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What do you do when you like an employee that tries really hard but struggles to carry their weight? This is an awkward situation that is much tougher to deal with in person than it seems to be on paper.

This individual may desire more heavy volume sections or additional responsibilities but may not have the speed or knowledge to perform well at those positions. Other employees may not want to work with this individual as they have to continuously pick up the slack. So what do you do?

First, determine if you think the employee is worth a shot at improvement and if so if they have the ability to succeed and improve. If the answer to either of these inquiries is no,

skip to the Transfer or Termination section.

If the answer to both queries is yes, you will want to schedule an initial consultation.

Initial Consultation

Bring the employee in and let them know that you see him or her trying but acknowledge that they just aren’t meeting the standard required for the position.

They will likely give excuses. Confirm that you will address any valid concerns but point out that others are also performing even under the circumstances.

Let the employee know that you will need them to have increased training and performance. Depending on the situation you can do this privately or publicly. We can even help. Ask them if they are willing to complete additional training. If not, you will need to inform them that are unfortunately not able to continue to working in their position anymore because although they are trying they are putting an undue hardship on other employees.

If they agree to training, have then train with a manager or trainer in private or pair them with another employee who is skilled in the parts they are weak at.

Give the struggling employee a timeline. Let them know that you need to see noticeable results in a fairly short period of time. If possible define the time and results. For example, “I need to be able to see you handle a full section without any table waiting longer than two minutes to get greeted and with no mistakes when ringing in the orders.”

Let them know that they need to be able to meet this standard in order to continue in their position. Document the initial meeting, the process for improvement, and set a date for a follow up review. Get a signature from the employee and the managers they sat down with.

Transfer or Termination

But, what happens when they don’t meet the higher standard? Unfortunately, this is the more common outcome rather than an employee suddenly improving after a long period of under-performing. The process at this point is simple but not easy. You either need to transfer them or terminate them.

Bring the employee in for their review and inform them that they have unfortunately not met the minimum standard you require for that position. While the employee may be upset, it should no longer be a surprise for them. If you feel the employee would be a good fit at another position, ask if they would care to train in the new position. If so, you may be able to better use that employees skills in a position they will find success in both for themselves and the company.

If they do not wish to transfer to another position or you do not feel they would be able to perform in another position, you will have to terminate their employment for performance reasons. Have this paperwork ready just in case. If you have an employee that you really care for but is not meeting standards there is one additional option.

Two Week Notice

You can give an employer two week (or longer) notice. Let the employee know that you will need to phase them out, but will give them a short period of time to help look for a new job. I would suggest not making this longer than a month, as getting a struggling or problem employee out more quickly will strengthen your restaurant more quickly. You also don’t want the employee to just drag their feet in favor of staying in their position. Set a final date and stick to it.

Obviously, do not do this with an employee that you feel will abuse it or perform even more poorly than they were. As an incentive you could offer a bonus at the end of the period if they perform out their full remainder without issue. Additionally, inform them that the two week period is an extension of goodwill and can switch to an immediate termination if an issue arises.

If You Want To Go Above and Beyond

If you have an employee that is a really good person but just not a fit for your restaurant you can do an additional outreach by helping them find their new position. If you know a position at another company that you feel the employee would be good at, you can help them get a job there. Call as the employer to the possible new employer. Inform them that you have a great person that you feel would be great at their place of business. Let them know about the good qualities of the person and touch on the reasons why you think they would be a good fit for the new job.

As this is not a common practice, let them know why you are terminating their employment and why you do not see that being an issue at the new job. For instance, if you have an employee that has a hard time keeping up with the speed of your restaurant but is very personable and knowledgeable, they may do better at a more formal restaurant where they only have to serve two different tables at scheduled reservation times. They would be able to be much more successful in that type of position. Non-restaurant jobs are also a possibility if their skills are transferable. See the section on non-promotional joint ventures for more information on partnering on applicants or employees.

Adjust Your Orientation Standards

Now that you have dealt with the struggling employee, it’s always good to reevaluate. What did you learn? What minimum standards does each position require? Take a look at all of your different positions and write down the minimum requirements that an employee in that position must perform. Make this your new standard. Put it in your handbook and training manual.

Now put a time requirement on it, typically by the 90th day of orientation. Anyone not meeting the minimum standard by the end of their orientation is let go, no exception. This eliminates any emotional side and sets the requirements right off the bat.

Inform any new employee on hire and give them updates and reminders at 30 and 60 days so that there are no surprises. In this way employees know what to expect and will weed themselves out if they are not up to task, saving you lots in unemployment fees.

Dealing with an employee that you like but just can’t meet your standards is an awkward and uncomfortable situation. However, by going in with a plan and keeping the employee informed, it helps to ease the strain on everyone and helps both parties succeed.