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Restaurant Employee Retention

It’s no secret that food service is an industry with one of the highest employee turnover rates, but if you want to be a successful restaurant manager, then you need to hire, train and retain staff members who support your vision.

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Staff turnover costs you a pretty penny. Every time you fail to retain restaurant staff, it directly affects your bottom line. It’s better to take the time and energy to address the causes of staff turnover and develop employee retention strategies now.

To Improve Restaurant Staff Retention, Hire the Right Team-Members

Staffing your restaurant with any “warm body” is a mistake. ​It takes time and patience to find restaurant employees that will become valuable team members and stick around. You’re putting a lot of effort toward training and skills development, so make sure they appreciate that.

Don’t bring in trouble-makers or let someone drag the rest of your team down.​ The wrong person (or people) can actually make things worse than being understaffed, and toxic personalities can drive away new staff members if they are kept onboard, even if they are long-term employees.

Always be hiring, and on the lookout to recruit new employees.​ Outstanding people will do outstanding work. Look for people who have a great attitude and a strong worth ethic and offer them an interview, even if you are fully staffed in the present, you never know what will happen in the coming weeks.

Ask candidates what their short and long term goals are.​ Determine if their goals are in alignment with your need for long term staff. Open a career path for outstanding staff so they can become your next generation of chefs, servers, and managers.

Conduct an exit poll with staff members who move on.​ If you are serious about improving restaurant employee retention, you need to know why they are leaving. It’s important not to be defensive and to just listen. To reduce staff turnover in your restaurant, you need to understand what motivates employees to leave, so that you can adapt. You may be surprised what they tell you!

Review the tips in our Learning Center article “How to Hire Restaurant Staff” for more detail on how to improve your hiring process and find the best candidates​.


Lower Restaurant Turnover By Appropriately Compensating Employees

To attract the best talent and retain your restaurant employees, offer competitive pay. Take into consideration the other businesses employing people with the traits and skills that you are, and pay your team accordingly. Appropriate compensation lowers your restaurant staff turnover by keeping them from wandering away in search of better opportunities.

When employees show good teamwork and leadership initiative, rewarding them with even small bumps in pay can go a long way toward making them feel appreciated. Restaurant employee retention is largely about showing your staff that they have a good reason to stick around.

Because tips have a large part to do with how much money employees take home, make sure your staff are trained in exceptional service and sales — and are up selling every customer, to raise ticket prices. See our article “Getting Your Staff to Sell” for more detail on how to accomplish this.

Proper Training and Support Help You Retain New Employees

To improve restaurant employee retention, be sure new employees can find their way around the restaurant and don’t just give up! Having great restaurant staff training procedures in place will help new staff develop the skills they need to survive in the fast-paced environment of a busy restaurant.

Improve teamwork and accountability among your staff by making it known that training of new people is everyone’s responsibility. Staff should be constantly looking out for each other, reinforcing proper behaviors, enforcing policy and creating a culture of excellence. Identify your strongest and weakest team members and have them spend a “coaching shift” together to focus on building skills. If you take these steps, you won’t have to worry about losing people because they didn’t get the help they needed. This will greatly improve your restaurant employee retention.


Lead Your Team to Reduce Staff Turnover

Leadership and management are two different things. ​Management is the pointing of resources, requiring you to constantly monitor and direct changes. Leadership, on the other hand, is the process of training your team to make the right choices when you’re not around.

You can do this by setting a high standard and holding yourself as well as your restaurant staff equally accountable to the procedures that you’ve designed. When you set a consistent standard and obey your own rules, it gives your restaurant staff the confidence to monitor each other and themselves. The goal of leadership is being able to trust your employees to perform with excellence, even when you’re not watching. Knowing you’ll support them when they follow the rules goes a long way in earning the loyalty of your staff. A loyal restaurant staff naturally has a lower turnover rate.

As a leader, you’ll need to address uncomfortable situations before they drive away your employees. Consider conducting anonymous surveys every 6 months or when you suspect there is something going on that is causing tension or when other employees quit. When using anonymous comment cards, address the concerns without being defensive. Honest feedback is valuable if you want to keep your staff long term. To lower restaurant employee turnover, you need to be able to know what people are feeling, even if they are bringing unexpected or difficult challenges to your attention.


Thanking Your Restaurant Staff Keeps Them Happy

Showing a little appreciation to your restaurant team members in the heat of a busy rush can make a big difference and doesn’t cost a thing. A simple “thank you” can mean a lot to a stressed-out employee. Simply pointing out the hard work of your team in the next meeting lets employees know that someone is keeping track of their efforts.

Some ideas for inexpensive bonuses are:

  • Free meals
  • Preferred scheduling
  • Preferred parking
  • Small dollar amount gift cards
  • Monthly Drawings for gas or oil changes

Inquire with local businesses to exchange services or discounts so that you can find more perks for your awesome staff members to help improve loyalty and retention.

Restaurant work is fast paced and can be stressful. Avoiding employee burnout by hiring the right people, providing good training, showing appreciation and addressing conflicts head-on can make the difference between having a high restaurant employee turnover rate and having a stable crew of professionals that bring your restaurant enduring success.

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