Restaurants should consider bonus pay for key shifts

Restaurant brunch
Incentive pay for key restaurant shifts might be a good idea, Advice Guy says. | Photo: Shutterstock


Dear Advice Guy,

I read your article about surge pricing. I have a problem with callouts on Sunday brunch, especially if we get slammed on Saturday (or [employees] go out after work on Saturday night). What do you think about surge pay for key shifts to discourage callouts?

– Owner


I like the idea of bonus pay for key shifts, especially for back-of-house employees. In traditional tipped environments, there is a strong financial incentive for front-of-house staff to suit up for their busiest shifts. For back-of-house staff, a slow Tuesday typically pays the same as a busy Sunday brunch, so if you are inclined to call out, which would you choose? As Anthony Bourdain famously said, “…nobody wants to do brunch.”

My advice is to frame this bonus pricing not as a negative, “People are hungover and calling out so I’m gonna give some extra money,” but as a positive benefit to working for your operation, “Brunch is key to our operation, averaging XX% of weekly sales. In recognition for your hard work, I’d like to offer employees who work brunch shifts $YY.”

My other advice is to be transparent in tying this increased pay to revenue targets. If you win, the staff wins. Model a few different scenarios to see how the numbers look before extending this opportunity to make sure that it is indeed a win/win.

Finally, research increasingly says that the intangibles—praise, positive feedback, thanks—can be as valuable as compensation in retaining employees. Situate the financial incentive in a larger culture of appreciation for everyone’s hard work on your behalf.

More on bonus structures here.

Have a question for Advice Guy? Send it to Heather.Lalley@informa.com.