5 Great Holiday Gifts for Your Managers that Aren’t Cash

In almost every scenario that requires motivation, we see more and more that cash gifts simply don’t work. Cash gifts don’t incentivize people to work harder because cash is the expected result of having a job. During the holidays, managers often become dependent on cash gifts to pay down their holiday debt. This creates conflict because if the amount of the cash gift is less than expected, it can become a disastrous experience for everyone involved. That said, whether you give your managers cash or you reward them in some other manner, recognition during the holidays of all their hard work goes a long way. Most restaurant managers work every holiday. Having to watch their guests have a great time with their families while being separated from their own can take a toll. So it is important to acknowledge and show appreciation for their sacrifice.

[quote]Just like any other program, holiday gift-giving should be well thought out, planned, and executed consistently. When you give gifts, you set expectations for the same or better gift the following year. So be sure to make the gift memorable and remember to budget appropriately so that your checkbook is not caught by surprise.[/quote]

Giving memorable gifts means that they must be personalized so keep notes all year long about what is important to your managers and reference this list these for gift ideas during the holidays. If you do not have regular contact with all of your managers, require that the restaurant General Manager keep this list for you. Below are five great, non-cash gift ideas for your managers.


  1. Give Gifts that Speak to the Individual: If your manager is focused on getting healthy, give them a Fitbit. If they complain about traffic, give them a fast pass for the HOV lane or a year’s worth of public transportation. If they are a caffeine junky, enroll them in the coffee of the month club and have it delivered to their door.
  2. Enable them to Give Back to their Community: What cause is most important to your managers? Do they head up the youth group in their church or constantly talk about all they learned in their Boy Scout days? Are they angry about the lack of funds being given to the local homeless shelter? Donate money in their name and present them with a thank you card from the organization. If possible, volunteer some of your own time and let your managers know.
  3. Include the Family: Restaurant managers give up a lot for their job. On the way out the door to their son’s football game, a party of 30 might walk in. On their wedding anniversary, the chef might get into an auto accident. And all summer long while all their friends take their kids to Disney World, the manager is likely at work. Getting a vacation before the kids go back to school can be difficult. So any opportunity to include the family in the holiday gift is always appreciated. Delivering a catered dinner to their house or sending them out to dinner and a movie is always appreciated. Monthly baskets of fruit and cheese or monthly delivery of whole cakes is another great idea. When the family is happy, your managers are happy.
  4. Create Experiences: One of the most memorable holiday gifts I ever received as a restaurant manager was a brick with my name on it placed in Centennial Olympic Park along with a treasure map that helped me find it. Another gift that was equally as memorable was a baby giraffe at the zoo adopted in my name and the opportunity to visit and feed that giraffe. The world is full of little magical moments. The ability to give one of these moments to a worker you value keeps these magical moments happening. It also keeps that manager fresh and bright, not old and bitter.
  5. Give the Gift of Time: What’s the one thing there is never enough of in a restaurant? TIME. Give your manager a personal assistant for 2 hours once a month to organize their calendar, schedule appointments, type documents, make telephone calls, etc. Or give them extra days off that are important to them like their children’s birthday’s, their wedding anniversary, or Super Bowl Sunday.

As you can see from the list above, the number one rule is to personalize the gift to make it special. Never give a gift without a card and make sure to include a handwritten note that is specific enough to let your manager know that you see and appreciate everything they do.

Michael Maxwell – Partner, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting

Do you need assistance with advice on opening a restaurant? We’re here to help! Contact us today, and let’s chat.

And, if you find our blog posts valuable and want to read more, sign up for our newsletter today to receive weekly blog posts delivered right to your inbox!

Scroll to Top