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    HR Resources | 6 min read

    Meaningful Ways To Show Gratitude To Your Employees

    Everyone wants to feel appreciated. It’s nice to be reminded that the work you’re doing is impacting someone in one way or another. This is especially so for your employees who spend most of their week doing their best to keep your restaurant running and your guests smiling. Expressing your gratitude is not only a great way to share feedback, but it’s also a powerful way to help your employees feel connected, reduce turnover, and strengthen your team.

    As a QSR leader, you may struggle to find genuine ways to show your gratitude towards your employees. How do you go about doing so without making it appear awkward or forced? It doesn't have to be costly or complicated. Here are some meaningful ways you can show how thankful you are for them this holiday season.

    Understand Your Employees' Needs

    The first step is for you to go the extra mile to figure out what your employees need, and then show your thanks by providing them with those resources. By looking at things through your employees’ eyes, you’ll be able to better determine what resources can really benefit them. These can be tools to help them do their job better, a clear path for professional development, or even spiffs that will positively impact their homes lives.

    There are also additional benefits you can use to show appreciation for your employees—and (bonus) attract and retain them.

    Personally Say Thank You

    This is the most straightforward way to do so, but we're often so caught up in our busy schedules that we forget to take a moment to genuinely thank the people around us for their work. Set up time with your employees (this could be once a month, a quarter, or even bi-annually, depending on the size of your team) for a quick session to catch up with them. Take this time to check-in and thank them for their contributions to your company.

    Be it individual sessions or town halls that are organization-wide, the scale of the session doesn't matter as long as every employee has the opportunity to attend it. Make it a habit to tell your employees what you value and the impact their work has on your organization. Hearing such words from the founder or a top leader is impactful—and increases motivation and morale.

    The holidays also present an opportunity to show your appreciation in the form of a gift. The gift doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to communicate gratitude. Whether a simple meal together as a team or a holiday goodie, your team members will appreciate the sentiment.

    Set Goals and Reward Those Who Meet Them

    Create friendly competition by setting goals for your employees to meet. This gives you an opportunity to thank and reward employees who meet these goals. It could be in the form of individual or team goals, such as those who sell the most specials or have the most customer comment cards filled out.

    You could then reward them in creative ways, such as naming a seasonal or festive menu item after them, crowning them employee of the month, giving them a social media shoutout, or even gift cards. The possibilities are endless.

    Give Bonuses

    Want to say thank you while simultaneously providing a reward that will be appreciated by your staff? Consider giving out bonuses to celebrate specific contributions. 

    Performance or End of Year Bonuses

    These are often given out at the end of the year to reward employees who have met set goals and objectives. Chipotle rolled out a bonus plan allowing employees to earn up to an additional month's pay when they meet criteria including sales, cashflows, and throughput goals.

    Pandemic Bonuses

    Many QSRs have chosen to issue “pandemic bonuses” to reward their employees for staying with them through the peak of the pandemic. San Antonio-based Whataburger, for example, gave more than $90 million in bonuses. McDonald's awarded bonuses worth 10 percent of employees' earned pay

    The Mexican fast-food chain, Chipotle, also gave a 10% pay increase to its hourly workers and provided more than $40 million in bonuses and assistance pay to their employees. Starbucks extended a $3 increment an hour for workers and announced their plans to raise the minimum pay to $15 for all workers across the U.S.

    Referral Bonuses

    When employees make referrals, you're more likely to secure quality candidates which will also save time and money in recruitment. Say thank you to employees, while incentivizing them to refer more candidates, through referral bonuses. Papa John's is investing $2.5 million in such initiatives with the hopes of growing their team.

    Company Activities

    From festive celebrations to off-site team bonding activities, these are occasions where you can show employees that you care. Christmas parties and New Year celebrations are a great excuse to bring everyone together. Secret Santa gift exchanges are a fun way for managers to thank their team members for their contributions, surprising them with little gifts and thank you notes nearing Christmas. 

    Company retreats are another way to keep employees engaged while thanking them for their service. Not only will these activities provide employees an opportunity to get to know others and bond internally, but it’s also a good way for the team to de-stress and enjoy a company-funded activity.

    Shake Shack does this by hosting annual company retreats, allowing employees to develop their skills and learn from guest speakers, alongside employee appreciation days.

    Welfare Packs

    Want to go the extra mile? Consider giving out welfare packages to your staff. These could be company-branded merchandise to celebrate special occasions such as festive seasons, their birthdays, anniversaries, and even service milestones or mental health packages containing wellness tips, mental health resources, and snacks. Although it may not be a lot, these packages go a long way in reminding employees that they're not forgotten and recognizing their service in your organization. 

    Involving Your Customers 

    Customers are the ones interacting the most closely with the employees in your QSR, and hearing from them could be extra meaningful. When they receive words of gratitude from your customers, employees may be more motivated knowing that their service is much appreciated and impactful.

    Earlier last year, Burger King thanked their employees through a collaboration with their customers. Customers were able to leave 'Thank You' messages to Burger King employees while ordering through the mobile app, which generated over 5,100 messages. These messages were then displayed on the franchise's digital kiosks and menu boards for a week.

    Another way is to encourage customers to leave positive feedback on their dining experience, and the staff who contributed to it. Reward these staff by giving them a shoutout in internal newsletters or announcements or providing them with meaningful prizes such as vouchers or employee awards.

    It's All In The Culture

    Build a gracious working culture, where every employee expresses their gratitude for one another. This starts from the top, but should also flow down to managers, supervisors, and crew members. Managers should understand the importance of building rapport with their team while giving praise and recognition along the way. 

    Now that you have these tips, start telling (and showing) your employees how much you appreciate them. Remind them that their work has a positive impact on your organization. And encourage your team to make this a common practice.


    Now that you've nailed employee appreciation strategies, let’s make sure you have a team that’s fully staffed. Find out how to find and hire more employees (faster). Schedule a call with us now!

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