Ray's Restaurants rewards its 'internal guests' for going the extra mile

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought many restaurants across the country to their knees, one restaurant group in the metro Atlanta area found a way not just to survive but thrive. Ray's Restaurants, a beloved fixture in the local dining scene for decades, credits their success to a unique approach that begins from the inside out.

As the nation marks Labor Day, Ray's Restaurants stands out as a prime example of an establishment that recognizes the value of its "internal guests"—what they affectionately call their employees. The restaurant group operates three locations: Ray's on the River, Ray's at Killer Creek, and Ray's in the City.

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When the restaurant industry faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic, Ray's Restaurants responded with a merit program designed to reward the dedication of both front-of-house and back-of-house employees who remained loyal even when diners were staying home. An updated version of this program was rolled out in January.

The program operates on a unique premise: employees receive poker chips as tokens of appreciation for going the extra mile, such as picking up extra shifts or providing exceptional service to customers. These tokens accumulate with 65 points earning an employee $1,400 towards their rent or mortgage.

Two employees who provided top-notch service through the program spoke of how these substantial bonuses have been a lifeline, especially in the current economic climate. In addition to the rent or mortgage benefits, the company awarded another employee free rent, a prize he couldn't celebrate with us because he was getting married.

However, the program's incentives don't stop there. Employees can accumulate a staggering 1,000 points for the chance to win a new car.

According to management, the primary goal is to make their internal guests feel valued, believing that this translates into exceptional service for their external guests. The merit program's impact is evident, highlighting how innovative approaches can make a significant difference, even in the face of adversity.

Ray's Restaurants' ability to thrive during challenging times serves as an inspiring example of how a strong commitment to their employees can contribute to their continued success.