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10 Tips to Help Motivate and Retain Restaurant Employees
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Employee Experience

The Secret Ingredient to a Thriving Restaurant: Happy Employees

One Minute Takeaway

  • Quit rates in the foodservice industry are on the rise from 4.8% to 7% in the past year. Showing appreciation for your team is key to reducing turnover.
  • Offering opportunities for growth and development aren’t only reserved for corporate jobs. They can also encourage restaurant employees to stick around.
  • Creating a positive culture and prioritizing employee health and wellness (physical and mental) are important for keeping staff happy.

Everyone knows the restaurant industry can be a fast-paced and demanding grind, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. From the thrill of crafting delicious, visually stunning dishes to the pure satisfaction of providing outstanding customer service, there’s something for everyone in the restaurant biz.

Nearly all good things have a downside, however, and a considerable one in the food and beverage industry is employee turnover. Quit rates for the accommodation and food service sector were 5.4% at the end of 2022, the highest of any industry; the average across all industries is 2.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics 1). With such high turnover rates, it can be hard to keep your staff (not to mention yourself) engaged and motivated. But don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of ways to reduce turnover and keep your team happy. Here are 10 tips to get you started.

10 Tips to Help Motivate Restaurant Employees

  1. Show Appreciation for Your Team: One of the best ways to create an environment where employees feel valued is to show them that you really care. This can include both verbal and non-verbal communication, like simply saying “thank you” for a job well done or sending cards and treats for special occasions. Other tangible rewards such as bonuses or perks can further boost morale and make employees feel appreciated. Recognizing and rewarding the demanding work a restaurant requires is a great way to keep your staff motivated and committed to their roles.
  2. Create Growth Opportunities: Employees want to know that their hard work will pay off in the long run. By offering opportunities for mobility within your organization—such as promotions, additional training, or fresh responsibilities—you can build an atmosphere that encourages employees to stick around for the long haul. Growth opportunities can also lead to improved customer service since more experienced staff tend to interact better with customers than those who are just getting their feet wet in the industry.
  3. Offer Flexibility When Possible: After the huge upset of the pandemic, which turned the food and beverage industry on its head, flexibility is becoming increasingly important in every workplace. Offering flex hours can help reduce stress levels and increase job satisfaction among your staff. Additionally, flexible schedules can help keep attendance rates up since each employee can customize their schedule around individual needs and preferences. Flexibility is especially important in the restaurant industry where shifts can be unpredictable and demanding.
  4. Encourage a Positive Culture: Food and beverage establishments often have a reputation for being toxic, difficult work environments (See Gordon Ramsay), so promoting a positive culture is essential for keeping employees happy and engaged. Encourage your staff to build relationships with their teammates and to have fun on the job. A supportive culture can foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie among team members, leading to better communication, improved teamwork, and a more productive work environment.
  5. Prioritize Employee Health and Wellness: The restaurant industry is a physically demanding and stressful one. To keep your staff healthy and happy, it’s essential to make their health and wellness a priority. Offer healthy meal options and encourage your staff to take regular breaks to rest and recharge. Dealing with the public, some of whom aren’t the most pleasant folks, day in and day out can be incredibly mentally taxing. So, consider offering mental health resources such as counseling services or an employee assistance program (EAP) to help your team members cope with the demands of their job.
  6. Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Especially now, when simply getting candidates through the door for interviews is incredibly tough, it’s important to retain top talent. To do that, you have to offer compensation and a benefits package that’s better than the restaurant across town. This includes not only offering competitive wages and flexible pay options, but also health insurance, a retirement plan, and other benefits that may not have been standard three years ago but are important to your staff today. By providing compensation that surpasses the competition’s, you’ll attract and retain the best employees, which can lead to improved customer service and increased productivity.
  7. Encourage Professional Development: Professional development has typically been considered the realm of corporate jobs, but it’s also a creative way to keep your restaurant staff engaged and motivated. Pay for and encourage your employees to attend offsite industry conferences, workshops, and training sessions. This will not only help them improve their skills and knowledge to better serve your customers, but it will also prove to them that you’re invested in their growth and development.
  8. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: And then communicate some more. There’s no such thing providing too much information when it comes to your team. Effective communication is vital to ensuring they stay engaged and motivated. Keep them informed about important company updates, changes, and developments through regular staff meetings, newsletters, texts, or emails. And not only keep a finger on the pulse of their ideas and feedback, but also be sure to listen to (and act on) them. This can help you uncover areas for improvement, and it will show your employees that you value their input.
  9. Recognize and Reward High Performers: Recognizing and rewarding high performers is a fantastic way to keep everyone engaged and motivated and reduce turnover. You can do this by offering bonuses, promotions, or other incentives beyond general team appreciation. You can publicly recognize high performers during staff meetings or company-wide events to create a culture of excellence within your organization. A healthy dose of competition can also encourage other employees to work harder and achieve more.
  10. Create Opportunities for Team Building: Team-building activities can help improve communication and camaraderie among your staff, leading to a more positive work environment. These events can also help to keep your employees engaged and motivated. Activities such as closing the restaurant for a weekend retreat or local volunteer opportunities can all help to build stronger relationships among your staff.

How Paycor Helps

Reducing employee turnover in the restaurant industry requires an ongoing effort from leaders across the business. Paycor’s restaurant program empowers restaurant leaders and frontline managers to develop winning teams through product differentiation, customer experience, and community.

By showing appreciation for your team, creating opportunities for growth, offering flexibility when possible, encouraging a positive culture, and prioritizing employee health and wellness, you’ll be well on your way towards creating a happy work environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated—and where they’re more likely to stick around long-term. Remember, happy employees equal happy customers, and happy customers equal a thriving business.