For the love of service: 12 ways to show restaurant workers love on Valentine's Day
Written by: [me] marketeam
Valentine's Day is often considered a day for love and affection, but for those who work in the restaurant industry, it can be a stressful and overwhelming holiday. Have you ever tried to refill someone's water glass when they suddenly get down on one knee and propose, hoping the ring doesn't disintegrate from the sparkling wine bath it's currently sitting in? No? We have, and it's not all Russel Stovers and roses.
From dealing with demanding customers to working long hours, restaurant staff often find themselves exhausted and beat up by the end of the night, while missing out on their own celebrations.
Whether you're a customer or restaurant owner, showing love and appreciation to the people who work hard to make sure we have memorable dining experiences can help make the world a better place every February 14th. For customers, treating restaurant workers nicely is not only good for karma, but it'll also likely impress your date and ensure your night goes as well as can be in the process. We can't promise they'll fall in love with you (that part's up to you!) but good manners are always a smart move.
And while guests are vying to impress their dates, restaurant owners can use Valentine's Day to impress their staff. As every restaurateur knows, great hospitality is what brings guests back time and time again - not just great food - and the same is true for your staff. Let's face it, everyone can use some help retaining staff with our current labor climate where 88% of operators are likely to hire additional employees over the next 6-12 months. It's true in both divorce courts and restaurants: it's cheaper to keep her (or him, or them).
In this blog, we'll discuss ways to share the love with restaurant workers on Valentine's Day, from both the guest and restaurant operators' perspectives.
12 ways to show restaurant workers love on Valentine's Day:
Ways for guests to show love to restaurant workers: 1. Be understanding and patient with any delays or mistakes 2. Compliment restaurant workers on their service or food 3. Leave a generous tip to acknowledge their efforts 4. Tell your friends, write a positive review or provide feedback to the restaurant management 5. Avoid making excessive demands or complaints Ways for restaurant owners and operators to show love to restaurant workers: 1. Recognize and acknowledge their hard work and dedication 2. Provide a special treat for the staff on Valentine's Day 3. Offer incentives or bonuses for working on the holiday 4. Tell your friends, write a positive review or provide feedback to the restaurant management 5. Offer flexible scheduling or time off after the busy holiday 6. Listen to their feedback and address any concerns or issues 7. Send your team a love note
Ways for guests to show love to restaurant workers:
1. Be understanding and patient with any delays or mistakes
Restaurant staff work hard to ensure each guest has a great dining experience regardless of the day; however, on busy holidays like Valentine's Day, there is a greater chance for delays and mistakes. Dining rooms are stuffed to the brim with two-tops and everyone is working quickly to have as many turns as possible during the night. Instead of getting impatient or angry, show understanding and patience. A little bit of empathy for what they go through will be a major green flag to your date.
2. Compliment restaurant workers on their service or food
Providing compliments is a quick and easy way to brighten someone's day and letting them know that they did an outstanding job can go a long way in making them feel appreciated. When you see great hospitality, make sure to let the staff know how much you appreciate their hard work.
Maybe your server brings out a comped dessert to celebrate your new engagement (we can discuss why proposing on Valentine's Day is maybe not the move later), or chef really did something special with that beurre blanc sauce. Don't be afraid to compliment the chef or buy the kitchen a round. You never know how much a compliment can mean to someone, and it could even be the reason they skip that extra trip to the walk-in with a pack of tissues "just to check something" during their shift. 😢
3. Leave a generous tip to acknowledge their efforts
Valentine's Day is one of the busiest days in the restaurant industry, and it can become difficult for servers to keep up with orders. As the old saying goes, "If you can't say it with words, say it with money," or something like that. Leaving a generous tip is a great way to show that you appreciate their hard work and effort in making your dining experience memorable, especially if your server went above and beyond or brought out any extra treats.
Regardless of what that stingy relative tries to tell you, 20% is considered standard so we recommend aiming for at least 25% (and keep the tip in mind as part of the total bill when you choose which restaurant you'll be dining at). When it comes to impressing your date, no one wants to date a cheapskate, so it's likely your date won't find a $12 tip on a $150 tab cute.
4. Tell your friends, write a positive review or provide feedback to the restaurant management
After the experience, leaving a positive review on Google or Yelp, or providing feedback to restaurant management is an excellent way to recognize good service. It also provides some encouragement to the staff, especially if you call them out by name, and lets them know that their work is valued and appreciated. Also, don't be afraid to spread the word about it to friends and family. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful, and it will help the restaurant thrive long term.
5. Avoid making excessive demands or complaints
Everyone is trying to impress their date on Valentine's Day, and while we grapple with the existential crisis of realizing none of us have unique experiences, you should keep this in mind when it comes to expectations for restaurant staff. The restaurant is likely to be full, which makes excessive demands or complaints even more draining - both with time and morale. Remember, the staff is doing everything possible to cater to all guests, so be patient and respectful. If you have a super duper special request, like a proposal, call ahead (not the day of) and see if the restaurant will be able to accommodate you. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to plan something for after dinner.
