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High Restaurant Turnover? Here’s What You Can Do to Turn It Around

restaurant turnover
Daphne Blake

By Daphne Blake

Restaurant Turnover

No restaurateur likes to think or talk about the turnover in their restaurant.

But today, we’re going to do just that. Why? Because the restaurant turnover rate is 72.9%. If you ask us, that’s unacceptable.

With over 1 million restaurant locations in the United States, your highest-performing staff members have plenty of places to work. Let’s go over some ways you can keep them at your restaurant instead.

Flexible Schedules

Restaurant scheduling is a fickle part of the job. Unlike the 9-5 life of day job employees, restaurant employees could work anywhere from 20-80 hours per week and never have the same schedule twice.

While some employees perceive this as exciting, others get frustrated with unmet time-off requests and feel a strong sense of FOMO when asked to work during a special occasion.

When these employees feel too overwhelmed, some decide to call it quits, raising your turnover.

To counter this, understand the need for a work-life balance in your restaurant. Don’t schedule the same server for the Friday night shift every week unless they ask for it, and consider offering on-call shifts for those who volunteer for them. Giving employees choice of their hours lets them feel control over their job (and less likely to relinquish that control).

Have Regular Progress Meetings

Traditionally, this is reserved for more private sector or office jobs. But seeing as that turnover rate is less than 50%, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to start hosting performance reviews.

Pre-shift meetings allow quieter people’s thoughts to go unspoken, so one-on-ones can be a better opportunity to talk. These can be formal, periodic meetings in your back office with feedback from peers and managers, or they can be informal check-ins that occur as-needed.

Structured or not, these meetings open the door between employer and employee communication so both parties can express concerns and aspirations over the job.

Offer Advancement Opportunities

According to restaurant consultant Donald Burns, one of the top reasons restaurants lose staff is because there’s no opportunity for advancement.

Don’t let this be the case in your restaurant! Be open with your staff about what the road looks like for promotions, pay raises, and career advancement. When the expectations are clear, they’ll be more likely to stay in your restaurant to attain that goal.

Bring On More Experienced Managers

Those with a long career in hospitality and with good references should naturally be given precedence in the job selection process.

Two factors keeping the entire industry turnover so high are the seasonality of worker availability and the young age of many employees. With a bulk of the restaurant workforce still in school, high turnover is clearly tied to this.

To account for the ins-and-outs of high school bussers, place experience and industry longevity towards the top of your hiring criteria for management and leadership positions.

Exit Interviews

The dramatic moments of “I quit!” are for the movies. Normally, you’ll get some sort of heads up if an employee is on their way out. Take some time to meet with them if they’re leaving and ask for candid feedback about what’s working well in the restaurant and what isn’t.

Normally, when someone isn’t in fear of losing their job, he or she probably isn’t afraid to speak some truths. If you hear some recurring themes from departing employees, use the insight to take action and make your restaurant a better place to work.

Encourage Feedback

Restaurants should not be dictatorships.

While owners and managers must give direction, your cooks are the ones making the food and your servers are the ones on the floor. These people play as much a role in a given shift that you do. Make sure your restaurant is an open forum for new ideas, constructive criticism, and feedback.

When employees feel like their voices are heard and see their ideas implemented, they’ll know they have a valued spot in your restaurant and will be less inclined to leave.

Use Tech That Makes Tipping Easy

If you’ve read up on the topic of reducing employee turnover before, chances are someone said the solution to reducing turnover is simple – just pay better!

If only it were that simple.

Better tipping methods let owners spend less on wages while employees make more. Customer-facing terminals at QSRs and restaurant handhelds at FSRs with pre-prompted tip amounts can increase gratuities 3x.

Let’s get real for a moment – people really only work so that they can make money. If this tech results in more money for employees, why would they work somewhere else and make less money?

Hire Smarter

The hiring process (posting jobs, interviewing, and planning for onboarding) is restaurant’s chance to make a professional impression. When you simply wing it, you could see fewer qualified candidates, ask the wrong interview questions, or set unclear expectations when following up with an offer.

Following the process of a step-by-step restaurant hiring kit simplifies the process for everyone involved – employees and candidates alike, as sloppy hiring tends to set poor standards.

Reducing Restaurant Turnover

Restaurants need to do everything in their power as the industry becomes more competitive and the war for talent rages on. More communication before, during, and after someone’s time working for your restaurant can make the job easier for everyone involved and more profitable for the business.

AJ Beltis is a blogger and content marketer for Toast Restaurant POS in Boston. AJ runs the Toast Restaurant Management Blog and helps to create resources for restaurant chefs, owners, and managers.

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