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Fun Kitchen Staff Appreciation Day Gift Ideas: Restaurant Employees and Chefs

Kitchen staff cooking

Kitchen Staff Appreciation Day is just around the corner on September 25th! Like every year, we set aside some time to recognize and appreciate the kitchen staff in our restaurant with some amazing gifts and swag ideas.

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They put so much time and effort into cooking the perfect meals for our guests – it’s the least we can do. 

As the manager of a chain of restaurants in the city, I started researching gifts for kitchen staff and fun Kitchen Staff Appreciation Day gift ideas to use for the big day.

So I only have a few weeks to get the perfect food service appreciation gifts. The problem is… I don’t know what they like! We needed to find the perfect food gift ideas for Food Service Appreciation Day to show our gratitude for their contributions. I had to order gifts for so many different and unique restaurants. It’s hard to know if each employee at these establishments would like the same thing. 

So, I decided to start by calling the managers at each establishment to get a feel for their likes and dislikes. There are three restaurants in total. A seafood place downtown, a Korean BBQ, and a traditional American food place down the street. If I was going to find all the perfect gifts – I needed to get to work. 

Kitchen Staff Appreciation Day Gifts for Restaurant Employees

It’s much harder than I thought it would be to find gifts for chefs and bakers. When I started calling the managers at each place, they also hesitated. We couldn’t agree on what would be the perfect gift for cooks who have everything. After I called each restaurant, searched online for fun Kitchen Staff Appreciation Day gifts, and looked at what other restaurants do.

  • Personalized Aprons: Embroidered with their name or a fun quote.

Curate the perfect box of handpicked gift they’ll love and send joy their way


  • Quality Kitchen Tools: Such as high-quality knives, spatulas, or tongs. A tool they might not buy for themselves but would love to have.
  • Massage Gift Certificates: To help them relax after long hours standing in the kitchen.
  • Comfortable Shoes: Kitchen work can be hard on the feet. Shoes designed for long hours and support can make a big difference.
  • Recipe Journal Notebbok: For them to note down their personal recipes or tweaks.


  • Custom Mugs: With fun quotes or inside jokes related to the kitchen.

Steel thermos mug and coffee mug
Steel thermos mug and coffee mug

  • Scented Candles: To help them relax after a hectic shift.

Preparing care package, seasonal gift box with mug, candle, woolen socks and christmas ornament
Preparing care package, seasonal gift box with mug, candle, woolen socks and christmas ornament

  • Cookbooks: Especially from renowned chefs or specific cuisines they have shown interest in.

I decided to go with SwagMagic. SwagMagic has over 2000+ custom items to choose from. 

With them, I can find the perfect item to add our logo to and give to all our staff at each establishment. I knew once I had the store set up, I could also use them in February next year when I start shopping for food service week gift ideas for the entire staff. It was the perfect solution since we have many employees at all three restaurants. 

Restaurant Employee Appreciation Ideas

Appreciation for restaurant employees is crucial for morale, retention, and overall happiness in the workplace.

  • Bonus or Raise: Monetary incentives can be a direct way of showing employees that you value their hard work and commitment.
  • Personalized Gifts: Like custom aprons, mugs, or t-shirts with their name or a fun restaurant-related quote.

swag kit

  • Time Off: Offer an extra paid day off or a longer break during their shift.
  • Free Meals: Let them enjoy a meal from the restaurant menu for free or at a significant discount.
  • Employee of the Month: Highlight one employee’s achievements every month with a special parking spot, a plaque, or a small bonus.
  • Feedback Box: Allow employees to give feedback and implement reasonable suggestions. This shows you value their opinions.
  • Appreciation Wall: Create a space where fellow staff can leave positive notes or customers can share their praise for specific employees.
  • Team Building Activities: Organize outings or activities like bowling, picnics, movie nights, or cooking classes.
  • Professional Development: Offer to cover the cost of workshops, courses, or seminars that can help them in their career.
  • Celebration Parties: Throw parties for birthdays, work anniversaries, or major restaurant achievements.
  • Flexible Scheduling: Where possible, offer flexibility in shifts, especially for employees who are studying or have family commitments.
  • Health and Wellness Programs and Snacks: Consider offering gym memberships, meditation sessions, or mental health resources.

