October 11, 2021

3 Reasons To Fire Toxic Restaurant Workers

There seems to be a pattern in the restaurant industry to keep staff members that aren’t a good fit, and who aren't necessarily ideal for the job. In this article we are talking about 3 reasons to fire toxic restaurant workers, so that you can take your venue to the next level.


Some people just aren’t cut out for this industry - we all know how trying it can be! Other employees are simply toxic. They may stir the pot, create issues, have a poor work ethic, or be in some way negatively impacting the work environment. 


Keeping these employees on your team does nothing but hurt your venue. 


It doesn’t serve your guests, who are quick to catch on to a team member giving less than exceptional service. 


It doesn’t serve your team members, who can quickly lose morale from a negative coworker and become frustrated. 


And it doesn’t serve you, because you become bogged down trying to manage this person and their errors/.


Reason 1: It doesn’t serve your guests.


I realize this is a tough topic right now, given that it is harder than it’s ever been to find restaurant workers. However I believe that you are better off being short-staffed than just having “bodies on the floor.” 


The reason I believe this is my own, first hand experience as a server: Customers are more forgiving of wait times than they are of bad service. The reality of “not having enough staff” is very valid and real (especially right now) and your guests are aware of this. They will experience it in a way that is not about you and your venue, but about the current state of things in the world. 


In the eyes of your guests, bad service and poor staff morale are all about you and your restaurant.  


Reason 2: It doesn’t serve your team.


Your staff is your #1 asset. Treat them like it. Give them a good place to work with a culture and a team that is supportive and healthy. Yes, restaurant workers are generally used to a non-traditional workplace culture, and that often comes with lots of different personalities. At the end of the day, nobody wants to work in a toxic environment. Keeping the problem employee is fuel for that toxicity. 


Keeping on a staff member who has a negative effect on  morale and culture will cost you other staff members; either they’ll quit or they’ll lose motivation to put the work in. 


For more on improving the experience of your staff check out: Investing in Your Best Assets: How Training and Organization Improve the Employee Experience



Forget the idea that firing someone will set an example and make other employees better. Good employees are found not created. Yes, the rest of your team will be affected by that decision. Make that effect one you want, one that your staff will react to positively and one that is done with the intent of making life better within the venue.


Your choice to let go of the toxic employee can be a real reinforcement of “I’m here to lead, and make decisions that make life better for my employees.” Don’t hesitate to come right out and say that to your team. Let them know that, though it’s hard to fire someone, you’re looking out for their best interests.


I talk a lot about how the messages you give to your staff are the bedframe for effective management. For a deeper dive into that specifically, check out Effective Leadership in Restaurants: How Changing Your Message Changes The Game.


Reason 3: It doesn’t serve you.


Difficult employees can take a lot of time and energy from your management team. Think about how much time you might spend trying to make an employee “work” or “fit” with your restaurant. How many times during their shift are you pulled from managing because you are recovering their errors? Or how often have you had to sit down with another team member who is upset about said difficult person?


Growing up, my dad used to say this whenever we would talk about being a good leader: “Ducks are ducks and eagles are eagles. Don’t send your ducks to eagle school.”


Spend your time finding eagles to be on your team, instead of spending time trying to get the ducks in a row! Spend the time, effort and money to give the eagles organized and detailed training, and resources to do their jobs well. Give them the attention they need to thrive.


Of course everyone has some troubles now and then and it is the job of managers to help the staff learn and be efficient. This article can be applied to situations where all other efforts have been exhausted, and it is clear that the person 


Keeping on team members who aren’t a fit doesn’t allow your team to grow, no matter how effective of a leader you might be, or how strong the rest of your staff is. Therefore, if you want to be able to bring your team to its full potential, you have to fire people that are not right for the job. This doesn’t make you a mean person, or bad at hiring, let that go. 

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You’re only as strong as your weakest link.


The restaurant world has never been more challenging than it is now. Perhaps the biggest part of that is having a good staff in today's world. It is more critical than ever that your restaurant workers are productive and efficient. It calls for new messaging to your staff, more support, more incentives, and stronger leadership. If you want to run the most efficient venue possible, while keeping staff turnover low and guest satisfaction high, you need to be willing to let go of employees that don’t work out. 

Didn’t find exactly what you were looking for? Check out these related articles:

  1. How Hard Is It For Restaurants To Fire Employees?
  2. How To Fire A Restaurant Employee
  3. What To Do When You Have To Fire An Employee

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