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How Restaurant Workers Should Handle Performance Reviews

It occurs once every six months or sometimes only once a year. No, we’re not talking about a trip to the dentist or an annual physical, though the pain we experience may be similar. We’re talking about performance reviews, the agonizingly long meetings during which restaurant managers stammer and stutter until they turn red in the face. Most of us just blow off performance reviews, regarding them as major inconveniences. However, you should rethink your opinion of performance reviews, since they offer the best chance for you to earn more money.

Now, do I have your attention?

Yes, performance reviews provide you with the opportunity to earn raises. In fact, most restaurant managers prefer that you ask for raises during performance reviews, as opposed to marching into their offices and demanding more money, or else. While asking for a raise may be your primary objective, performance reviews also provide you with the opportunity to communicate one-on-one with your manager and gauge where you stand with the company. You will learn about the areas where you excel and the areas that you need to strengthen. You should take performance reviews as seriously as you take serving your guests in a timely and friendly manner.

Most corporate chains have performance review standards, such as how often they occur, topics discussed, and where managers conduct the reviews. During your orientation, you will hear about performance reviews in passing, so you must take the initiative to learn about the process. Does the first review occur six months after your hire date or six months following your new hire probationary period? Who will conduct your review, the general manager, or the manager in charge of your department? How long do reviews generally take? Ask your general manager for a copy of the restaurant’s performance review guidelines.

The Steps to Take Before a Performance Review


You should note your major achievements and disappointments since your last performance review. Cooks can explain how they helped reduce ticket times. Service team members can point to glowing customer feedback. Hosts can boast about keeping the lobby clean. You will need to cite specific examples during your review, if you expect your manager to consider a raise request.

Preparation also means taking stock of the areas where you need improvement and the steps you plan to take for improving your weaknesses. Restaurant mangers, like most managers, loath performance reviews, mostly because of the reactions they get when discussing employee weaknesses. You will make a positive impression, if you beat your manager to the punch. Moreover, ask questions, such as “What do I need to do over the next six months to receive consideration for a promotion.”

Game Plan

Performance reviews are not kind to employees who decide to wing it during their presentations. You need to devise a game plan. Is your objective to ask for more money? If so, you should carefully consider when to make such a request. Are you interested in receiving more responsibility? Do you want to cross train in another service or back of the house position? Does the prospect of management interest you? Write down some of your goals and choose one for the performance review.


Performance reviews are not the place to air out your grievances against other employees or turn on your manager. Regardless of how your co-workers and managers treat you, you must come into a performance review with a positive attitude. The adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it,” resonates during performance reviews. You cannot afford to be short with your manager, after he or she points out one of your weaknesses. Your tone should be conversational, without voice inflections that demonstrate disgust or anger. Try to schedule your performance review on a day off, when you have spent a little time away from the restaurant.

What to Do During the Performance Review

You will follow many of the same guidelines during your review that you followed during the job interviews. The major difference between the two is that during a performance review, you have the advantage of being familiar with the manager.

  • Eye contact-Remain focused on your manager during a performance review.
  • Ask to take notes-This indicates you are serious about your career
  • Active listening-Let your manager finish sentences and summarize the points your manager makes.
  • Ask Questions-Leave no performance stone unturned
  • Dress appropriately-You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but you should present yourself in a professional manner
  • Establish your career path-Do not end the review until it is clear what you must accomplish over the next six to twelve months and how you plan to get there
  • Thank You-Thank your manager for taking time to discuss your future with you

Performance Review Tips

Back of the house and front of the house employees have different agendas during performance reviews. Back of the house employees use reviews to earn raises. Service team members earn most of their income via gratuities, so they are more likely to ask for better shifts, more hours, or the opportunity to train. In either case, you must prepare for performance reviews. As Wyatt Earp once said, “You can’t come to a gun fight armed with a knife.”

Another good idea is to ask your manager what to expect during your performance review. This gets your manager’s attention, since most restaurant employees view performance reviews as thirty wasted minutes. It also alerts a manager who does not take performance reviews seriously to come prepared for your review. After all, most restaurant managers would rather do something else than conduct a performance review.

They would even prefer a root canal.