Writer Diane Merlino dug into industry data and interviewed hospitality experts to create our e-book, Bringing in the Best and Keeping Them Around: A Guide to Restaurant Staffing and Retention. Find an excerpt from the guide below, and download the full e-book here.
The good news is that job growth in the U.S. restaurant industry is on a steady upward trajectory. The not-so-good news is that the abundance of opportunity in the industry is putting even more pressure on staffing, traditionally the biggest issue facing restaurateurs.
Hiring, training and retaining staff was identified as the top challenge by 59% of restaurateurs, according to a research-based report by Toast, an industry software provider. Constant turnover is inherent in the industry, where most of the workforce is made up of part-time and part-year staff: the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that just over two-fifths of restaurant workers (44%) work full-time or throughout the entire year, compared to 70% of the total U.S. workforce.
A key step retaining your top talent is to make sure your employees have room to grow, feel cared for, and stay motivated. Read on for more tips.
How to Hold on to Your Staff
People are much more likely to stay with you longer term if you offer them opportunities to grow, develop their skills, and advance their careers. Part of that includes promoting from within. There are countless stories about dishwashers, servers and cooks who moved into restaurant leadership positions, many in the restaurants where they started out.
Jack Altman, co-founder and CEO of Lattice, a performance management service, explains that growth is fundamental to human happiness, and is especially present in younger workers who are more likely to prioritize things like personal growth and career opportunity over income and job security. He recommends building authentic opportunities for employees to develop and advance into the fabric of your business.
Create a caring environment.
It’s not as tangible as a paycheck, but a culture of caring based on respect, appreciation and trust can be a powerful force to boost employee retention. “Restaurant work is a really hard job, and if you aren’t being treated well in that environment there are a million other restaurants you can go work in,” notes Beatrice Stein, a New York City hospitality consultant.
“Your employees are your first guest. If you don’t take care of them and treat them well, how do you expect them to take care of your guests and treat them well. You have to listen to their complaints and help them with their schedules and be a good employer and treat them with respect. If you do that, it trickles down to the guest experience.”
Support work-life balance.
Your team members are likely accustomed to working outside a typical 9-to-5 schedule, but that doesn’t mean work-life balance is not important to them. Restaurateurs who understand their workers value a balanced life, and draw a clear line between work-life balance and employee retention, have found ways to implement options despite scheduling and staffing pressures.
Enable impact, on your restaurant and in the community.
Everybody wants to feel that the work they do matters. This is where your restaurant’s mission statement can help workers see their role as an integral part of your operation and an opportunity to have a positive impact on their team members and the business itself.
Many restaurants have food or financial donation programs in place, including active community partnerships or initiatives that reflect their mission statement and their culture. These outreach programs foster an even broader sense of involvement, contribution and belonging among their workers.
Provide perks and rewards.
Benefits and incentives are a great way to demonstrate to your team members that you value them and want them to be long-time team members. While medical coverage, tuition reimbursement and vacation are the standard big draws for restaurant groups that can offer them, smaller perks can be just as compelling and can fit in most budgets. Complimentary coffee, sandwiches or meals are common perks, and some restaurants provide merchandise perks including customized Nikes.
Insights & Advice
Meeting payroll and other expenses is a constant struggle for restaurateurs, especially small independent businesses. In this highly competitive labor market, what kind of response makes the most sense if one of your workers is offered more money?
While many factors will shape that decision, Stein offers this insight: “Let’s say someone working for you is making $15 an hour, and some guy down the street offers them $15.50 an hour. They will leave for that extra 50 cents because that means something to them in terms of taking care of their family or their bills. Yes, every restaurant has a payroll budget they try to stay within, but that number can creep up a little bit so you don’t lose people. Yes, it makes an impact on your payroll and your bottom line, but that 50 cents makes an even bigger impact on your employee.
“You have to consider if you want to invest in that employee and give them the extra 50 cents or dollar an hour so you don’t lose them and start from scratch training someone new.”