How to Foster Employee Retention in the Restaurant Industry

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Yes, the restaurant industry is renowned for its high staff turnover, and while not every employee will be outstanding, there are a number of little things you can do to foster employee retention and to retain those exemplary team members that you don’t want to be without. 

1. Listen to Your Team

Hold regular staff meetings and encourage frank, honest discussion. Invite team members to make suggestions and give feedback on what they feel is and isn’t working within the restaurant and how it could be improved.

Your team is right in the thick of it during every shift, so they are the first ones to be aware of problems and potential pain points. Therefore, their insight is invaluable. Just remember to brace yourself for the possibility of some criticism and don’t make an employee feel bad for being honest. People like to be listened to. It makes them feel valued and it fosters a sense of loyalty to make them feel invested in the business.

2. Create a Cohesive Team

One primary pain point for many restaurants is the kitchen versus the front of house. This “them-versus-us” mentality causes friction and result in stressed and unhappy employees who are more likely to seek employment elsewhere. Instead, encourage team unity with staff events and carefully chosen words and phrases that eliminate divisive thinking.

Employees should have a healthy respect for other roles and at least a basic understanding of what those other roles entail. Give every team member a chance to experience a different role, either through shadowing or fully participating in an alternate role. If every employee has performed every role in the restaurant, they’ll know the stresses under which everybody else has to work. They’ll be more patient with one another and work as a more cohesive unit. It also means that if someone is out sick or on leave, another employee might be able to step into the breach without difficulty.

3. Give Them the Right Resources

Not having what you need to do your job to the best of your ability or being forced to work with faulty or inappropriate resources are huge issues for employees and causes a great deal of anger and frustration.

Keep employees happy and let them perform to their full potential by ensuring that they always have the right resources. It results in loyal staff, better food, better service and a better customer experience. Everybody wins.

4. Use an Honest Approach

Be open with your team. Don’t make promises and then not follow up on them. Don’t promise someone an extra few days of vacation time then renege on the promise or claim that you don’t remember saying that. It’s bad business practice and it destroys your team’s confidence in you.

Instead, if you simply cannot provide something your team member requests, like extra vacation time, tell them upfront. Clearly explain why. Although they won’t be entirely happy, they will appreciate and respect you for your honesty. This should be applied to simple promises, too. For example, if you promised to stock up on premium coffee in the break room, make sure you do it.

5. Lead by Positive Example

Be a positive leader. Don’t rule through fear. You want your employees to respect you rather than fear your wrath. Be strong but be fair. If you rule over your restaurant like a tyrant, you’ll create a palpable atmosphere of fear and stress. This impacts your employees and will encourage them to look for work elsewhere, and it impacts your customers, too, who will also pick up on the tension.

Set clear expectations for your team but be fair and approachable. Garner their respect and they’ll be loyal and always perform to the best of their ability.

6. Offer Training

Aside from the basic essential training an employee needs to perform their current role and the health and safety training required by law, offer other training opportunities. You can purchase training courses from external services, sponsor employees to take courses at local or online education establishments or create your own in-house training.

Offer advanced first aid training or training in supervisory and management roles so that suitable employees have room for growth within your business.

Image from baranq/Shutterstock

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