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The restaurant industry can be tough. From busy holiday shifts to angry customers, your waitstaff deals with a lot. Given those conditions, it’s easy to unintentionally let employee morale sink into the pits and stay there, but it doesn’t have to get that bad. Here are some simple ways to make sure that your restaurant’s waitstaff stays happy and safe.

Pay Them a Living Wage

If you own or manage a restaurant, it can be tempting to pay your employees less than the minimum wage, expecting them to compensate through tips. Resist that urge. If an employee’s tips do not make up the difference between their wage and the minimum wage, they are legally entitled to the difference. Ignore this, and you’ll be looking at a potentially expensive wage theft lawsuit. Furthermore, even the minimum wage is no longer enough to live on in today’s economic climate. If you do not pay your employees a living wage, you will see a decrease in morale and a high employee turnover rate. Your employees work hard. Make sure they’re compensated for it.

Protect Them From Harassment

Your waitstaff has to interact with dozens, maybe hundreds of people on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that means they have to deal with angry customers, creepy customers and sometimes downright cruel customers. The general wisdom is that “the customer is always right,” but that’s a dangerous attitude to have when it comes to your waitstaff. For one, women who work in restaurants, especially servers, suffer sexual harassment five times more often than women in the general workforce. By failing to take their side when customers go too far, you are deliberately putting them in unsafe situations. Failing to protect your employees from harassment also promotes an adversarial attitude between your employees and your customers, leading to worse customer service in the long run.

Take Sick Days Seriously

Going in to work sick is dangerous. It’s especially dangerous in the food industry, where germs can be transmitted to the food you serve and to the customers who are eating that food. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans still go in to work sick, including 50 percent of restaurant employees. The steps you can take to combat this are twofold. For one, you should make it clear that employees won’t be punished for taking a sick day. That should go without saying, but all too often, managers pressure employees to come in on days when they’re sick, putting both them and your customers in danger. Secondly, you should provide paid sick leave for your employees so that they don’t have to choose between coming in sick and having enough money to pay the rent.

Your employees work hard. Being nice, friendly and helpful to sometimes cranky customers is tough work even under the best of conditions. That’s why it’s important to keep your employees safe, comfortable and happy. You can do that by paying them a living wage, protecting them from customer harassment and allowing them to take sick days when necessary. Your employees and your customers will thank you for it.

Here’s another article you might enjoy: Top 3 Areas of Your Restaurant You Need to Be Checking (And Cleaning) More Often