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Spontaneous bonuses

The labor crisis... it's everywhere. A softening economy and shortage of qualified employees has restaurants competing for customers and employees. And, as with all cases of supply and demand, the price for a great employee is going up.

In addition to top wages, employers are offering signing bonuses, bounties, and benefits to attract the best and the brightest. You can win this price war... without breaking the bank.

Case study:

Andrew Turner is the General Manager of a casual, family dining restaurant. In the past year, two large chains and an independent have opened nearby, causing Andrew some concern.

His loyal customers continue to visit, and he's confident about how his great food compares to the competition. His biggest worry centers around keeping his good employees. He can't afford to give everyone a raise, but he wants to motivate his current staff and keep them from defecting.

One very simple and effective solution is to give spontaneous bonuses. Spontaneous bonuses are on-the-spot rewards given to employees for excellent performance or actions above and beyond the call of duty. These rewards do wonders for employee morale and motivation.

Spontaneous bonuses are win/win. Employees who earn spontaneous bonuses get the thrill of being instantly rewarded, while managers are not committed to an hourly raise in perpetuity. Raises can be reserved for employees who improve their overall performance or learn new skills. Offering spontaneous bonuses relieves some of the pressure managers feel to offer raises across the board.

Important points of a bonus program:

Make it routine
Managers should always be on the lookout for outstanding performance. I suggest submitting nominations for spontaneous bonuses at the weekly management meeting. Your management team can brainstorm possible candidates who have been "caught doing something right," as Tom Peter would say, during the past week. But don't limit the rewards to the results of these meetings. Spontaneous bonuses work especially well when given on the spot.

Make it public
There's no better way to motivate the whole staff than by making it known that professionalism and excellence are recognized and rewarded. Once word gets around, you can bet that employees will be looking for ways to earn a spontaneous bonus.

Make it formal
With each bonus give a card or a letter on company stationery, signed by the owner or manager. You'd be surprised at how often these end up framed on the wall of a proud parent. We've made a downloadable spontaneous bonus card (black & white and color versions) that you can print out and use.

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