The June report of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover, from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, revealed that the quit rate for jobs in the accommodation and food service industry was significantly higher (in some cases, tripled) than that of any other industry.
It highlights a still serious problem within the food and hospitality industry: restaurant employee retention.
Your staff is the face of your business, and seeing them frequently leave will cost time, money, and undue stress. To save yourself from these unnecessary hardships, here are eight of the best tips to keep your staff, well, your staff.
Why Restaurant Employee Retention is Important
Every employee leaving means a replacement needs to be found, and expenses resulting from training, uniforms, tools, and mistakes and/or breakage (in the early stages) all cut into your bottom line.
Somebody has to train new employees, and chances are it’s you or one of your senior staff. In addition to having to pay for these shifts, time spent training new employees means less time doing things that directly grow the business.
If you have a strong workplace culture, it’s your tenured staff that share/reinforce it with new employees and ensure that culture remains strong. High turnover leads to a lot of new faces, which makes it more likely that the culture is not passed on, maintained, and ultimately… lost.
From the menus and ingredients, to processes and delivery times, every restaurant is different — and it takes time to learn the menus and how the restaurant works. High turnover rates mean you’re constantly serving guests via staff that don’t have that innate knowledge of your restaurant, resulting in a consistent below-standard guest experience.
Tips for Improving Restaurant Employee Retention
1. Setting Expectations Right During the Hiring Process:
If you hire staff via job postings, or provide job expectations during interviews, then have the job actually reflect their expectations.
Adding extra responsibilities, hours/shifts outside of what they were told, or implementing processes different from what was initially communicated will discourage staff quickly, lower morale, and eventually lead to them seeking other jobs that deliver on what they promise.
2. Nurturing Positive Workplace Culture:
Having happy, supportive, motivated staff starts with… you.
Start with a comprehensive employee handbook that outlines responsibilities (from management and staff) and gets everyone on the same page.
Be open to employee suggestions and feedback and foster productive discussions and solutions, as opposed to dismissing them and taking a “my way or the highway” approach to any debates.
Encourage your staff to support, teach, and help each other grow as a team, rather than working all for themselves — people will stay in a place where they are happy and growing.
3. Provide Opportunities to Advance and Grow:
Many restaurant staff work as a means to an end for some other personal goal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have opportunities for standouts to advance and take on more responsibility — especially for those that are choosing the hospitality sector as their long-term career.
Letting your staff grow isn’t just having promotions available — it includes efficient, effective training upon hiring, continuing to develop your staff with ongoing periodic training (new menu rollouts, wine/beer/spirit tastings, best service practices), and recognizing who wants to grow — and how they want to grow — and rewarding those who do excel work to advance.
4. Engage With Your Staff:
Simply put: Communication is key!
Constant discussions with your staff will help you keep your finger on the pulse of your business.
Knowing how your staff are feeling (and being able to respond appropriately), giving clear and timely directions/updates on restaurant changes, and having your staff feel comfortable and encouraged to speak up and contribute will benefit the entire operation… and have your staff enjoy coming to work each day that much more.
It can be as informal as just touching base every so often, or it could be formalized 1:1s, or even just a properly maintained staff information sheet, but be sure to keep the communication lines open with the people on the front line of your day-to-day business.
5. Leverage Word of Mouth and Referrals in the Hiring Process:
Don’t just rely on job boards and walk-ins to fill out your roster — leverage your current staff for recommendations and referrals.
When you have good staff, they’re likely to know others with a similar personality and work ethic. And if those people need a job… they’ll likely be as strong an addition as your original employee. Plus, beyond putting quality candidates on your radar, it’s also a strong boost for your staff morale.
They’ll feel more invested in the business, knowing they contributed beyond their regular role, the incoming staff will have an easier time getting settled in with a familiar face or two to greet them, and everybody has more fun when they get to work with their friends!
6. Make Their Life Easier and Streamline Processes:
Writing long order notes, using (and losing) paper chits, and manually calculating bills are a thing of the past. Restaurant logistics technology has greatly evolved and incorporating some (or all) of it will significantly improve your business’ efficiency — and reduce stress on your staff!
Whether it’s tablets to punch in orders at the table, kitchen display systems (KDS) that keep things organized and easy-to-read, or streamlined point-of-sale (POS) terminals that minimize customer checkout times, integrating more technology into the day-to-day operations will give your employees fewer headaches and more time to spend on making money — making them much more likely to stay.
7. Competitive Wages:
Higher wages will make people more likely to stay.
A standard wage can be offset by consistent levels of above-average tip revenue — but very few (if any) restaurants can actually guarantee that.
Instead, in a market where there are more restaurant jobs than available workers, you may have to up the ante a bit to entice quality employees to work for you… and stay.
It doesn’t need to be a drastic increase, but an extra dollar per hour is worth roughly $2,000 per year (based on 40 hours per week for 50 weeks), so a little increase could go a long way in your employee’s eyes.
8. Investigate Why People are Leaving:
You may feel that you’re doing everything right — yet your turnover rate is still high. Why?
Have you tried asking the outgoing staff, “why are you leaving?”
Doing exit interviews with departing employees, where they can be frank and honest about the issues that led them to leave, gives you an otherwise unattainable insight into what you need to correct to better retain your people.
Also, do some personal digging. Review employee shift reports to see if the departing staff were working too much (or not enough), and perhaps an adjustment to your overall staff size is needed.
Check to see if overall tip percentages are above/below standard — is there a certain customer base/time during the day that is causing issues? Perhaps spillage/void reports could reveal a product quality issue that employees were fed up with.
There’s always some reason why staff depart. It’s on you to dig as deep as possible to find out what it is.. so it can be prevented in the future.
You can’t keep everyone from leaving, it’s an unfortunate reality of an industry that still has the highest turnover rates of any business sector. But doing everything you can — creating a positive culture, engaging and communicating with your staff, giving them the most possible tools to succeed, paying competitive wages, doing honest exit interviews — to figure out how you can minimize the number of employees that leave each year will do absolute wonders for your guest experience, and your restaurant bottom line.
About Smooth Commerce
Smooth Commerce is a digital ordering, customer marketing and loyalty platform for restaurants. We take ordering to the next level with personalized customer engagement, making your digital storefront the cornerstone of your brand. By solving more restaurant pain points in one digital platform than anyone else, we put you back in control of the customer’s experience with your brand to promote profitable sales growth.
If you would like to learn more or talk to a representative from Smooth Commerce about how our platform can help you meet your loyalty goals, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.