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Hospitality managers

The 5 best ways to retain restaurant staff

How can you keep employees from leaving, especially in the hustle and bustle of the restaurant industry? Here are the best staff retention strategies.

Ask any restaurant owner or manager what their biggest pain points are. More likely than not, the words “team,” “staff,” or “employees” will come up.

In fact, more restaurateurs name staffing and hiring as their biggest challenge to success than any other issue, according to the 2017 Restaurant Success Report.

Losing staff isn’t easy. It can cost thousands of dollars every time someone quits or is let go, and when the restaurant turnover rate is 72.9%, it’s not getting any easier to keep costs down.

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There are plenty of ways you can work to retain your restaurant staff – but the most effective ones come from a mindset of empathy, challenge, understanding, and encouragement.

Here are five of the best ways to keep your staff engaged, satisfied, and employed in your restaurant.

 1. Be flexible

The Kitchen Nightmares/Bar Rescue approach only works on TV. Yelling at someone until they do what you ask is unrealistic and terrible for staff morale.

Instead of this – be flexible with work hours and your management approach. When it comes to millennials in the workforce, 77% feel flexibility from management actually makes them more productive.

As the world works towards achieving a healthier work-life balance, it’s important for the hospitality industry to follow suit. Remember your staff members have lives of their own, so if they need a bit of leeway with their schedule or need to move a bit faster in the kitchen, come up with a solution that’s beneficial to them and your business. This can be done with positive encouragement, open communication, and knowing that not all change happens overnight.

This approach will pay off with higher morale, lower turnover, and a more productive restaurant.

2. Gamify the job

Who said work and play can’t be the same thing?

Transforming daily work tasks into challenges and acknowledging the highest performer on your staff is known as employee gamification. This method is a potential plus for both employees and owners and gives your team members something new and exciting to do every day on the job.

For example, let’s say the challenge of the week is getting servers to sell wine bottles. The server who sells the most gets a prize or gift card of about a $20 value. Owners will see a spark of excitement in staff who are eager to engage in the healthy competition. While the business is profiting off of every bottle sold, servers are taking on a new challenge for a reward.

This has been put into practice at Branch Line in Watertown, Massachusetts. On The Garnish podcast, General Manager Deena Marlette said she keeps a collection of all the wine bottles sold in the back so servers can point out to their co-workers who sold which bottle. Displayed leaderboards or live data from your restaurant sales reporting also keep employees motivated to sell more.

Gamification makes the job fun, adds a bit of extra incentive for employees, and leads to more sales. What’s not to love?

3. Pay well

Yes, we know, restaurants operate on extremely thin profit margins. That said, running a business requires continuous investments, and arguably, a great staff is your most important investment.

Sure, we can’t expect you to be like the restaurant CEO who gave all his employees a $70,000 minimum annual salary, but acknowledging the need for decent pay is still crucial.

Schedule your team training with Typsy There are plenty of workarounds to try if you haven’t already. Requiring minimum tenure for overtime shifts can ensure your labor budget goes to your top performers. You could consider implementing a back-of-house/kitchen fee to directly benefit your cooks and dishwashers. Using mobile restaurant POS tablets with pre-selected tip amounts can lead to higher gratuities for your wait staff.

Pay is definitely a hot topic for both employees and business owners, but if an employee is good enough, it’s likely they’ll find the wage they’re looking for somewhere else if they don’t get it from you. Don’t let that happen! Pay fairly, and develop new strategies to boost your employee’s paycheck amounts.

4. Take hiring seriously

“Okay, we’ll give you a shot,” is never the right approach to hiring.

Hiring to simply fill a gap in the kitchen results in hasty decisions that can negatively impact your bottom line and throw off efficiency in the back of the house. Instead, source candidates systematically and thoroughly. Get your trusted managers on the interview team and listen to their feedback.

Take some time to develop a structured and rigorous restaurant hiring plan. Come up with enticing job descriptions, write the best interview questions, and establish an organized onboarding program.

Hiring the right person can save you time and money in the long run. Take the extra steps in the hiring process to make sure you only onboard the most dedicated professionals this industry has to offer.

5. Never stop training 

Nobody wants to feel stuck or bored in their job. It’s a morale killer and causes productivity to drag. But before coming up with a solution, take a look at the cause of the problem.

Of the 43% of employees who are bored at work, 46% say it’s because they aren’t learning any new skills, according to a workplace study by Udemy. The same study also found that bored workers are 2x more likely to leave.

So, what’s the solution? Training. Education. Upskilling. Show an opportunity for career advancement in your restaurant and never turn down a chance to teach an employee something new. It enriches the job for your team while also giving a more holistic understanding of the way a restaurant operates.

AJ Beltis.jpg AJ Beltis is a Content Specialist at Toast POS in Boston. At Toast, AJ runs the Toast Restaurant Management Blog and provides content and resources to restaurateurs on a daily basis. Outside of work, you’ll find AJ at the movies or on the lookout for the newest craft brewery.


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