High staff turnover is quickly becoming one of the biggest shortcomings of the hospitality industry. According to the latest State of the Restaurant Industry Report conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 78% of restaurant operators reported not having enough employees to support customer demand, and 75% said they are more than 10% below necessary staffing levels. Not only does a high rate of staff turnover lower the average level of service in the restaurant – it also brings along tremendous costs linked to the whole process of hiring and training new employees. Although the reasons behind this problem are many and varied (from the large ratio of students working in the industry to high levels of seasonality), it is also true that many operators in the industry could do more to retain talent.
Here are five ideas to help you keep your staff happy to work in your restaurant
1. Build team spirit from the top
In a restaurant, teamwork is vital to keep service running smoothly. When the team does not work as one, mistakes, bottlenecks and finger-pointing can quickly arise. The result? The service suffers, customers get irritated, and staff members leave for places with a more relaxed, positive atmosphere. To prevent this catastrophic –but very common- chain of events, focus on fostering team spirit in your company. You could, for example:
Organize a yearly team-building day and fill it with fun activities that will make people get to know each other better and help build positive relationships among staff members.
Show that in your restaurant all employees work hard by having managers routinely perform different jobs, from clearing the tables to preparing drinks. Fair division of tasks improves relationships in the workplace; plus, a manager who has direct experience of what each task requires will behave more fairly to workers.
Celebrate milestones. When one of your employees has a birthday, graduates, or gets a promotion; when an employee has a work anniversary: organize an outing for the whole team, or at least bring in a cake and some drinks, and take an hour aside to get together to unwind. Celebrating events together shows that you care about your staff, boosts morale, and helps connect you as a group.
Give staff the chance to pre-taste new dishes on the menu and give their opinion. Your employees will feel valued by the management and will also be able to give better recommendations to customers.
2. Equip employees with the right tools
If you think you are saving money by not replacing outdated equipment, you are sorely mistaken. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to perform a great job – as quickly as possible! - while having to work with non-functional tools. An old fryer that the kitchen staff can’t rely on may ruin the lunch rush; an outdated Point of Sale system that gets stuck, or is slow to create tickets, will decrease table turns, while at the same time upsetting customers who are in a rush. Check with your team regularly to see if any of the tools they are using are inadequate or obsolete, both in the back, and in the front of house, and make an investment in the latest technology. Just remember: what you spend on tech to support your staff, such as mobile Point of Sale that quickly takes orders at the tableside, should be seen as an investment in improving customer service.
3. Show appreciation for a job well done
Studies have shown that feeling valued and appreciated makes people feel more motivated at work. A recent survey from A Great Place to Work-Certified company reported that teams scoring in the top 20% of engagement experienced 59% less turnover. Workers who receive positive reinforcement feel more energized, work harder, and are happier. A lot of employees actually think that feeling valued is more important than money in the workplace! There are many ways to show your staff you value them:
Make it a habit to compliment your staff for a job well done, for example when a busy shift has gone particularly well, when sales goals have been reached, or when an employee has handled a difficult situation in a professional manner.
“Thank-yous” matter. Has a server agreed to a last-minute change of shift to accommodate your business’s needs? Did someone skip a break to help during the rush? Make sure to acknowledge their effort and thank them for going above and beyond.
Give them time and space to relax. Create a break room with a coffee machine, free light snacks, and a water dispenser: having the time and space to decompress and get their energy back will help your staff be more relaxed and motivated once they return to work.
4. Offer ongoing training
Thorough training can provide your staff with a sense of purpose and give them a clear idea of what is expected of them. Make sure to teach new staff about your values, rules, and policies alongside all they need to know to properly serve your customers. Training should never be over. Although the onboarding stage is of great importance, don’t let your employees’ learning stop after that. Provide your staff with access to professional courses: they will feel like a valued member of the team, know that you care about their growth and, as a bonus, bring extra competencies back into your business. According to NRA data, 9 out of 10 restaurant managers started at entry level – when you invest in your employees’ professional future, you are also investing into your business’s future success.
5. Give people a channel for official communication
Unclear communication and misunderstandings can quickly ruin work relationships and sour the atmosphere in the workplace. “Why does he always get all the overtime?” “Wait – I asked for my holiday with two weeks’ advance, and it got rejected, why did she get time off when she just asked yesterday?” Limit the risk of grudges and complaints of preferential treatment by implementing tools that enable clear, straightforward communication between employees and management. The staff management functionality in LS Central, our unified commerce software, can help you streamline staff scheduling, and provides you with a direct communication channel in the form of an Employee Portal. Your staff can log onto the Portal to view upcoming shifts, comment on their hours, request to work certain days, ask for shift changes or time off, receive messages, accept or decline work requests, and see their manager’s responses. The system ensures quick communication by immediately alerting managers to any requests that need addressing, which they can then accept or reject. Seeing one’s schedule in advance, having a clear view of worked hours and getting straightforward answers to requests will make your employees more relaxed, satisfied and motivated in the workplace.
When your employees are happy, they work harder, stay longer in the job, and take fewer sick days. And when your staff is happy to work for you, you spend less on hiring and training new employees – and can offer consistently high-quality service in all your locations. Contact us if you need help finding the right technology to improve the quality of work in your restaurant business.