And for the love of Gordon Ramsey do NOT thrust a ring box into your servers' hands while you're "going to the bathroom" and tell them to put the ring in your date's dessert/champagne glass/lasagna. If you knew how easily good pens go missing in a restaurant, you wouldn't even think about entrusting your engagement ring to someone else there.
Ways for restaurant owners and operators to show love to restaurant workers:
1. Recognize and acknowledge their hard work and dedication
Acknowledge the hard work of your staff by expressing your appreciation to them. A simple thank you note or brief speech can be an excellent way to say thank you to the staff. Simply recognizing that they're spending their Valentine's Day with you and your guests and not their loved ones can go a long way.
If you only do one thing on the list, let it be this one. It costs nothing and creates an empathetic environment. In the words of Disney cinematic genius Kenny Ortega, "We're all in this together!"
2. Provide a special treat for the staff on Valentine's Day
This way to show love came directly from our team of former restaurateurs, so you know it's a tried-and-true winner. Offering a special treat for the staff on Valentine's Day can create a warm and positive environment within the restaurant because it shows the staff that they are valued and their hard work is appreciated.
The treats can range from a 12-pack of beers to some Haribo gummies to even a pack of individually wrapped Hostess snack cakes (and you'll probably get a few bonus "thanks for the ding dong" jokes to make things even more fun). The key here is to know what your team likes and make sure options are available for non-drinkers. The treats will cost you very little but will mean a whole lot to your team.
3. Offer incentives or bonuses for working on the holiday
Monetary incentives or bonuses for working on Valentine's Day is an excellent way to show appreciation to the staff. This could be in the form of a higher hourly rate or time-and-a-half for hours worked on the holiday.
You can also try holding internal competitions for serving staff like whoever can sell the most of a certain special or the highest-priced bottle of wine. Not only does this incentivize your team to be on top of their game, but it also adds a fun element of competition and camaraderie among the staff.
4. Create a positive and supportive work environment
Creating a positive work environment is essential for employee satisfaction and retention. By encouraging direct and open communication, offering support and promoting teamwork, you can create a positive work environment that encourages employees to feel valued. This not only helps with staff morale and job satisfaction but also translates to better hospitality for your guests.
And one of the best ways to ensure a positive work environment on Valentine's Day is by making sure no one works on an empty stomach, aka providing family meal. Pizza is always a hit, or you can order dinner from another local restaurant and spread the restaurant love even further. If your first service starts in the morning, grab a box of donuts. Food is one of the best ways to share love and appreciation (which is probably why a lot of us got into the industry to begin with).
5. Offer flexible scheduling or time off after the busy holiday
Working on holidays like Valentine's Day can be stressful and tiring for employees so offering flexible scheduling or time off after the holiday can be a great way to show appreciation and support for your staff. They're giving up their own day-of celebrations after all, so providing them a chance to do a makeup version is a great way to recognize their hard work.
And don't forget, their significant others are probably not thrilled they won't be spending the night with them too, so offering a little bit of extra time off is a great way to keep everyone happy. A well-rested and appreciated staff will lead to better service and hospitality for future shifts.
6. Listen to their feedback and address any concerns or issues
Kitchen staff ticked off that you decided to make the Valentine's Day special a cheese souffle that takes 45 minutes to prepare, and it pushed back all the other orders keeping them in the weeds all night? Or did squishing in those 10 extra two-tops lead to a bunch of knocked serving trays and a potential fire code violation?
Not every idea is a great idea. Having an open-door policy for listening to employee feedback and addressing any issues is essential to creating a positive and supportive work environment. This shows the staff that their voice is valued and their concerns will be taken seriously. You never know, they could have some really great ideas that will make your next holiday even more of a success. Treating your team like you value their thoughts will intrinsically increase how much they care about the quality of their work and their investment in your business.
7. Send your team a love note
Don't let elementary school kids have all the fun. Even grown adults love getting little notes of recognition to say hey, I see you and I appreciate what you're doing. Tell us why you love your favorite restaurant and we’ll send them a special, customized Valentine.
Whether it’s because of the great food, the amazing service, or an unforgettable experience, send them some love this Valentine's Day and show them how much you appreciate them!
Showing love and appreciation to restaurant staff on Valentine's Day is crucial to building morale, creating a positive work environment and - let's face it - having a good date night.
As customers, being respectful, kind and generous can make all the difference in showing love and appreciation towards restaurant staff. Your night will likely run more smoothly and your date will definitely be impressed.
As restaurant owners and operators, it is important to recognize the hard work and dedication of the staff. It's not only a way to show gratitude but also impacts labor stability and retention. It's hard enough to find restaurant staff, so the best insurance you can buy is treating the ones you already employ the best you can. This Valentine's Day, let's spread the love and show restaurant workers how much we appreciate them.