Happy Employees, Happy Customers: Uncovering the Benefits of Restaurant Employee Meal Policies

Happy Employees, Happy Customers: Uncovering the Benefits of Restaurant Employee Meal Policies

Happy Employees, Happy Customers: Uncovering the Benefits of Restaurant Employee Meal Policies

In today's competitive restaurant industry, restaurants must offer customers an experience that keeps them returning for more. And while the quality and taste of your food are critically important in creating this experience, service plays an equally significant role.

A happy customer will likely return to a restaurant and tell their friends, to help the restaurant establish a loyal customer base. On the other hand, a bad service experience can damage a restaurant's reputation and cause its rating on review platforms like Yelp or TripAdvisor to drop. 

So, how can a well-implemented employee meal policy help restaurants deliver a better guest experience?

The Benefits of a Restaurant Employee Meal Policy

Increased Employee Loyalty

Restaurant employee meals can create a sense of loyalty among staff, especially in restaurants where a team member's performance is often judged based on efficiency and productivity.

Happy employees equal happy guests

While restaurants are not required to feed personnel, providing free or discounted meals to their workforce shows an appreciation for their contributions. And providing these employee meals can help ensure that all staff has access to nutritious food.

Reduced Employee Turnover

Shift meal plans for employees can reduce turnover, improve morale, and promote a healthy work-life balance. And reducing staff turnover is especially important in 2023, which exceeds the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 estimate of 75% staff retention and reduces costs associated with hiring and training new employees. When you consider the direct operating costs of food, beverages, and labor, staff meals can pay for themselves in terms of lost productivity. 

Increased Team Bonding

Teamwork is key in all restaurants

Pre-shift meals can help improve team dynamics and performance. Sitting down and enjoying a food together helps develop a team and improve staff relationships. And a tighter and more cohesive team is critical in a restaurant where teamwork is essential to success. 

Increased Focus

For this requirement, restaurants must provide meals immediately before the team member's shift. Doing so helps ensure that staff can access food to maintain their energy levels and perform their tasks effectively. After all, whether working in the front or back of the house, restaurant staff should be thinking about feeding guests and not themselves.

Additionally, a well-fed staff helps reduce unprofessional or distracting practices like sneaking or eating food off guests' plates. 

The Impact of Restaurant Meal Policies on Customer Satisfaction

Employee meal policies significantly add to an employer's overall team benefits package. This benefit can be relatively inexpensive to offer by helping manage costs, curb waste, and create a culture of efficiency.

With hiring restaurant staff becoming increasingly challenging, creating great employee packages is especially important to help companies attract and retain employees while improving customer satisfaction. 

Once on staff, happy and highly-productive team members are more likely to lead to better service, quicker table turns, and increased sales, which can help restaurants achieve their revenue targets and increase profitability.

Additionally, allowing staff to order off a restaurant menu at a discount encourages them to become more familiar with and enthusiastic about your restaurant's food and beverage.

Creating an Employee Meal Program

Establish a Meal Budget

An effective restaurant meal policy should establish a budget and clearly define the meal allowance, eligibility requirements, and any cost-sharing.

Consider the cost of food and any additional costs, such as utility expenses or employee wages, when designing your program. Finally, a restaurant meal policy should specify which dishes, if any, are excluded from the allowance and consider team meals or discounts you will be extending to your staff.

Create a Written Policy

A good restaurant employee meal policy is crucial to creating a healthy and productive workplace. It outlines restaurant meal policy expectations and should be accessible for staff reference.

This policy should address free or discounted meals, shift meals, and rules and regulations. 

Typical policies include rules for restaurant staff, such as how much food is allowed per person, when the restaurant provides meals, and where meals are served and eaten. 

Lastly, management should review the policy periodically to ensure its effectiveness. As laws and regulations vary and change, it may be advisable to seek legal counsel before updating the employee handbook for accuracy. 

Track Employee Meals in the POS

Entering meals in the POS before eating can help track staff's meals. Keeping a record of every free meal offered is also beneficial to manage inventory better and limiting employee meal expenses. 

When training on a new menu item, team members can order from the menu and have the restaurant account for the meal expense in the POS. In addition to tracking employee meal costs and ordering from the menu, an effective meal policy should provide free or discounted meals to encourage team members to eat at work.

Only Allow Managers to Approve Discounts

Consider requiring a manager's approval for meal discounts to limit potential abuse. Employers should also avoid providing free meals that can account for food waste or theft. Overall, an effective staff meal policy balances employee rights within reasonable limits.

So, is a meal policy right for your restaurant?

Selecting an employee restaurant meal policy can have a significant impact on the success of the restaurant. While every restaurant should weigh the pros and cons, a meal policy is an easy way to boost team morale and satisfaction, and the benefits don't stop there. You'll also see reduced staff turnover, increased team bonding, and improved focus. You'll benefit from better service and happier customers. 

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