The holidays can be the most challenging time of the year for waitstaff — this crazy-busy time means more customers, and more opportunities to misstep.
But there is a clear way to set a positive tone for the season: by building the confidence in your team. As CEO of The Energy Project Tony Schwartz summarizes, “Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance.” By increasing the confidence of your waitstaff, you boost both their happiness and performance during the holiday rush.
That means that you and your staff each have a positive experience while bringing in significant business. We outlined exactly how to boost your staff’s confidence for the upcoming holiday rush in four easy steps:
1. Start Preparing Early
The earlier you start preparing for the holidays, the more confident your team will be in its ability to meet the holiday rush.
First, consider if you need to hire extra part-time workers to help out your team. An extra hand or two can make a huge difference to a business.
If you’re looking for temporary employees, check-in with former employees. Some of them may be heading back into town for the holidays or want to pick up some extra hours to pay for gifts. These former employees already know the expectations and processes, so it’s easy for them to adjust back into the work environment.
Next, bring everyone together for a seasonal meeting.
Talk about any revenue goals you may have, as well as challenges the team faced in prior years. By shedding light on the intentions for the business and any expected difficulties, you bring transparency to a stressful season.
At the end of the meeting, open up the conversation to questions or concerns — it gives staff members the opportunity to clarify any issues before the season begins.
2. Give Professional Development Opportunities
You may be thinking, “How do I have time to create professional development opportunities during the holidays?” Even though business owners have a lot of responsibility — and it seems like a lot of work — businesses benefit tremendously from professional development opportunities in the holiday season.
Research indicates that it’s one of the best ways to improve confidence, especially when morale is low.
Leading up to the holidays, give your waitstaff extra support. Talk to them about their long-term career goals, and offer distinct opportunities for them to take positive steps on the job. For example, if you employ a waiter who loves wine, consider giving them extra exposure to the wine program. You could even offer to pay for a sommelier class for them to take in January.
These small investments in your workforce increase employee engagement and confidence during the holidays that will last all year.
3. Give Feedback
The restaurant industry can be challenging because waitstaff’s performance depends on the whims and needs of customers. As in every customer-facing business, there’s an extra level of stress when people expect the highest level of service.
To help counter any feelings of insecurity and doubt, offer words of praise, affirmation, and positive feedback. This encouragement goes a long way, especially when it’s timely. Here are a couple examples of positive, impactful feedback:
“Yesterday, you stayed late when we needed you and helped us close the restaurant. I really appreciate your going the extra mile to help me and your fellow servers. Thanks, again, and please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
“Wow! That was a really difficult customer, and you handled their complaints with a lot of grace and care. You called the manager over at exactly the right time, and that’s exactly what we want waiters to do in these situations. How are you feeling about it?”
These small gestures make a huge impact on the work environment — after all, when employees feel appreciated, they’re more likely to retain their composure during stressful moments.
Sometimes, you need to give critical feedback too. When that’s the case, keep your tone neutral and be as specific as possible. Always put the comment within the proper context and offer your help in solving the issue.
By being honest and supportive of staff, you diffuse tension and help them to continue working through a busy time.
4. Balance Employee Preferences
One of the reasons why the holidays are stressful is because a lot of employees want to be with their loved ones. Working makes it more difficult to travel to see friends and family members — instead, they’re serving other people on Christmas Day and New Years.
One way to increase confidence is to try to honor waitstaff preferences. Give all employees the opportunity to request time off or switch shifts with each other. Through When I Work, they can request days off way in advance, giving you the time you need to balance schedules.
Although it may seem difficult, and it’s not always possible, do your best to honor these needs. Listening to employees makes them more confident and at ease at work — it’s better than their than feeling resentful about spending too much time on the job.
5. Plan a Celebration
It’s a lot easier for people to give all their energy to a goal or mission when there’s an end in sight. With that in mind, plan a holiday celebration for your team in January. Put time into making a plan that excites the waitstaff, like a night out on the town or a field trip for the day.
Again, when your waitstaff knows you’re invested in their success, they’re willing to do the best job they can for you. Having a light at the end of the tunnel serves as a reminder that you think they’re worth celebrating. At the event, recognize each person or team.
Building confidence in your waitstaff helps them to know that they’re valued — as people, as workers, and as contributors to the restaurant. This sense of support underpins motivation and confidence in oneself and the business as a whole.