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8 Ways to Show Your Restaurant Staff Some Appreciation this Thanksgiving

Jenny Day
Jenny Day
Restaurant Thanksgiving
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The Thanksgiving season is a great time to recognize employees for their dedication. Finding simple and creative ways to show your appreciation does not have to be difficult, time consuming, or costly. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, here are a few ways to show gratitude to your employees:

Make your restaurant staff feel appreciated

While a great company culture should be part of every restaurant’s comprehensive approach to employee retention, the Thanksgiving holiday is a great opportunity to really drive home the message that your staff is greatly appreciated. Praise and recognition are essential to building a culture that supports your employees. Whether it be stated (and consistently reinstated) verbally, in writing, or through gifts or incentives, be sure to show your team appreciation for their hard work and loyalty to your brand.

You might find these additional resources helpful in hiring and retaining restaurant staff:

Explore closing the restaurant for Thanksgiving Day

If your sales data shows that Thanksgiving is always slow for sales, perhaps just shuttering your doors for the day (or for a half day) could make sense. Your staff will be grateful to have the time to spend with their family or friends, perhaps just to relax, or to get a jump start on their holiday shopping. Be sure to let your guests know in advance that you will be closed for the holiday so that your employees can enjoy this special time with their loved ones.

If your restaurant is keeping the doors open for Thanksgiving, consider a pre-fix menu or buffet style meal. Doing so will allow you to run with reduced labor, letting a greater number of both the front and back-of-house employees have the day off. It also removes a great deal of stress for those who are expected to work on this holiday since the menu is set and they can focus more on customer service and increased tips.

And when proper menu engineering is applied, a set menu can be quite profitable. For additional help with you holiday menu, read this article: How to Calculate Recipe Costs for Your Restaurant Business (plus free calculator).

If you happen to one of the restaurants that has a big Thanksgiving turn out, find an alternative day to close your doors. Review your sales forecast and determine a historically slow day part and close your doors for a staff event. It can be as simple as a potluck meal, bowling day, or a fun volunteer opportunity to give back to the community. Again, be sure to let your guests know in advance that you will be closed on a certain day for a specific amount of time to celebrate your team.

Offer incentives to work on holidays

Nobody wants grumpy restaurant staff scowling at them as they try to enjoy a nice meal. To make sure that your employees want to be there, try offering incentives for those who volunteer to work the holiday shift. It can be a one-time monetary gift, a gift card, or a free meal during their break.

Be creative with holiday scheduling

It’s wise not to assume that all employees will want to be off for Thanksgiving. There likely is a mix of scheduling preferences among employees since some may have Thanksgiving dinner while others have the big meal at lunchtime. Others may not have family nearby and prefer to work.

Consider offering employees the option to choose whether they want to work Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. This might help a manager find the perfect balance of keeping their restaurant adequately staffed and their employees happy.

Give staff control of their own schedules

Perhaps consider giving employees some control over their own schedule. Often, someone needs to swap, drop, or pickup shifts. Empowering employees to swap, drop, or pickup shifts from their mobile devices gives employees the flexibility they desire while reducing the burden on managers. 

Contribute to their holiday dinner

According to FinanceBuzz, nearly 45% of people choose pumpkin as the most essential pie to serve at Thanksgiving dinner, while apple pie is second place. Why not be the hero and provide dessert for your staff to bring home? If baking is not your thing, alternatives could be to provide a small fruit basket, a ready-to-cook turkey, or bottle your famous salad dressing for employees to bring to their own family celebrations. Not only does this relieve some of the stress as they pull together a large meal, but it is also a simple gesture of appreciation for your team. 


Loyal employees are more effective in their jobs and increase the efficient operation of your restaurant business. The longer employees stay at your restaurant, the more likely they are to be skilled and successful at their jobs and support the values of your restaurant culture.  Use these simple tips to let your employees know that they are valued this Thanksgiving season and all year round.

If you would like for your team to spend less time performing administrative tasks, consider an all-in-one restaurant management system. Restaurant365 incorporates labor reporting, restaurant accountingrestaurant operationsinventory managementpayroll + HR, and scheduling into a cloud-based platform that’s fully integrated with your POS system, as well as to your food and beverage vendors, and bank.