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Scrooge or Santa? The long and short of Holiday Bonuses

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Holiday Bonus season is upon us. To bonus or not to bonus, that is the question. And how you will be perceived after the envelope is opened could depend on something as simple as the way you sign the card. Santa or Scrooge? The choice is yours. It should say more than “Thanks for your help, Dick.”

When the Texas restaurant owner called and wanted information on posting a project on FoodieCrowdFunding, I was perplexed as to why he was praising his staff’s loyalty, hard work and attitude in relation to a crowd funding project. Clearly an appreciative owner, I didn’t know how his staff’s attributes could be highlighted into a funding project.

After a brief conversation the restaurateur explained he needed the additional funds for Holiday staff bonuses. A very commendable gesture, but I explained foodiecrowdfunding is a project-based perk-site and raising funds for daily operations was outside the company’s policy. Plus, if he needed to raise money on a crowd funding site, how much were the bonuses going to be?

The Texan explained everything is big down there and they don’t stop that at Christmas. He went on to say he wanted to give his kitchen help $200.00 each, the chefs, $500.00 each and the servers and other front of the house employees $100.00 each.

A generous gesture for a restaurant owner doing just under a million dollars in volume. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help him with his quest for raising Christmas bonus funds. However, I did explain how much his apparent appreciation of his staff meant and that he should express that to each of his employees personally.

Holiday Bonuses vary in size and stature. Some are astronomical. Others a mere pittance. Yet, it’s what’s behind the bonus that carries the weight of appreciation, not necessarily the amount.

When we owned restaurants I always fantasized about giving the entire staff the restaurant. In hind-sight I don’t know if that would have been a great gift or not. But for me, Holidays were the perfect time to share the rewards of everyone’s toil.

I know there are numerous options for great holiday bonuses that span the financial globe but for food business, the profits rarely justify large numbers unless of course the company’s profits are low because of poor upper management.

Bob Shapiro, owner of Light Soda in San Francisco takes the Holiday Season and turns it into a month of joy for his employees. Not only are his bonuses hefty, so are the parties he hosts for his staff. How about an envelope and tickets to Beach Blanket Babylon. One reason Shapiro’s services and his company are held in such high regard in the bay area restaurant world.

You don’t however, have to be a Beach Blanket Babylon boss to gift your employees. Take Tulocay and Co. CEO and Chairman of the Board, Dick Long. Last year he passed out envelopes to his staff with a crisp $50.00 bill in each envelope with a card reading “Thanks for your help.” This year that won’t be as costly for Long, short term, as the company has downsized considerably after selling off their premium brands.

Again, it isn’t the size of the bonus but the meaning of the gesture and the sincere expressed consideration.

Here are ten tips on handling Holiday Bonuses that will raise praise for your thoughtfulness.

1). Food company owners know other food company owners. Trade party certificates and host each other’s parties. Tony Tollner of Rio Grill fame held his Christmas Party at my restaurant in 1995. We did a partial trade for that party and everyone was happy and thankful.

2). If the party trade concept doesn’t do it for you, trade certificates for dinners. Here’s an example: Tyler Florence owns three restaurants. If you happen to make his product, do a trade for a great dinner at one of the celeb’s eateries and offer him his product at a discount.

3). Offer a paid day off. Think of this. Would you really miss one employee of your entire organization if they didn’t come in on that one free Friday? Of course not. And, you’d never notice financially.

4). New Year’s Eve. Not everyone can afford to celebrate. A bottle of bubbly – a known, respected bottle, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Ask your wine rep to go in on a few bottles as a joint appreciation gift. You’d be amazed at how eager some companies will be to have the staff that sells, taste.

5). Cookbooks. They are, unfortunately a dime or less a dozen. A beautiful book can be had for a minimal price. A note, written from the heart, is worth thousands and may be the one ingredient in the book that means the most.

This brings us to the next five tips having to do with presentation.

6). If you’re going to play the pauper, don’t bring your staff down to your 14 car garage to see your collection and brag about the worth of your Corvettes.

7). If you are writing a note, spell the names correctly and write what you feel. If you have an employee who really is tremendous, let them know how much you value their efforts.

8). If you are one of the old, old timers who still thinks of staff as furniture, fake it. Hire someone to write a few notes. Your staff deserves to be appreciated.

9). Spend a couple of extra bucks on nice cards. Pick them out especially for the individual. This means a lot to employees who stress and toil with hopes for a brighter future.

10). Remember John Lennon's lyrics for the Beatles' song, The End: The love you give is equal to the love you make.This may be especially true at holiday bonus time.

Enjoy the Holiday and encourage your staff to do the same.

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