6 Clever Gift Ideas for restaurant employees [Plus tips for staff goodwill]

With the National Restaurant Association reporting, “Nine in 10 restaurants employ fewer than 50 workers,” recognizing a small staff during the holidays is crucial.

Gifts for restaurant employees reward your team members and provide a sense of belonging. Plus, for restaurants that stay open through the holidays, a gift helps your crew maintain a holiday spirit. But there’s a good chance that:

  • Your restaurant crew is young.
  • Several of your team members won’t be around next year.
  • Your staff members may not have much money.

With these factors in mind, it can be tough to designate much money to gift-giving. Yet, ignoring the holiday season isn’t in your best interests either. Instead, create the right mix of gift-giving and recognition while tying it all together with a holiday event or engaging Secret Santa exchange.

Customize your gifts for restaurant employees.

If you can afford to buy an experience-focused gift for each team member, like sporting tickets or a foot massage, then go with that. However, while thinking outside the box is fantastic, many crew members also appreciate help with the basics. Regardless of the money spent, make your gift special.

  • Personalize your gift. A 16-year-old hostess might love a gift card to purchase in-app items, whereas your single-parent chef may prefer a family-friendly present.
  • Include a message. Don’t just hand out a gift card. Add a thoughtful note of encouragement as well.
Chart showing employee gift satisfaction statistics.

Knack business gift survey: Employee gifting supplement

6 gifts for restaurant employees

  1. Partner with a local business to buy your staff gift cards. For example, if your crew loves coffee from the shop across the way or to grab a drink nearby, speak to those business owners about a joint gift card exchange.
  2. Lighten your team’s holiday load. Financial stress increases during the holidays. Create a program where each crew member can purchase a set limit of gift cards with an employee discount.
  3. Waive a fee. Something as simple as waiving a restaurant delivery fee can boost morale and the holiday spirit. You can offer a one-time discount or make it available throughout the month.
  4. Go old-school with a coupon. A free drink, appetizer, or a meal are nice perks that people don’t mind using after their shifts. Personalize your coupon for extra employee recognization.
  5. Boost your employee discount. If you normally provide a discount when staff come in with their families, then raise the discount up by 5-10% as a holiday gift. That way, they can feel good about treating their families without a considerable cost.
  6. Give more gift cards. Gift cards never get old. Your restaurant employees appreciate anything that helps achieve their goal for gift-giving.

Spread goodwill with recognition.

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While we encourage you to not cheap out on gifts for restaurant employees, providing your staff with an encouraging experience is a great way to celebrate the season.

Raise spirits and recognize your crew’s hard work by finding ways to showcase their efforts.
  • Share your reviews and online mentions. Compile a list of happy moments that highlight the excellent work your crew does all year. Turn this into a short video—complete with music—and share it with your staff.
  • Highlight social brand ambassadors. Do you have staff members who frequently share your posts or step in to assist with social media management? If so, recognize them with a special mention both online and in person.
  • Acknowledge winners in various categories. For example, reward those with most hours worked, highest liquor sales, or limited call-offs by passing out cash and useful company swag.

Engage staff with a Secret Santa gift exchange.

Along with a holiday party, hosting a secret Santa gift exchange is another way to engage your team. While having 100% involvement is wonderful, it’s important not to mandate participation. Instead, make the buy-in inexpensive, so it’s affordable for all team members and gets management involved.

  • Set a dollar minimum and maximum limit.
  • Choose a date for the gift exchange.
  • Place sign-up sheets in convenient locations.
  • Pick names and remind staff not to disclose their recipients.

A diverse team and a tight budget shouldn’t stop you from choosing gifts for restaurant employees. Treat your staff this season by taking into account the personal experience of each of your team members.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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Liam Smith
11 months ago

These are very interesting and useful ideas, thanks for sharing with us! If you want to do something special for your employees then Gift boxes for employees is the perfect solution for you.