Male restaurant manager writing on clipboard conducting staff training

Restaurant evaluations of employees can be a stressful experience, not only for the employee but also the restaurant manager. Employees worry about reprimands or performance that is not up to par, while managers may be nervous about delivering negative information in evaluations. Because of this two-sided anxiety, many places opt to simply pass on employee evaluations altogether. THe assumption is that this will make everything easier for both sides, but in reality, it’s detrimental to both managers and employees as well as the restaurant overall.

The hard truth is restaurant evaluations of wait staff are integral to smooth management, as they allow for one-on-one time with servers, hosts and dishwashers to discuss performance, potential problems with other employees and future goals. They also help build trust, open lines of communication and improve the standards and profits of the restaurant. As any good restaurateur knows, these elements are essential to running a successful restaurant. Without clear and open communication and a staff that’s aligned with the restaurant’s goals, things can complicate to the point of closure quickly.

Restaurant evaluations are integral to smooth management.

What’s the solution? Figuring out how to do employee evaluations the right way that leaves employees motivated, managers empowered, and the restaurant headed in the right direction. The best restaurant employee evaluations do not leave one party feeling degraded, instead, they provide teaching experiences from which both managers and servers can express their concerns. Want to figure out how to implement a fruitful employee evaluation system at your restaurant?

restaurant employee evaluations

Follow these 6 tips to take the anxiety out of conducting restaurant evaluations for employees.

1- Make evaluations a teaching experience

If you’re evaluating a server who is consistently bringing in lower sales numbers than other employees working the same shifts, go over some server tips and tricks like upselling techniques to help them increase their check totals.

The point of bringing up constructive criticism isn’t to bring your employees down, it’s to build them up and help them to do better moving forward—because that’s the job of a manager. It’s also your job to figure out what might be going on in your employee’s life outside of the job that might be affecting their work performance. Employee evaluations create space for one on one interactions where these kinds of revelations can be shared and a mutually beneficial path forward can be forged.

2- Use an employee evaluation form

By creating an employee evaluation form, restaurant managers will be able to present the server with a written record of their evaluation that they can take with them and learn from. It also gives managers a general template they can use for each evaluation, which ensures each employee receives the same style of evaluation and also that you don’t forget anything during the review. 

Additionally, using a form can help to reduce the natural nervousness that many managers feel in these situations. You can fill out what you plan to talk about beforehand and don’t have to worry about winging it or getting off track when you’re actually sitting down with the employee.

Using an employee evaluation form has benefits for the employees as well. Using the same form across time also helps employees to know what to expect when evaluation time rolls around as well as keep the elements they know they’ll be evaluated on in mind all year long with the goal of improvement.

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3- Schedule evaluations in advance

Don’t surprise employees with spontaneous evaluations. It’s not good for company morale. Instead, give your employees, and yourself, time to prepare for a performance evaluation. 

Schedule the meeting with at least two weeks notice and pick a time that works best for both of you, not just on the manager side. Little things like this will help employees feel valued and comfortable with the evaluation when it eventually rolls around.

4- Ask for feedback

When scheduling the meeting, you can even ask employees to prepare some questions for you and let them know that you’re open to general feedback. By being open to feedback from employees, you make them feel like a valued part of the team, and this can lead to longer retention rates and more profits — guests notice when employees are not happy and may be less likely to return for another visit.

At the end of the day, there’s only so much you can learn about how your restaurant works as a manager. If you’re not open to feedback from the people who make your restaurant go ‘round day after day, you’re missing out on valuable data and an opportunity to boost your employees.

Restaurant Employee Evaluation Form

5- Don’t talk about cash

Don’t talk about salary during routine performance evaluations as this will likely add a lot of stress to both parties during the meeting and may directly influence how productive the meeting is. Instead set specific dates for employee evaluations regarding compensation like the employee’s hiring anniversary and stick to these dates for conversations about raises.

Keeping money separate from performance evaluations can also help to inspire and your employees to do better—if they leave the evaluation with concrete things they need to improve upon, the prospect of a raise coming down the line might be the motivation they need to actually follow through.

6- Keep it quiet

As the Fit Small Business explains, “during the performance review, you will want to make sure you have a private, quiet office space or place to give the review.” Beyond keeping the actual meeting private, you’ll want to keep the information shared between you and the employee as private as possible as well—the only other people who should know what goes on are other managers who should also be working to maintain privacy. Not only will employees be embarrassed if they know that information about them can get out, they’ll be significantly less likely to tell you important information that you might need to know.

Conducting employee evaluations is never easy, but following these six tips will help. Oh, and lots and lots of practice—it’s just one of those things that gets easier with time. Before you know it, critiquing employee performance will be second nature to you.

Check out Upserve’s Guide to Staff Management!

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As a professional copywriter, Dan typically spends his days buried in a booth at a local coffee shop. Ideas flow best with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other. Dan has written for Entrepreneur Magazine,, and other media publications.