Goodie bag

  • Gift Cards: To popular local stores, coffee shops, or online retailers.
  • Special Uniforms: Offer comfortable and stylish uniforms or give them a budget to choose their own within guidelines.
  • Recognition in Front of Peers: Sometimes, a simple public ‘thank you’ during a staff meeting can go a long way.
  • Comfortable Break Spaces: Ensure the staff break room is comfortable, stocked with snacks, and has relaxation amenities like a couch or even massage chairs.
  • Child Care Services: If possible, offer support or partnerships with local childcare providers for employees with kids.
  • Transportation: Consider covering transportation costs or arranging shared transportation for employees working late-night shifts.
  • Educational Opportunities: Offer to sponsor or partially pay for culinary or hospitality-related courses.
  • Involve Them in Decisions: Such as menu changes, event planning, or redesigning the dining space. It can make them feel valued and part of the restaurant’s bigger picture.

Appreciation Gift Ideas for Chefs

I started looking for luxury gifts for chefs. The chefs put in a ton of work and deserve something extra special. Studies suggest 80% of employees believe recognition initiatives improve their experience and relationships and keep them engaged. The last thing we need is our chefs leaving for our competitors. So I decided to spend at least $50 on employee gifts for the chefs.

Most of our chefs are men at each restaurant, so I looked for chef gifts for him and unique gifts for chefs.

  • Professional Knife Set: Or even just one high-quality chef’s knife.
  • Personalized Chef’s Hat: With their name or nickname.
  • Cooking Classes: Especially in a cuisine they’re interested in but might not be familiar with.

Tumbler whiskey drink glasses on sea view deck chairs at sunset
Tumbler whiskey drink glasses on sea view deck chairs at sunset

  • Gourmet Ingredients: Such as truffle oil, saffron, or aged balsamic vinegar.
  • Wine or Liquor: A bottle of fine wine, whiskey, or other spirits.
  • Kitchen Gadgets: Things like a high-quality thermometer, mandolin, or immersion blender.
  • Travel Books: For renowned food cities or countries, inspiring them for their next dish.
  • Spice Kits: A collection of rare or gourmet spices.

Gift box with tea set. Tea, cup, jam, spices, dried oranges in box with christmas lights, top view
Gift box with tea set. Tea, cup, jam, spices, dried oranges in box with christmas lights, top view

I really liked the custom wireless headphones, stainless steel water bottles, and custom duffel bags. I thought all of these items were something they would use and enjoy in their personal and professional lives. 

Since I had a relatively big budget for everyone, I decided to go with a custom duffel and a water bottle with our restaurant’s logo on each. I would surprise the chefs on the big day and add a thank you note to the bag. 

Food Service Week Ideas  

Once the gifts were ordered, I started to wonder. When is Food Service Week? Do I need to start preparing for that holiday too? Food Service Week 2023 is February 6-10. This means I’ll need to wait until next year to order for everyone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start planning for the big gift surprise! SwagMagic has many fun gifts and giveaways I can use for Food Service Week ideas. I knew our waiters and hostess would love custom jackets for the colder months. 

Even though I couldn’t say Happy Food Service Week to everyone until next year, we could celebrate Dietary Week with Dietary Week shirts. Dietary Week is always the first week of fall. For 2023 that means it lands on October 1-7. Even though we aren’t in healthcare, I could surprise them with the Food Service Week ideas I wanted to use earlier. That way, everyone will feel appreciated and honored when they get their gifts.

  • Theme Days: Each day can have a theme, like “Tropical Day” or “Retro Diner Day”, and staff can dress or decorate accordingly.
  • Potluck Day: Allow staff to showcase their personal favorite dishes.
  • Recognition Board: Set up a board where colleagues and customers can pin notes of appreciation.
  • Professional Development: Host a workshop or seminar on a relevant topic to food service.
  • Staff Outing: Organize a fun outing, be it a movie day, picnic, or a visit to a popular local restaurant or food market.
  • Guest Chef Day: Invite a renowned local chef to come and prepare meals with your team.
  • Team Competitions: Like ‘Chopped’ or ‘MasterChef’ style competitions with fun prizes.
  • Live Music: Have local musicians come and play during meal times.
  • Discounts: Offer special discounts or free meals to staff during this week.
  • Collaborative Menu: Allow staff to suggest and vote on special dishes to feature during the week.

Kitchen Staff laughing

On Kitchen Staff Appreciation Day, I showed up at each of the three restaurants with the fun Kitchen Staff Appreciation Day Gift Ideas I had put together. I wrapped the duffel bag and water bottle in a bag and was ready to hand each individual gift to my team members. They deserve these gifts more than anyone. Their time and dedication to the workplace experience never go unnoticed, and our restaurants wouldn’t be where they are today without them. 

The truth is: Over half of the employees are more likely to be loyal after receiving a gift. Gifts are small tokens of appreciation that can positively impact the workplace. I can’t wait to use SwagMagic for Food Service Week, Dietary Week, and other national holidays throughout the year.

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