Amid ongoing staffing shortages in the hospitality sector – and unprecedented competition for talent – if restaurant operators don’t prioritize employee retention, they’ll have to spend considerable time, money, and effort on recruiting and hiring efforts. By 2030, the U.S. is expected to lose $430 billion each year due to employee turnover. Now that 78% of restaurant operators don’t have enough staff to meet customer demand, it’s essential that your restaurant focus on boosting employee engagement, satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.
Employee retention is critical to your restaurant’s success. When employees leave, their valuable knowledge leaves with them. Your remaining employees may feel unmotivated and unproductive during times of turnover, as they have to pick up the slack after their colleagues quit. This can lead to frustrations, burnout, and future turnover.
Restaurant owners and managers have heard ad nauseam about the importance of offering competitive salaries and attractive benefits packages to retain employees. While those things are certainly important, they’re not the only things you should be doing. Restaurant operators would be wise to:
- Provide the best tools. Overwhelmed, overworked employees are picking up extra shifts and handling more responsibilities during the ongoing staffing shortage, so do whatever you can to make their lives easier. For instance, ensure all equipment – including computers – are working properly. Provide updated, integrated software to maximize productivity and minimize mistakes (and frustrations). Any glitchy software or problems with equipment can feel monumentally stressful, especially when a restaurant is understaffed.
- Make tasks faster and easier. Provide digital tools to make daily tasks, like inspections and line checks, easier, faster, and more accurate. Tech tools also streamline other critical tasks, like inventory, ordering, scheduling, etc., saving time and hassle.
- Provide professional development, mentoring, and advancement opportunities. A recent study showed 94% of employees would stay with their company longer if it invested in their career development. And (63%) of employees quit during the Great Resignation because they didn’t have advancement opportunities. Help employees set and achieve career goals. Be clear about what employees need to do, know, and accomplish to be considered for promotions. Provide job training, mentoring, and opportunities for advancement, which will help motivate employees and prevent them from looking for better opportunities elsewhere.
- Create a collaborative culture. Teamwork makes the dream work! Prioritize collaboration and teamwork to cultivate a healthy environment. Be transparent, set aligned goals, foster strong relationships, and reward teams for reaching certain metrics. Be sure your team knows what’s expected of them and encourage them to work together to get things done. Remember: a collaborative environment is much healthier than a competitive one. Collaboration reduces the burden on each individual employee and increases a sense of shared purpose and teamwork.
- Cross-train. Cross-training keeps employees nimble, helps stave off boredom, and allows staff to learn new skills. In addition, cross-training allows employees to be deployed wherever they’re needed, which is a game-changer during busy shifts or when other staff members quit or are out sick. This tactic can be valuable for career progression, helping employees gain necessary experience to advance.
- Check in (often!) with employees. As 74% of employees are experiencing burnout, it’s wise to check in with current staff to determine how things are going and identify potential problems. Let employees know that you care about them and that you want to resolve any issues that are making them unhappy or dissatisfied at work. In addition to asking the questions, be willing to address the problems that they bring up, whether that’s a poor manager, conflicts with colleagues, the need for more training or a much-needed mental health day. Reducing employees’ stress – and showing that you care about their happiness – can dramatically increase loyalty and retention.
- Schedule smarter. Historically, many restaurants relied on manual scheduling systems and handwritten notes to remember shift swaps. Make things easier on your managers and employees by using tech tools instead. Digital tools help ensure that you’re properly utilizing all employees, giving them their preferred shifts, and avoiding overscheduling anyone. Tech tools can also use historical sales patterns and other relevant data to prevent your restaurant from being over or under-staffed on any given shift.
- Express sincere thanks. A simple thank you goes a long way. Show appreciation for your employees and their hard work. Acknowledge your employees during staff meetings and on social media. Celebrate milestones. Provide free meals. Text staff to tell them what you appreciate about them, or to acknowledge something they did – like skillfully handle a difficult customer or help a colleague during a busy shift. Staff members will be more inclined to work harder – and stay longer – if they feel appreciated and valued.
At a time when so many restaurants are understaffed and actively recruiting, take every opportunity to make your employees feel happier and more engaged at your establishment. Listening to your staff, providing them with the proper tools, cross-training, providing advancement opportunities, and thanking them often are all proven ways to increase satisfaction and retention.
Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-house restaurant management platform. Greg focuses on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of intelligent, integrated back-of-house technology. For more information or to discuss SynergySuite’s solutions, please contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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