When Turnover Takes Over
If you can’t retain staff then the only person working consistently at your restaurant is you. Each time an employee leaves, you’re losing money, someone who’s trained on your restaurant’s procedures, and team morale.
“It’s a trickle down because if you’re constantly turning over that means your managers are constantly spending time interviewing, hiring, and training new people,” explains Robby Kukler, partner at Fifth Group Restaurants, “The larger economic impact is the fact that you’re constantly having people who are learning and don’t know things very well, so most likely your execution of running great shifts is not going to happen. And if that’s the case, your guests aren’t having good experiences and eventually your sales decline.”
Sara Anderson, director of workforce development at the National Restaurant Association, says the frustration from longer-tenured employees from constantly picking up a new hire’s slack can make it difficult for them to continue to perform well and deliver on the restaurant’s core values.
“If you don’t have time to get a seasoned team, and develop them to understand what you’re trying to drive with your mission and your culture, and get that guest frequency, then you’re constantly spinning your wheels, training and recruiting and hiring, and that costs a lot of money,” explains Anderson, “In order to have a successful restaurant, you have to have a great culture that is not only people centric with your employees, but also your guests…If you’re constantly turning [staff] over, they don’t get that experience to shine and excel in their job.”
Owners may know the issues that come with excessive employee turnover in restaurants, but how can they manage and reduce it?
Reduce Your Restaurant’s Turnover
Managing and reducing your turnover isn’t as complicated as it seems. At Woodstock’s Pizza, owner Laura Ambrose uses a multifaceted approach, which includes enhanced, customized onboarding that helps team members “not only understand who we are and our culture, but to buy in to the company as whole; therefore, feel more investment in the company quickly.”
Once new employees have completed their initial training and are proficient, Ambrose gives them an extra dollar raise. Her intent is to train quickly to create valuable employees, then reward that investment with regular raises because “it’s a better proposition financially to pay our valuable team members more as they go along than to continually see turnover and therefore start all over again.”
Kukler agrees that paying employees competitively, especially for Back of House (BOH) and managers, is critical. If full-time employees can’t make ends meet, he says the financial stress outweighs everything else.
When considering culture and work environment, how is your restaurant doing in terms of respect and communications? Are employees treated fairly, and is there transparency about what’s going on in the business?
Honesty, transparency, fairness, equity, and equal opportunity are crucial for you to deliver to staff members, say experts, as are opportunities to grow and learn. Creating career paths showing staff ways to stay in your restaurant or the restaurant business in general can not only help reduce turnover, but increase retention and prove to your employees that you love investing in their success.
People Operations Director at Homebase, Carol Wood, says a few other ways to reduce turnover are to hire within a 10-mile radius of your restaurant, and give employees at least two weeks of notice of their schedule.
“We did a lot of research on turnover, and the 10-mile radius was one of the only factors in hiring that correlated with lower turnover. The closer they are to your restaurant, the less likely they are to leave,” says Wood. Homebase’s study also showed businesses that published schedules with one to three days of notice, had turnover of 42 percent while businesses that posted schedules at least eight days in advance had turnover of 26 percent.
Wood believes the turnover drops because when employees feel their schedule is respected, they return that respect. “There’s a mindset of, ‘I’m the employer, and the employee needs to be proving to me that they’re going to do whatever it takes for this job,’” explains Wood, “There’s about 300 to 700 posts a day for hourly workers on Craigslist in most of the major four cities in the US…This idea that employees are going to break their necks and do anything for your job is not realistic.”
Businesses that published schedules with one to three days of notice, had turnover of 42 percent while businesses that posted schedules at least eight days in advance had turnover of 26 percent
Give Your Retention Rate a Boost
Restaurant owners may think high pay and frequent raises would improve retention rates, but it’s not all about the money when you’re working to keep employees around. What matters most, Anderson says, is establishing a people-centric culture, as it not only shows staff they fit in, but empowers them to perform at their best. These types of cultures also make it clear what the employee’s direct role is and encourage managers to engage staff throughout each shift.
“A positive workplace where all employees feel included and respected translates into an amazing experience for your patrons,” explains Anderson, “Good, happy, healthy workplaces mean happy employees and happy guests.”
Another step is creating career trajectories. Not only do they reduce turnover, but they increase retention because employees see how they can forge longevity as well as move up and gain knowledge. Career paths keep employees engaged and create a professional team that lasts, says Anderson, but owners need to make clear what positions align with which specific careers.
“Research shows that across all industries, 87 percent of our Millennials, who make up a large part of our [food and beverage] workforce, feel that training development is crucial to the job and 93 percent of employees will stay with you longer if you invest in their career,” she explains.
On top of career paths, Kukler says chances for continued learning shows employees they can grow with you. “That’s the one thing, that people want to be learning and be given opportunity, that people want to be appreciated or recognized, and we do a lot of things in our company to appreciate and recognize our staff,” says Kukler.
Ambrose encourages team members to spend time with each other and she supports that with a team member “fun fund” that she contributes to each month. “For us, it’s great when we see that our people love to be around each other so much, that they choose to be with each other even when they’re not working,” she says, “I do think that overall that contributes to more of a sense of team esprit de corps and a desire to help each other out; to take each other’s shifts and do what they can to be part of a team and not seeing this as just a job.”
Show Employees You’re Invested in Their Success
Do you and your managers know what your employees’ goals are and where they want to be headed in life? You should, Wood says, because “letting employees know you care about where they want to go next, keeps that employee [around] longer.”
From gift cards to their restaurants, to appreciation months where employees gets 50 percent off their bill, to backpacks filled with school supplies for all employees with children aged kindergarten through 12th grade, to community charity involvement, Fifth Restaurant Group works hard to invest in their staff. Kukler also says spending time with your employees to get to know them during performance evaluations and by having casual conversations with them can make a remarkable difference.
Recognizing employee wins is another way to show you care about them succeeding, says Anderson, and this can be a great way to make it known to the entire team that you’re all winning and therefore, you can boost morale.
Restaurant owners who want to reduce turnover and increase retention must think about the success of their employees. By investing in different areas that prove to employees you’re in their corner, turnover will plummet, employment tenure will grow, and employees will continue to give their best to your restaurant.
“You can do that through fun games, where not only is the server having a contest to sell appetizers that shift, but they’re connected to a cook, and to somebody else that has a role,” explains Anderson, “Somebody has to make the food, and now the server has to sell it so they’re a team. And these team games on a shift basis, not only help drive sales, they keep the team engaged and having fun together, and that makes coming to work fun. If you’re coming to work every day, you might as well enjoy it and have fun.”
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