Firing employees is a necessary chore in the restaurant business. Industry turnover rates of 60 to 90 percent prevail; some undesirable workers leave by choice, others have to be helped out the door. A progressive discipline policy, employee documentation and a handbook that clearly spells out grounds for dismissal eases the process and prevents unwanted repercussions.
Fewer than 2 percent of food service employees are represented by labor unions. Most restaurants operate as at-will employers. “At-will” means workers can be fired at any time for any reason. Even so, grounds for dismissal should be stated in writing and communicated directly to the employee. Be honest and respectful. Some reasons are clear cut. Others are cumulative: laziness, incompetence, lack of teamwork, chronic tardiness/absenteeism and negative gossip about the company or co-workers. Create a paper trail to demonstrate that your restaurant acted legally and fairly in terminating employment. Keep current records of oral and written warnings in employee files, along with other pertinent material such as guest check mistakes or incriminating comments made on social media.
Three Strikes Rule
Verbal warnings followed by written warnings are standard. The number is up to you; three of each is common. On the third written warning, the employee is out. Strict operations might shorten the progressive discipline process to two verbal warnings followed by one written warning. A disciplinary form should include the reason, the date and improvement expectations. It should be signed by the employee and a direct supervisor. No-shows are so disruptive to operations that policies are harsher. The second -- or even first -- time a worker doesn’t report for duty and doesn’t call in to say why is grounds for termination.
Employees engaging in violent or illegal behavior on company property should be fired on the spot. For the safety of staff and customers, have in-house security standing by or call the police.
Reasons for instant dismissal include theft; fighting or provoking a fight; threatening harm to staff or customers; possession of firearms, explosives or other weapons; showing up drunk or under the influence of drugs; willful destruction of company property; refusal to comply with company policy; disobeying or defying a manager; and selling or distributing illegal substances. .
Assign a witness to observe as the ex-employee collects personal belongings and exits the property. If you haven't already, now is the time to contact police to file a report if you are pressing charges or are concerned about retaliation. Try not to fire employees on their birthdays or just before a holiday. Require the immediate return of keys, uniforms and other company property. The final paycheck can be issued immediately or on the next regularly scheduled pay day. If the ex-employee does not want to pick up the final check, mail it to the address on file.
- How to Terminate Restaurant Employees: Food Service Warehouse
- Accommodation & Food Services NAICS 72: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Applebee’s Policy Manual and Reference Guide for Hourly Employees: J.S. Ventures, Inc.
- More Than Minimum Wage: There’s Something That Matters More Than Money When Retaining Employees: QSR Magazine
Cyndi Perkins is an award-winning newspaper editor, columnist and reporter. Beginning her career in the 1980s, she has covered business, gardening, health, fitness, travel and parenting for international, national and regional publications ranging from "Upper Peninsula Business Today" to "Cruising World Magazine."