5 Tips to Combat Against Restaurant Turnover

By Jackie Prange

Illustration of servers wanted sandwich board

Staff turnover is a universal restaurant pain. Replacing staff means you have to go through another round of hiring and vetting, then you need onboard your new team member and train them for their new role – all of which takes considerable time and effort.

But have you ever stopped to think about the costs of staff turnover? If not, you might want to take a seat.

According to The Rail, the average cost of replacing an employee in the restaurant industry is $5,864. Yup, you read that right: nearly $6,000 to replace each staff member who leaves your business. Think of how many staff you’ve have had to replace in the past year alone, and you can see why this is cause for concern.

With staff turnover rates in the restaurant industry rising to 72% in 2015, up from 67% in 2014, restaurateurs are left having to suffer through the aches and pains that come with lost talent and what’s become a revolving door of new faces.

Here are 5 quick tips to aid in your quest to reduce your restaurant staff turnover rate at your restaurant.

1. Practice Careful Hiring

Employees are a key ingredient in establishing your restaurant’s reputation, building customer loyalty and creating a positive work environment, so it only makes sense for you to go the extra mile to ensure you hire the right employees. It’s important to implement a solid hiring process to determine which candidates are the right fit for your team.

Here are a few essential steps to consider adding to your hiring process: 

  • Ensure job postings are specific and informative
  • Assemble a strong set of open-ended interview questions
  • Always check references
  • Make note of each candidate’s body language 
  • Have another senior employee join you while conducting interviews

Carrying out a few of these hiring processes will increase your chances of discovering superstar staff, and decrease your chances of hiring someone who will become part of the turnover statistic. 

Employees behind restaurant counter smiling

2. Provide Adequate Training for All Employees

Often overlooked by restaurateurs, providing adequate training to all of your employees is crucial. We know that time is money, especially in the restaurant industry. But quick training and learning through trial and error invites the possibility of miscommunication and staff error later on. Proper training and a thorough restaurant employee handbook allows your staff to gain a true understanding of how they can excel at their job, making them more likely to remain at your restaurant.

Since using and mastering your point of sale is one of the biggest components of staff training, along with menu knowledge and customer service standards, make sure your POS company can provide both you and your staff with in-depth POS training. Having trained professionals teaching your staff the ins-and-outs of your POS will take some much needed weight (and stress) off your shoulders.

Want ideas for your restaurant’s training process? Here are a few examples: 

  • Have new employees shadow each role in the restaurant from hostess to cook so they have an understanding and appreciation for the different responsibilities of each job.
  • Have new staff study for and complete a small test about your menu.
  • Pair new staff with more senior employees who will be their go-to for any questions about the restaurant, service, or menu knowledge.

By investing the time in adequately training each of your employees from the get go, you’ll have increased productivity, decreased labor costs, and last but not least, a solid employee retention rate. 

3. Recognize, Reward, and Regroup

As Custom Insight defines it, employee engagement is “the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.” 

Countless restaurant industry studies have noted a correlation between staff dissatisfaction and turnover rates. If you think low morale may be contributing to turnover rates in your restaurant, consider lightening the mood with regular recognition, rewards, or team socials. These are great ways to motivate your team. Get creative with both the contests and rewards you give. Check out a few of these ideas:

  • An Employee of the Month contest allows you to reward your hardworking and committed employees while also motivating even the lowest of performers. 
  • Recognition alone goes a long way, but rewarding the winner with first pick of next week’s schedule would be a serious motivator for employees. 
  • A team building contest is a great way to get your staff working together. Assign employees to random teams and calculate their sales totals. The team with the highest sales at the end of the shift gets a special prize.

The reward doesn’t need to be a trip to the Bahamas, a small reward will do the trick. Some rewards you can test out include:

  • Letting employees select their section next shift 
  • Prime parking for a week
  • Free dessert after their shift

Leverage your POS reports for more ways to recognize your staff. If you notice one of your servers is a superstar upseller, recognize and reward! Any one of these ideas will help incentivize top notch performance from your employees, while also positively affecting employee morale and retention rates.

Finally, consider organizing a regular team social activity, such as a staff meal, or even better, a group charity that your staff can support together. Another easy idea is to have your team collectively come up with its own set of shared company values. When teams create a shared culture based on two to three commonly agreed values or ground rules, it can help nurture engagement.

Employees looking at tablet together smiling

4. Provide Opportunities to Advance

Employee empowerment is an important concept to master to reduce turnover costs. In simple terms, “empowerment” is the practice of sharing information and power with employees so that they can take initiative to solve problems and improve service.

Giving your staff opportunities to advance in your restaurant or develop new skills is a great way to empower your staff. More so than any Employee of the Month or team building contest, giving your top performers the opportunity to make meaningful advances in your business will allow them to visualize a future with your restaurant.

Have a top-performer in mind who could handle a bit more responsibility? Try one of these suggestions: 

  • If you have a born leader on your team who’s always taking new hires under their wing, or stepping up when a manager’s absent, consider promoting them to head trainer or shift manager. 
  • If you’re looking to open a second location, put your employee who has shown the most positive attitude and strongest team-working skills in charge of bringing your company culture over to that new venue. 

Any of these advances would show just how much you appreciate the key members of your team. Show your best employees that their hard work pays off – don’t let it go unnoticed. These sorts of advancements will help you retain your top talent and make them happy to stay.

5. Investigate Your Main Reasons for Turnover

Make the most of an unfavorable situation. If one of your employees decides to leave your business, take the time to find out why by asking departing employees to participate in an exit interview. Conducting exit interviews allows you to gain a better understanding of what went wrong with their experience at your restaurant and ultimately where you have room to improve.

Another way you can investigate staff turnover rates is with the help of your POS reports. By delving into your Employee Shift Reports, you can check to see if your restaurant’s turnover rates correlate with too many or too little hours. Too little? Decrease the size of your staff. Too many? Get more hands on deck.

Losses from employee turnover are commonplace in the restaurant industry. But if you follow the best practices we’ve listed above, you can make your restaurant the kind of workplace employees want to stay and grow in – a win for them and your bottom line.

Photo of Jackie Prange
by Jackie Prange

Jackie was a Content Marketing Specialist and Social Media strategist at TouchBistro before moving into business development role. She covered the latest food, dining, and technology trends for the restaurant industry. A lover of all things coffee, Jackie’s hobbies include breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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