the profitable side of morale

Accountants make lousy restaurateurs and bar owners, so goes the timeworn adage. True or not, it implies there’s a crucial success quotient not subject to spreadsheet analysis. What number crunchers have difficulty grappling with is the immeasurable impact an intangible such as staff morale has on a venue’s financial performance. Truth is, nothing can make or break a place like the staff, and in this instance, attitude trumps aptitude.

Consider, for a moment, a bar or restaurant with low morale, where employees dread covering their shifts, are antagonistic with coworkers and constantly at odds with management. Unfortunately not uncommon, negatively charged workplaces are certainly not environments conducive for hospitality. They effectively stifle creativity, sap drive and quickly dissipate employee goodwill. While not listed on balance sheets, low morale is a significant liability.

bartenderAs it turns out, the strategy for improving staff morale is straightforward and uncomplicated; an operational initiative of providing employees a clearly delineated career track and an equitable, supportive environment within which to work.

While some may dismiss this ongoing initiative as too “touchy-feely,” bolstering staff morale makes good business sense in a down economy (or any economy, for that matter). People perform better on the job when they believe their efforts are zeroing in on a long-term goal and leading to a better quality of life. Regardless of whether employees intend on making food and beverage a career, affording people a viable path for advancement can profoundly affect their confidence and sales performance. Conversely, bartenders and servers who perceive their jobs as dead ends are prime candidates for burnout.

MORALE BOOSTERS — Perhaps the best question is where to start. While no one set of tactics applies equally for every operation, there are several measures so grounded in human nature as to seem universally applicable.

EARNINGS STATEMENT — Unless a venue attracts an unusually generous crowd, guests rarely tip well for blasé service or lackluster cocktails. On the contrary, a staff that makes great money is likely one that consistently exceeds guests’ expectations. Morale is something of a non-issue when the crew is being well compensated for their efforts by the clientele. Ensuring that the staff makes great tips is in everyone’s best interest, so hedge the bet with the following two items.

• PROGRAM BUY-IN — Getting everyone on the same page is vital. A sure-fire approach is involving the staff in a complete overhaul of the beverage program. Begin by reassessing the bar’s drink mixes and glassware, then proceed to tasks ranging from drink development and menu design to pricing and promotions. Staff buy-in becomes a given when they’re actively involved in the process of recreating the program from the ground up.

• IMPROVED SALES ABILITIES — Most consumers are receptive to following the recommendations of bartender or server, especially if the advice offered is spot-on. Suggestive selling is a proven means of enhancing the guests’ overall experience, as well as boosting ticket averages and increasing gratuities. With surging consumer interest in premium spirits, it is easier to upsell guests when the staff can quickly articulate why a particular brand is worth its elevated price.

• DON’T BE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY — Working for blowhards is a bummer. Their caustic temperaments inevitably create toxic work environments, which in bars or restaurants, dissipate staff morale, undercut performance and foster the conditions for theft. Is it a leap in logic to presume that bartenders might find it easier to rip-off a jerk of a boss? Were there a set of commandments governing the conduct of owners, the tablets would certainly include the following: Thou shalt not be a blowhard boss.