Six tips to better retain your restaurant staff

Aug 5, 2022
min read

It’s no secret: turnover in the restaurant industry is particularly high compared to other industries. And the global pandemic hasn’t helped, with over 200,000 workers leaving the restaurant industry since COVID-19 hit. Many restaurants face the challenge of constantly hiring and training new employees just to stay afloat, and the costs associated with this can add up to be pretty hefty. 

But why does there always seem to be a shortage of restaurant workers? And what can restaurant owners do to reduce high staff turnover? In this blog, we’ll dive into why turnover in the restaurant industry is so high, and what you can do to better retain your staff. 

Why is turnover so high?

Before diving into how you can better retain staff, we need to understand the why; that is, why do people leave the industry at such a high rate to begin with? Here are some of the top reasons that restaurant workers leave their jobs.

Lack of recognition

Working in the restaurant industry is tough – servers, kitchen workers, and other restaurant staff are not often given enough recognition for the hard work they do, even though they’re left literally sweating after shifts. Many restaurant owners and managers might not think to publicly acknowledge staff, but the lack of recognition contributes to low engagement and motivation. 

Stressful work environment

The restaurant industry can be one of the most stressful industries to work in, with hyper fast-paced work, customers that can be challenging, and physically-demanding work. Unlike with office work, it’s difficult for restaurant workers to take breaks when they need them due to waves of tables being seated and customers needing to be served. This, coupled with long work hours and unpredictability (e.g. short-staffed shifts), can cause many workers to reach a breaking point.

No opportunity for growth

Many staff working in the restaurant industry aren’t given clear paths to growth, leaving them feeling unmotivated and unsure of their future. Without encouragement from their managers and/or restaurant owners, it’s very easy for them to just up and leave their jobs for something that seems more stable, and might provide more opportunity. 

Nature of work

Turnover is present in any industry, but in the restaurant industry specifically, turnover is inevitable due to the nature of much of the work. Staff are typically students working through school, or have full-time jobs outside of the industry, and treat their restaurant positions as casual/part-time work on the side. They’re often not paid enough or do not have adequate benefits to make their restaurant gig a full-time thing or to consider staying long-term.

Why is retention so important?

So, we understand why restaurant workers are leaving the industry. Let’s take a look at the flip side: why is it important for you to retain these workers? There are two main impacts for your restaurant: cost and culture. 

Costwise, restaurants with high turnover typically spend a lot of time and money on hiring to fill the empty roles. All the effort spent on job postings, interviews, onboarding, and training new employees could be saved by retaining staff that are already knowledgeable in your restaurant and its processes. Not only does money have to be spent on job boards to host your postings, but recruitment often takes time away from a manager or other leadership – time that could be better spent on the thousands of things on a restaurant to-do list.

When it comes to culture, a high turnover rate negatively affects company morale and motivation. When they see their fellow coworkers leave cyclically, it eliminates a sense of community and friendship amongst staff. Financial needs aside, what motivates many workers to show up everyday is the comradery they feel in the workplace. Without this, they’re less inclined to stick around.  

How to better retain your restaurant staff

Now that we have an understanding of why workers leave, and why we need to retain them, we can dive into how to do so. Here are six tips to help you better retain your restaurant staff.

1. Show appreciation to staff

We’ve already said it, but we’ll say it again: this industry is tough. But your staff is more inclined to stay through the tough times and continue contributing to your business if you recognize them for the work they’re doing. This is because it’s human nature to feel fulfillment when we receive recognition.

Recognition can be given in the form of public acknowledgements (e.g. team shoutouts), formal announcements (e.g. employee of the week), or private praise. Consider setting up a recognition system that rewards your staff the way they want to be rewarded, to increase motivation in your team. (Psst, for more help with setting up an employee recognition program, check out our webinar with Bucketlist Rewards!)

2. Increase communication between staff and leadership

Communication is important in any industry. Leadership needs to be available to talk to the rest of staff in order to increase trust and ensure efforts are aligned across the team. Giving your staff avenues to connect with managers and owners shows them you truly care. It can also help with identifying and eliminating pain points/stressors that will enable smoother working conditions for your staff, motivating them to stay. 

Creating a dedicated, easily-accessible space for team communication is one way to achieve a better link between leadership and staff. Online employee portals, like Ameego, ensure that the whole team is connected and on the same page.

3. Improve company culture 

Taking a good look at your company culture is crucial in retaining your staff, because everyone wants to work somewhere that they’re happy. Organizing fun social events and team-building exercises for your team goes a long way in creating a sense of belonging and engagement. And it doesn’t have to be super extravagant. It can be as simple as throwing a staff party at the restaurant, with food and drinks provided, to show your team that they are valued. 

Consider surveying your staff to find areas that you can improve in (e.g. communication, pay). And when an employee does leave, conduct an exit interview to understand why. This will help to inform decisions in retaining the rest of your staff. 

4. Provide staff with autonomy 

Empowering your staff to be in control of their schedules greatly increases their engagement. You can achieve this by using a software tool, such as Ameego, that lets them swap shifts and request time off easily through an app, without having to go to a manager every time. This also allows for more flexibility and autonomy.

5. Give opportunity for growth

Showing your staff that you’re committed to helping them grow and achieve their goals motivates them to stick around longer. Have conversations with your employees about their career dreams, and find ways to provide support in reaching them. This could be through training programs that help them move up, mentorship, or referrals for head office positions that align with their aspirations. When your staff see that you care about their development, they are more inclined to stay.

6. Show them you care

Last, but not least, show your staff you truly care about them by providing them with benefits and perks that help them outside of work. Try to go beyond traditional health and dental benefits – since the restaurant industry is such a stressful one, benefits that go towards mental health support could be very useful. In addition, since many restaurant workers are also students, a benefit like student loan assistance can be very enticing. (If you’re looking to set up the perfect benefits package for your team, check out Humi Benefits!)

Do more with Ameego

Turnover is inevitable, especially in the restaurant industry, but you can better retain your staff by simply showing them you care, and going the extra mile to help them grow. 

Take a step in the right direction by integrating Ameego, a scheduling and time tracking tool that makes running your restaurant business easy and efficient. 

With Ameego, you get:

  • One-touch optimized scheduling that uses historical data and employee profiles to create the perfect schedule in minutes 
  • Easy punch in-and-outs for your employees
  • Detailed reports that breakdown key sales and labour metrics 
  • Self-serve shift-swapping for employees 
  • And more!

Explore all the solutions Ameego can offer your restaurant by speaking with our team today.

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