Hello fellow chefs so I am looking for ways to "incentive" my staff and keep the morale high especially since the pandemic my brigade has become smaller but they don't give up. Any ideas or recommendations would be greatly appreciated
What do they like to do? Without knowing your staff or their unique interpersonal dynamics, answering that question is rather difficult.
For me, if my staff was showing signs of fatigue, usually after the holidays or towards the end of Summer, I would give them a paid day off on a rotating basis or coordinate some sort of group activity on a day the restaurant was closed, usually Mondays. Some days, we would go to the Casino and I would give them each $100 and buy dinner or we would gather at a park or my house and have a cook out etc.
For day to day morale boosting, I had a competition open to all staff, including FOH, where they submit a recipe idea with one caveat: they have to prep it, cook it and present it to the other staff, including me. It was a bit like the monthly challenge here in this forum except, there was no style restrictions except two: the dish had to relate in some way with the style of food offered in the restaurant and the winning dish had to receive a majority of votes, not the most votes. So, if I had 13 staff, the winning dish had to receive at least 7 votes, even if it was a single entry. In the event of a tie, I cast the deciding vote and of course, I retained veto power but, I never had to use it.
If the dish passed, I put it on the menu and I gave the employee who came up with it a bonus based on the quality, complexity, presentation and success of the dish. The record bonus was $800 paid to the Chef who bought my restaurant when I retired. She was just a 20 year old line cook at the time and she created a crab/herb tortellini that would've made an angel swear. Its still on the menu 17 years later. ;-) Most bonuses, however, were between $50 and $150.
It generated some good competition and kept the kitchen staff especially interested in their work. There were some really good, creative and delicious entries and some truly horrific ones as well. lol
All I can say is be creative. Come up with something that plays to your staff interests while at the same time, works to improve their weak areas.