Retaining employees in the restaurant industry is notoriously difficult.
In 2016, the turnover rate in the restaurant industry surpassed 70%, meaning that 7 in 10 workers left their positions within one year. The next statistic from Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research is even more sobering: Each of those quickly departing employees cost the business an average of $5,864 in training expenses and productivity losses.
Some of this turnover is unavoidable. Many restaurant industry jobs are designed to be seasonal, and job-hopping is common among younger employees. Add in a strong job market, and it’s inevitable that some staff will pursue other opportunities.
However, there’s plenty that savvy HR managers and decision makers can do to reduce restaurant industry turnover—and, in turn, improve the bottom line.
The first step in retaining employees is hiring the right employees. Successful hires will be more motivated to stay, so being picky during the interview process will (quite literally) pay off.
HR managers should develop a formal, comprehensive interview process for recruiting top talent. While experience and availability are important, dig a little deeper to uncover the truly exceptional applicants. How often do they switch jobs? How solid are their references? Are they a match for the company culture—or can they simply perform the job?
While the hiring process may take a little longer, you’ll ultimately save time and money by selecting quality candidates.
When you don’t have the right tools, it’s hard to do your job—and it’s almost impossible to love it. When restaurants invest in technology, they give employees both the support they need to succeed and motivation to stay with the company.
“By using a modern workforce management and human capital management cloud solution, organizations across the restaurant and food service industries can transform the role of their managers to be more strategic and engaging, while giving all staff the modern employee experience they now expect from any employer,” says Amanda Nichols, senior manager of retail and hospitality at Kronos, a provider of workforce management and HCM cloud-software solutions.
At the managerial level, streamlined, cloud-based systems can make building schedules, reviewing timecards and managing paperwork less time consuming. They can also assist HR teams with securely storing employee paperwork, including I-9 forms and employee personnel files. Employee document management solutions, for instance, help keep restaurant companies in compliance with both state and federal laws.
For employees, having the ability to conveniently manage schedules, view pay stubs and access benefits from a mobile device is a potential game-changer in the employer-employee relationship.
“Simple things—like easily swapping shifts with a coworker—sound small, but when your son has just made the playoffs, these are make-or-break moments in your relationship with your family and your employer,” says Nichols.
Thoughtful, thorough training shows your employees that you care about their success and value their loyalty. All new employees—even those only hired for the holidays or summer months—should complete a formal orientation.
“Proper training is the most important element of onboarding, so restaurant managers must be empowered, competent and available to train,” says Nichols. “Even short-term employees reflect a restaurant’s brand, and the sooner they’re performing to the best
of their ability, the sooner they’ll feel like part of the team.”
When part-time and seasonal employees feel confident in their jobs, they’re more likely to return, refer friends, or even join the team full-time, helping to increase engagement and reduce a restaurant turnover.
When there’s no “next step” in a job, there’s little motivation to stay with the company. If you want your employees to commit to the restaurant, you have to commit to them.
Don’t want to lose your most reliable hostess? Train her to become a server. Have a great bartender who’s ready for more responsibility? Talk to him about pursuing a management path within the company. Can’t imagine a dinner rush without your best line cook? Promote her to sous chef before someone else does.
A good restaurant, just like any good workplace, offers clear opportunities for advancement at every level. And if you can’t offer a path within your organization, develop your staff to make their next move. Chances are they will be more loyal as a result.
Inevitably, some employees will quit. When they do, use it as an opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of your business.
Conduct consistent, standardized exit interviews to find out why your employees are moving on, and what management could have done to change their minds. These “nothing to lose” conversations can offer managers a revealing look into the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, as well as employee morale.
Ultimately, a restaurant is only as successful as its employees. By proactively investing in the workforce, HR managers can help reduce costly restaurant industry turnover and inspire growth throughout the business.
After all, when employees are happy and loyal, guests are likely to feel the same way.
“If workers are engaged, happy, empowered, trained and have the tools to do their jobs well, that sense of engagement and positivity will be reflected in the way they interact with customers and the experience they provide,” says Nichols. “It’s a virtuous cycle.”
Nicole Hart is a seasoned global HR leader with over twenty years of experience. She focuses on organizational design, change management and workforce planning at Access which has 1800 employees in over 50 locations.