How to Drive Higher Staff Retention in Your Restaurants

Set expectations clearly during the recruiting process so there are no unhappy surprises, and try to get a sense of candidates’ short-term objectives.

Restaurants will always churn employees faster than most businesses, but there are ways to tame the turnover rates.

High turnover is a normal part of business for the vast majority of restaurants, in part due to shifting seasonal demands and the sheer number of students and young people in the workforce. Managers can’t combat those factors, but shouldn’t feel that turnover is entirely beyond their control. There are several ways to beat the industry norms. 

A lot of hourly worker turnover occurs in the first month – sometimes even the first week or first day. There’s no time to waste. Set expectations clearly during the recruiting process so there are no unhappy surprises, and try to get a sense of candidates’ short-term objectives.

Take an objective look at how you hire. A lackluster candidate pipeline will likely lead to higher turnover, while a convoluted or impersonal hiring process can dampen enthusiasm before a new hire even starts.

At Workpop, we’ve found that focusing on a great candidate experience – from application all the way through onboarding – results in new hires who are more engaged and better prepared to contribute on day one.

Learn about employee priorities

Workpop surveyed over 1,000 job applicants in the food and beverage industry (our specialty) on our platform. We wanted to learn what workers really prioritize, and what makes them likely to leave one employer for another. While most people value the same set of factors – competitive pay and benefits, stability, flexibility, culture – how those factors are prioritized will make a major impact in your retention efforts.

Young servers, for example, are most likely to leave when faced with unreliable or inflexible schedules. Young back-of-house workers prioritized training and education opportunities. Veteran employees are more likely to use terms like “teamwork” and even “family” when searching for jobs – and indicated they’d need a raise of at least five dollars an hour in order to consider leaving a work culture they enjoyed.

Exit interviews can shed additional light into contributing factors behind turnover.

Create a culture that’s hard to leave

Hiring is always hard, and that’s especially the case in a period of low unemployment. Establishing a strong work culture gives a competitive edge in recruiting and helps with retention, especially with employees who have dealt with toxic workplaces in the past (and, sadly, that’s probably many of them).

Again, this process starts with recruiting. Let candidates know what makes your business unique, share your visions and values, and give an honest impression of what it’s like to actually work in your restaurant. Cultural fits are more likely to stick around even if they think they can make a couple extra bucks elsewhere.

A great culture doesn’t just resonate with employees; it makes a difference on customers, too. Mendocino Farms, for example, cites its culture as a critical growth driver. A strong culture is smart business.