Everyone has those days when they’re running a few minutes late, but tardiness becomes a serious hazard to your business when your staff starts coming in habitually late. Late employees equal decreased profits and revenue for your restaurant, not to mention unhappy customers who might be left waiting for service during a shift change.

Here are some ways to motivate your team to show up on time:

1. Tell them the why.

Employees (and people in general) are more likely to respond to requests when they understand the purpose behind the request. When you’re talking to your team about being on time, give them a better reason than “because it’s your job.”

The real reasons you need your team to show up on time have to do with how you run your business. Team members who show up late can cost an individual restaurant thousands of dollars annually in lost business and overtime for those employees who wind up staying late to cover part of their co-worker’s shift.

In addition to lost revenue, habitually late team members lower the overall morale of the team. Tardiness disrupts the usual flow of each shift and breeds mistrust and hard feelings among the team. These bad feelings can get in the way of the service you’re providing, which can reduce the overall experience for your diners.

2. Set the standard.

Now that team members know the why behind your tardiness policy, it’s time to set the standard. If your policy isn’t already clearly stated in your employee handbook, add a section that details it. Make it clear when you will take action, whether that’s after the first tardy, after 3 tardies in 3 month period, or whatever makes the most sense to you. Have new employees sign an agreement that they will follow the policy and they understand there will be disciplinary action if they don’t.

Have current employees sign the same agreement, even if you discussed tardiness during their training. Talk to each employee individually about the policy, have them sign the agreement, and notify them when you will take disciplinary action.

3. Follow through.

This is the part that can be the most difficult for managers: following through with the policy. The key to enforcing a tardiness policy is making sure you follow through on your end, even if it means terminating an otherwise good employee when they fail to adhere to their end of the tardiness agreement.

4. Come up with intermediate steps.

Termination doesn’t need to be the first, or even second, recourse. You can have intermediate disciplinary actions that give employees a wake-up call, but also give them a chance to figure out what they need to do on their end to show up on time. Here are some ideas of how to take disciplinary action:

  • The late employee needs to buy the team coffee (or donuts, bagels, etc.) the next day
  • The late employee is responsible for taking out the trash (or some other task nobody wants to do) for a week

5. Reward promptness.

Take the time to reward employees. You can do this individually, but to get the whole team to show up on time, put them to work on a goal. Make a team-wide goal for the month or quarter, and add an incentive. For example, if the entire team can go a whole month without being late, you’ll take them out to the movies or for ice cream. Talk to your employees during your next team meeting to come up with an incentive together that will encourage them without breaking the bank.

Late employees can hinder restaurant operations and cause friction among your staff. Use these ideas to get employees to show up on time and build some trust among your team.

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