How to Reduce Staff Turnover and Improve Employee Retention in Your Restaurant


pick up window in restaurant kitchen Hiring great restaurant workers is one thing. Keeping them is an entirely different thing. Most restaurant operators realize that their employees are not typically planning on a long-term career in the food service industry. At least, that is the trend according to research from the National Restaurant Association. Research shows that employee turnover in a sampling of full-service restaurants lingered just over an average of 78% in 1997.1 Almost ten years later, another report showed that employee turnover had risen to a rate of 107% for another sampling of restaurants.2 Although comparisons between these two findings are not direct, the research suggests that employee turnover in the restaurant industry is a growing concern for owners and operators.

Reasons Employees Leave

There are numerous reasons for an employee to leave a job. However, the reasons can become amplified by the high stress levels and relatively low pay rates in a typical restaurant. Some of the most influential reasons employees leave their jobs are listed below.

  • Inadequate Pay Rate
  • Lack of Recognition
  • Not Enough Hours
  • Conflict With Staff or Management
  • Too Few Opportunities for Advancement
  • Lack of Employment Benefits


Best Ways to Encourage Employee Retention

Despite the numerous reasons restaurant staff leave their jobs, there are ways you can work to retain them. Finding and training new employees can be a time-consuming and costly enterprise, so taking the extra step to keep your best workers around will improve both your business and your peace of mind.

Offer Pay Raises. Studies show that about one third of all employees who choose to leave the workplace leave for a better paying position elsewhere. You should not only offer competitive wages, but when you notice an employee with consistently high performance, take the opportunity to reward them with a raise. Even a small increase is important to keep your best people on board.

Offer Care and Benefits. Take the time to get to know your employees as people. Learn about their families, pets, hobbies and passions. When you build a relationship of respect and care, your people will feel better about coming to work and likely return the sentiment. Another part of taking care of them is offering them insurance. Whenever possible, offer a benefits package.

Recognize and Reward. Hardworking, committed and ethical employees can be hard to come by. When you find them, be sure they are appropriately recognized. For instance, praise their work in front of their peers. This shows the rest of the team that you like what you see. You might reward an employee’s achievement with a gift card or some free movie passes. Small gestures like these can let the employee know his or her efforts are not going unnoticed.

Be as Fair as Possible. Employees are looking for someone who is fair to them, especially when it comes to pay rates and scheduling. When determining pay rates, pay fairly according to the offer given during the hiring process. If the employee shows extra effort or increased achievement, then consider discussing a pay increase. Scheduling can be a difficult task, but attempt to assign shifts based on labor budget requirements, positions needed and requested time off. Remind employees that you need to run a business at all times, and that your scheduling choices are made for the good of the company. » Learn More

Improve Communication. Staff members may say they feel a lack of connection between the rest of the staff and the management team. As a manager, be sure to promote healthy communication whenever possible. If you give direction, be sure to follow up afterward. Hold staff meetings frequently. Greet and talk with each employee daily, or as often as possible. Let staff members know what is happening in the business and make them feel that they are a part of its successes.

Resolve Conflicts. Part of a manager’s responsibilities is to ensure that employees can work together as a team, even when they do not especially like one another. Speak to the whole team about cooperation and the importance of running the business. Take further action if needed, such as mediating a private conversation with just the staff members involved. If the trouble is with your management style, you might speak privately with the employee to see if you can resolve it. You may have to respectfully acknowledge the difference in opinion but still make it clear that you are in charge of their paycheck when all is said and done.

Properly Train All Employees. From day one, all staff members in the restaurant should have an adequate training program. This should include an orientation to the position and the restaurant, as well as all necessary information to perform up to standard, including safety training, equipment training and customer service training, among others. Employees who feel knowledgeable and comfortable in their surroundings will more often feel successful and content with their position.

Provide Opportunities for Advancement. Whenever possible, consider each staff member for potential advancement within the business. For example, take note of employee’s performance and interests, and offer training programs for hostesses who want to become servers, or dishwashers who would like to move up to line cooks. These types of advancements boost morale as well as interest in the industry.

1 Robert Ebbin. “Turnover Takes a Turn for the Better.” Restaurants USA (Mar 1999) (accessed Oct 12, 2008).
2 Dina Berta. “People Report: Worker turnover rate continues to climb.” HR & Service–Nation’s Restaurant News (Nov 2006) (accessed Oct 12, 2008).

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