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Restaurant Operations: Problem Employees

By Maren Hickton

Cafe's and restaurants are a business and not a democracy. I encourage owners to immediately adopt a "matter of fact" (no announcements necessary) turnaround of any mutiny of non-compliant employees and take control of the stern. Develop an "employee handbook" which, for smaller establishments, can be designed on single page of paper printed front and back entitled: "What We Expect From You..." on the front side--and on the reverse: "What You Can Expect From Us...", including disciplinary procedures with little leeway. Make sure that you have "employment at will" agreements with your staff to protect you and them legally so that there are no misunderstandings.

For example, if John Smith is rude to customers, routinely late, or otherwise does not adhere to policies and procedures determined BY YOU, take corrective action promptly and do not play favorites with disciplinary procedures no matter how good one staff member is over another. First offense: verbal warning. Second offense: written warning. Third offense: suspension and/or firing. While owners may think -- and even however realistic it is that you may have a "small pool" of employees to choose from, blatant disregard concerning customer issues will surely sink your business and those employees that do dedicate themselves to your venture will also suffer in lost clientele, wages, tips and ultimately jobs.

Maren L. Hickton is the principal of Maren Incorporated, a Full-Service Hospitality Consulting and Marketing Firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

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