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Talent Management

How to Recruit and Retain Restaurant Employees

One Minute Takeaway

  • Restaurants experience high turnover due to lack of employee growth opportunities, lack of scheduling flexibility and lack of employee recognition.
  • Restaurant operators need to rethink their current recruitment strategies and create a new model that focuses on employee needs and long-term goals.
  • Employees who feel valued and respected, and who know their employer has their best interests at heart, will be much less likely to seek employment elsewhere.

As the economy struggles to regain its footing post-COVID pandemic, many businesses are having difficulty hiring new staff. This is especially true for the restaurant industry with more than half of restaurant operators saying staffing is their biggest problem. And with an average turnover rate of nearly 75%, the restaurant industry historically has had a hard time retaining employees.

Why Do Restaurants Have High Employee Turnover?

But what are the causes of such a high turnover rate? Experts cite several reasons why employees don’t last very long in the restaurant business.

  • First is a lack of growth opportunities. Many restaurant workers are quick to leave their jobs because they don’t see the opportunity to develop into a well-paying career.
  • Second is the lack of scheduling flexibility. Restaurant work schedules can be erratic and subject to last-minute changes that can be burdensome to many workers. Employees often end up working long or consecutive shifts which can strain their social and family life.
  • A third reason for such high turnover is a lack of recognition. Many restaurant employees put in long hours of work hard with little formal recognition or reward for their efforts. This often leads to job burnout and frustration with management or the business in general.

And if the high turnover rate isn’t bad enough, the restaurant industry in now facing an even bigger challenge. Its primary workforce of younger workers is declining.

“In the next 10 years, we’re going to create 1.6 million additional restaurant jobs in this industry. And yet, the population we are dependent upon to fill those jobs will decline by 1.3 million. So, if you think it’s bad now – if you think the fight to find talent is difficult now – it is going to get a lot worse,“ said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of The National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

How Can the Restaurant Industry Meet Its Staffing Challenge?

So as a restaurant operator, you have your work cut out for you. But there are several practical things you can do to help attract quality employees and retain them longer by keeping them more engaged in the business.

Out-of-the-Box Recruiting Strategy

To start, you’ll need to rethink your current recruitment strategies and create a new model that focuses on employee needs and long-term goals. Recruitment messaging should focus on the growth opportunities available. Entry-level positions should be presented as “gateway” roles designed to help young people gain valuable work skills that will set them on a solid course within the business and benefit them throughout their lives.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Social media can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool and should be a key to your recruitment plan. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are all great platforms for reaching potential employees. Start by creating attractive posts that show the benefits of working at your restaurant or to highlight one of your employees or to just show your team in action. Posting brief video stories, interviews and images about your business and employees will give candidates a behind-the-scenes view at what it’s like to work in your restaurant.

Revamp the Job Descriptions

Job descriptions can be dry and uninspiring. Hiring top talent starts with communicating the culture of your restaurant in a way that draws people in. Create a compelling success story that will attract the best people to your restaurant. That means writing your job postings the same way you would write sales copy for your customers. Focus on how working in your restaurant will benefit your employees. Describe what it will be like to work there and, how it will be a good decision for the candidate. Finally, include the specific job skills they will develop as part of your team and how those skills will benefit them in life. Get a job description template, here.

Be Employee Centric

Once you manage to attract new employees, you need to make sure you’ve created a work environment that fosters long-term employment. How do you manage employees to keep them loyal and engaged? It’s vital to start rethinking the way you develop your employees. Don’t view performance management as merely an annual activity but as an ongoing process that should inspire and motivate your employees every day.

Lead by Example

Actions always speak louder than words. To inspire your employees to excel, you’ll need to set the bar high for yourself first. Your actions and attitude will flow down to your employees even if you don’t think they’re watching.

Communicate Your Expectations

One problem restaurant employees often point out about their jobs is that they don’t know exactly what is expected of them. As a leader, it’s critical to make sure everyone understands your goals and expectations. And when those goals and expectations are met, make sure you recognize employees. Give praise and highlight them often, especially during regular team meetings and training sessions.

Foster a Team Culture

During times of success and especially during difficult times, be sure to focus on teamwork. Cross-training not only helps employees gain new skills and fill in multiple roles when needed, but also helps them better understand how each member impacts the whole organization. Employees need to see that their individual success is tied to the team’s success.

Create Individual Career Paths

Effective performance management gives each employee a unique path to reach their own career goals. Cross-training, mentoring, and performance incentives are good ways to establish measurable goals to help employees see real progress. The result is a workforce that is inspired to keep improving individually and as a team.

Offer Higher Wages

It’s not exactly rocket science that in a competitive market, attracting and retaining the best talent means offering higher wages than your competitors. If you’re unable to increase rates across the board, try implementing small raises at three months and six months, etc., to create an incentive to stay.

Be Flexible and Fair

When scheduling work shifts or granting time off, remember to be fair. Routinely scheduling long or consecutive shifts can create burnout and frustration. Being too rigid or showing favoritism can create a toxic atmosphere.

Reward Staff Regularly

There are many ways to reward your employees. Some owners arrange special trips to suppliers or local farms. Others invest in nice holiday parties or allow employees to have a meal or drink at the end of the shift. Remember to be generous. Investing in your employees is an investment in your business. These rewards can go a long way toward creating a tight-knit team of workers.

Paycor Can Help

The staffing challenges that restaurants are facing call for creative solutions and a realignment of business priorities. Employees who feel valued and respected, and who know their employer has their best interests at heart, will be much less likely to seek employment elsewhere. Paycor has tools like Recruiting, Talent Development and Career Management that can help you hire, train and retain top talent so you and your team thrive in the coming years.