Selected Article
Title Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Date Published 01/01/2004
Author Mike Bare
Publication Bare Associates International

Imagine a food service operation without a dishwasher, prep cook or receiving personnel. Continue the nightmare by visualizing an accounting department without clerks and housekeeping and maintenance without hourly staff employees.

No, this isn’t an article about the challenges of human resources finding staff. It is, however, about the need for recognition of the people behind the scenes, whom we may often take for granted. The truth is, without these people, our world of hospitality would crumble.

Many of these workers are part time, have two or more jobs and often more tenure in their positions than their last three supervisors. For example, kitchen workers under the responsibility of the Chef or Food & Beverage Director, clean, slice, dice, cut, grind, peel, and prepare salads, platters, and desserts. And then, in some cases, they are required to clean their work areas and utensils. This goes on day after day after day, while standing for hours, with shifts that circle the clock, be it a holiday or weekend.

While educational and training requirements are minimal for these positions, turnover has a significant impact on staff productivity and operation effectiveness. Competition for these workers is challenging, as even the most dedicated of these workers will depart when not treated with respect and dignity.

Pay and benefits help ensure retention, but I suggest there is one critical consideration often overlooked, valuing employees, or giving credit where credit is due.

Supervisors influence (both positively and negatively) the level of motivation and dedication back of the house employees bring to their jobs. Many career-focused managers, plan their stays at hotels in terms of months, failing to realize the impact their indifference has on the properties staff.

Studies show that companies with the best staff attitudes, and subsequently better service levels, are environments where managers are leaders, and set the example or act as a mentor for their employees. An example is the restaurant manager who walks the floor, helping to bus tables or seat guests.


A recognition program does not have to be expensive, just fair and visible. Seldom do we hear of “in the trenches” employees being denoted as SUPERSTARS. While true they have little or no guest contact, they do, in fact, have significant impact on the overall guest experience.

Past “Shopper Reports” included a singular question (or two), such as, “Were serving utensils clean?”, “Were the grounds well maintained?” or “Was the linen clean and pressed?” This was the only acknowledgement of the functions hourly employees toiled over.

We are now seeing a trend to broader bi-lingual documentation for the previously mentioned departments, allowing back of the house employees to garner greater recognition for their contribution to the success (or documentation to the contrary) of the property.

Several clients have begun implementation of “surprise” Mystery Shop Spot Inspections in areas such as kitchen work areas, laundry facilities, housekeeping storage, and maintenance facilities. This allows back of the house employees to be reviewed and scored in conjunction with their front of the house counterparts. Third party documentation alleviates charges of favoritism amongst employees.


• Set the example by interacting with your hourly staff. Consider the impact you have on an employees life do you have when you take two minutes to walk through the kitchen or laundry room and offer a good morning or thank you in their native language.

• Allow employees to nominate others for recognition or rewards. This can be as simple as a dinner for the employee and a guest, a certificate of appreciation, movie passes, or a pizza party for the department.

• Require supervisors to keep a list of hourly employee achievements. When a shopper report denotes a front of the house SUPERSTAR, reward a back of the house employee at the same time for supporting them. Can’t dirty utensils easily ruin an otherwise memorable dining experience?

• Consider the implementation of a back of the house Mystery Shopper Inspection Program, then review and post reports within the departments for all to see. Highlight results, green for good and red for a problem. Ask reports be multilingual.

• Offer to the hourly employee the opportunity to learn their supervisor’s job. It’s vital to educate line level managers that the path to promotion is to have someone ready to be promoted into their position.

• Measure employee satisfaction through the means of Employee Surveys. This conveys a caring attitude on behalf of the entire management team. (More on this in an upcoming article.)

Use of these recommendations can reduce costs through lower turnover, less frequent hiring and training and improved results due to more capable employees. Customer and employee satisfaction increases, leading to customer loyalty and increased profit to your operation. If your employees are happy, your guests’, including that unknown mystery shopper, are happy.