help your staff achieve their and they will go into battle for you and your brand.


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3. Show appreciation to your staff

The two most powerful words you can say to another person are:
Thank You.

Think of how great it feels when a guest walks up to you after enjoying a meal at your restaurant and says those two words to you. It feels pretty good, doesn’t it? Your team wants to experience that as well. Give it to them.

Saying thank you is probably the simplest yet most effective thing you can do to transform your restaurant staff into brand advocates. The best thing about it? It costs you nothing. Sincerity and appreciation are paramount to any experience, especially that of your internal customers.

Thank your team openly. There’s an old saying that you should, “critique in private and praise in public”. Wise words.

Take to social media and showcase your brand advocates. Celebrate their birthdays, life events, and accomplishments. Your restaurant is more than just the food and drink you serve, it’s the people who shape the memorable experiences that delight your guests time and time again. Make time to appreciate and share the stories the people on your team.

4. Focus on team experience

If you want to improve your gx — guest experience — you’ve got to focus on the TX —  team experience.

When you focus on making your restaurant a great place to be for staff members, they’ll want to share the good news with others. Here are a few benefits you can offer to employees guaranteed to boost workplace morale:

  • Giving staff members access to an employee area
  • Providing staff meals and discounts on food
  • Health benefits
  • PTO (paid time off)
  • Offering advanced training, coaching, and/or mentorship
  • Creating a scholarship program for students on staff
  • Offering unique benefits, like child care or covering transportation costs

By transforming your restaurant staff into brand advocates, they become a megaphone broadcasting a positive narrative about your restaurant’s brand and mission.

5. Reward their loyalty

love free stuff.  

Giving your staff cool swag like water bottles, sweatshirts (hoodies), baseball caps, bags (backpacks), and stickers makes promoting your restaurant as easy as getting dressed in the morning.

Don’t give them the same t-shirt you expect them to wear at work; make it special, make it unique. Better yet, ask them what they would like.

When your team starts incorporating your restaurants brand into their personal life, then you know you have finally transformed them into brand advocates.


Donald Burns.png Donald Burns is The Restaurant Coach™. He is a leading authority, speaker, and international coach on how restaurant owners, operators and culinary professionals go from just good to becoming outstanding. His mission: Build your brand. Increase your profits. Strengthen your team.

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Topics: Hospitality managers, Hospitality staff, Restaurants, Hospitality training