Motivate staff with new monetary incentives

money cash payout

In an era where foodservice employees are willing to fight for $15 an hour, compensation can easily motivate a team member to stay or go. Wage wars with competitors who offer more money aren’t always an option when the operation must get approval from a broader administration. 

At Detroit Public Schools Community District, the foodservice department is often one of the highest financial performers. However, district officials wouldn’t sign off on a raise, because they couldn’t see the benefits, says Betti Wiggins, who was DPSCD’s executive director of food services at the time. With employees concerned about a living wage and managers wanting to offer some of the lowest-paid employees more of the money they help generate, Wiggins’ team came up with a solution. Here’s how she and other operators are showing they don’t have to dramatically change base wages to convince staff to stick around.

A piece of the pie

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When DPSCD’s foodservice program yields a return on investment after its bills are paid, employees get a piece of those profits. For every $1 million in excess balances after the department’s final audit, each employee receives a share of 2% of that excess. “They call it their second income tax check,” Wiggins says. Since the foodservice team started the efficiency pay program four years ago, engagement is up and waste is down.

Give staff some control

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After some employees called for higher wages, Michael West—FSA director of campus dining for Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.—started offering a quarterly raise if his team reached goals in four different team competencies. If they do not reach their goals, no one receives a raise. The incentive creates more collaboration between patient feeding and retail, and helps the department remain a competitive employer, West says.

The dining team at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., offers a portfolio of bonuses to keep staff engaged. Marist’s Dining Services team thrives on these incentives, says Vanessa Renta, director of operations for Sodexo at the college. Each semester, employees can earn gift cards and products for attendance, meeting uniform standards or excellence in controlling food costs. Not only does the program add to the employee’s wage, but it helps create awareness of hazards, Renta says. 

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