High turnover has long been a thorn in the side of the hospitality industry.
For restaurant employees added in the past year (August 2021-August 2022), the average employee tenure is just 110 days—a little over three months, according to 7shifts data.
The restaurants that prioritize employee retention above all will come out on top. They offer work-life balance, give flexible schedules, and operate on strong core values. The best restaurants know that effective employee management is proactive.
Here are some helpful tips from real operators on how to lead a restaurant team with retention as the priority.
Restaurant management tips: 3 ways to increase retention
1. Check your culture
“Everybody has a culture, whether they work at it or not. The question is, is it an uplifting, intentional culture?” asked Danny Meyer in a recent interview with 7shifts and QSR Magazine. Restaurant culture is how you do things in your restaurant and why you do them that way. And at its foundation lie your business' core values.
Take a close look at your restaurant culture. Does your restaurant have core values that guide the customer and employee experience? If you already have core values established—that's great! If you haven't looked at them in a while, it may be time to audit them to see if they're what your business needs now and in the future.
Restaurant work is tough. And hard work should be recognized. For those over 25, lack of manager recognition was one of the top three reasons they left restaurant jobs. Recognition, especially in public, also reinforces what “good” looks like at your restaurant and creates an example.
“If you want something done, find time to recognize when it's being done and scream it from the rooftops,” says Chris Williams, Director of Brand at Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux.
Promote from within
A third of restaurant employees surveyed in our State of Restaurant Employee Satisfaction report said they'd like recognition through promotions. Without solid training and growth opportunities, you could be letting great employees go to the restaurants that have them.
Most restaurants train new employees, but oftentimes it stops there. Regular training is essential to make employees' jobs easier and more productive, increasing engagement and decreasing turnover.
2. Schedule with empathy
56% of employees surveyed say that flexible scheduling greatly affects their work happiness.
Andolini's restaurant group in Tulsa, Oklahoma, comprised of 6 locations, maintains a 35% attrition rate annually. They attribute a lot of that to what owner Mike Bausch calls scheduling with empathy.
“I think it's extremely undervalued how directly connected a schedule is to staff morale, attrition, and retention,” says Bausch.
It's required of Andolini's management to post schedules 14 days ahead of time. This allows the team opportunities to plan out their life.
You cannot let a schedule become a list of names. Remember that everyone on your team has unique life circumstances that must be accounted for when building the schedule. College classes, kids at home, second jobs, and other responsibilities all factor into someone's availability. Here are a few examples of how to implement a flex scheduling policy:
Get the schedule out in advance
Get the schedule done and send it to employees to give them enough lead time to plan their lives. Generally, two weeks ahead is a scheduling best practice, and it's the law in some cities.
Give two days off in a row
If possible, give your team back-to-back days off. This allows them ample time to relax and recharge.
Create a shift swap policy
Even when you give lead time, things come up. Give your employees the flexibility to swap shifts with their coworkers in the event of last-minute changes.
3. Build effective restaurant team communication
72% of employees in our survey ranked team communication as important to their satisfaction at work. With so many moving parts, miscommunication is all too common in restaurants. When conversations start verbally, go to text, and end up in an email, things get lost. This leads to frustration and a less-than-stellar work experience.
There are a few ways to improve the communication flow in your restaurants—from in-person meetings to digital tools.
Run pre-shift meetings
Pre-shift meetings are a great way to update the team, share recognition, and give staff the chance to ask questions. It also creates a space for team building and bonding.
Make sure you're always collecting feedback—both directly and anonymously— from your team. This could be in the form of a shift feedback tool or simply just asking them how they're feeling.
Create a dedicated place for work communication
For digital communication, dedicate one or two places, such as a group chat and email. And clearly state when to use email vs. text vs. calls.
86 turnover in your restaurant
High employee turnover is the biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry today and has been for a long time. The old way of restaurant team management doesn't work anymore. And for restaurants to thrive moving forward, staff retention is paramount.