Give Staff a Reason to Stay and Serve with a Smile

By Stephné de Villiers from Exceed Human Resource Consultants

Business is booming in South Africa’s thriving hospitality industry, but with new restaurants and hotels springing up every day, it’s becoming tougher to stand out from the sea of opening specials. If you run a business in this highly competitive industry, you’ll agree that at the end of the day the quality of your staff is probably your biggest differentiator. The most impressive wine list, the best breakfast or the fluffiest pillows in town mean little without the knowledgeable sommelier, friendly waiter or diligent hotel staff to back up your offering.

The question is how do retain your employees and keep them motivated in an industry with a notoriously high staff turnover?

First, consider the matter of incentive. The hospitality industry is infamous for its low wages, but aside from the obvious – increasing wages and offering bonuses when deserved – there are other ways you can reward and incentivise your staff.

Take a leaf from Google’s book: They’re seen as one of the best companies in the world to work for and one of the main reasons is their incredible job perks, which include free gourmet cafeterias, massage rooms and nap pods. While we’re not suggesting implementing anything this extravagant, it’s been proven that job perks go a long way in retaining and motivating staff. Small gestures could make a big impact: If you run a restaurant, consider offering a free staff meal every Friday to boost morale and thank your hardworking team for the week’s efforts. Give employees who have to face a long commute every day a warm breakfast when they arrive in the morning. How about discounts on hotel stays for your staff and their families? It can even be something as simple as giving employees the day off on their birthdays.

An incentive can also take the form of training. Ensuring there’s a system in place whereby junior staff members can learn from their more experienced colleagues, show employees that they’re appreciated and are getting something invaluable in return for their hard work: the ability to grow their skills and careers.

Have the right tools and listen to staff

Secondly, remember that there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the right tools for the job. So, invest in solutions that not only make your staff’s jobs easier, but enable them to work faster and better. Update your systems and stay informed on the latest specialised tech solutions that can complement and enhance their day-to-day tasks. This also applies to more low-tech equipment – for example, when was the last time you replaced your cleaning staff’s mops or the pots and pans in the kitchen?

Thirdly, embrace feedback. Listen to your patrons, read the online reviews (the good, bad and ugly) and put a customer survey system in place. This will help you to measure your staff’s performance so that you can give them recognition when it’s due or help them improve when necessary. When you acknowledge excellence, it boosts people’s confidence and motivates them to keep up the good work. When it comes to addressing poor performance: Give your employees a second chance to prove themselves beyond what may simply have been one bad day. Believing in people builds loyalty.

Lastly, the simplest thing you can do, and something you can do right now, is remembering to thank your employees. In a fast-paced environment it’s easy to forget, but make a point of it. They’re in the business of serving people with a good attitude and speedy service, no matter what. They work long hours and their busiest time is when others are taking time off. You’d be surprised at how a simple “thank you” makes service with a smile come so much more easily.

Exceed Human Resource Consultants specialises in making connections that change futures and build businesses. Not only do they recruit, select and place people, but also offer integrated professional services such as psychometric testing, background screening and salary benchmarking. To find out more, please visit

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