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6 Ways to Honor Your Restaurant Staff on Labor Day

Observed on the first Monday in September every year, Labor Day celebrates the contributions and achievements of the American worker.

An official federal holiday since 1894, most businesses are closed and for most Americans it's a holiday signifying the end of summer–a final three-day weekend to wave goodbye to the season.

For most, the holiday means a day off, but for restaurants, bars, and breweries this occasion could be a great day to stay open, generating some additional sales and traffic.

On the other hand, it could be a good day to give your staff the day off. Depending on a lot of factors like location and type of restaurant, the decision is ultimately up to you.

Stats to consider

  • One of 11 federal holidays recognized by the United States Government, Labor Day is one of the most common paid holidays.

  • 97% of employers give some employees Labor Day off.

  • 40% of businesses stay open and have some staff members on the clock.

  • There are no federal laws requiring employers to give employees paid holidays or to pay those who do work those days any extra compensation.

  • Some state laws do require businesses to pay overtime for federal holidays.

  • 37% of workers say employee recognition is the most important action their manager can take to support them and giving your staff the day off is a great way to show your appreciation.

How Labor Day Affects Restaurant Hours

The impact of labor day on your restaurant’s hours is also up to you. Many restaurants stay completely open on labor day, with normal hours. Some choose to open late or close early to allow their staff to have some free time to enjoy the holiday, while others close completely and give employees the day off.

If you’re in a seasonally affected vacation destination, or in the center of a busy shopping area that will be open that day, for example, it might make sense to stay open to capture the potentially high foot traffic. If this is the case, it’s a great idea to have a plan in place where some staff works on this holiday while others work on the other summer holidays, for example.

Paying time and a half or double time are both great options to help keep spirits high. The last thing you want is a grumpy server who dreads being there, so making it worth their while is a huge perk, especially if you think you’ll be generating more business that day.

So, weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Pros and Cons of Closing on Labor Day

When it comes to the pros and cons, there’s really only one pro to closing, but it’s a big one.

In the restaurant industry, work weeks can oftentimes extend to more than forty hours, and with a labor shortage, many employees are being stretched to their limits.

Closing for the day is a great way to show your appreciation for your staff’s hard work and boost employee morale. Giving your staff a day of rest and the time back to spend with their friends and family is a highly appreciated gesture that will have the benefit of helping your team’s long-term culture.

On the other hand, this final three-day weekend is considered by many consumers as the last hurrah of the summer so staying open could be a huge opportunity to cash in on a potential influx of customers.

Especially true for restaurants in high-traffic areas where most other retailers, bars, and food establishments are staying open or vacation destination hotspots, Labor Day is one of the last big days to cash in on summer.

For restaurants near college towns, this holiday actually has quite the opposite meaning. The weekend just before or after move-in day when students are moving into their dorms, but classes haven’t yet started, Labor Day is like a welcome back party, so not staying open isn’t really an option.

Whether you decide to stay open or give your staff their day off, Labor Day is a great time to honor your staff and acknowledge their hard work in a big way.

6 Ways to Show Recognition to Your Restaurant Staff this Labor Day (or any day!):

1. Paid Time Off

Who doesn’t welcome a little PTO? Consider offering employees that work on Labor Day a day off with pay at another time. While it may be necessary to provide guidelines for when that day can be taken, give the employee a few options and let them choose when to use it.

Not only will they appreciate the gesture, but they’ll show up for work on Labor Day ready to work hard!

2. Holiday Wheel

Alternating holidays between staff members is a great way to keep things fair and keep morale high. Consider creating a holiday wheel with each of the 11 federal holidays and letting each staff member take at least one of them off to take a mini vacation or spend time with family.

3. Throw a party

Apart from celebrating workers and their contributions to the economy, Labor Day also marks the end of summer. Many people throw their last BBQs and pool parties over this weekend, so thank your employees by throwing a Labor Day party at your restaurant before or after hours.

4. Provide a free meal

If throwing a party is simply not in the cards, consider providing a free meal for your staff on Labor Day. Go the extra mile and give them a complementary take-out order for their whole family so they can celebrate after their hard day at work.

5. Simple Thank You Note

A simple, old-fashioned “thank you” note can speak volumes to let your staff know you appreciate their hard work ad loyalty. If you decide to go the tech route, post a thank you to the whole gang on social media to express your gratitude.

6. Be flexible

Acknowledge employees’ busy lives and support their work-life balance by being flexible with hours over Labor Day weekend. Let everyone who will be working on Labor Day go home a couple of hours early the day before the holiday weekend starts.

Whatever works best for your business, employees will appreciate any genuine gesture that shows your appreciation and recognizes their hard work and loyalty to your business. Not only will these perks create a team-like enthusiasm that encourages your holiday crew to show up ready to work, but your bottom line will benefit by being open on the last official day of summer.

By Eileen Strauss


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