5 Cost-Effective Ways Restaurants Can Retain Their Employees.


The hospitality and F&B industry historically experience one of the highest employee turnovers. The pandemic saw exponential growth in the trend. In the US, the employee turnover rate in the hospitality industry reached a whopping 130.7 percent in 2020, compared to 78.9 percent in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2021 hospitality turnover rate climbed to 85% and the trend continues to grow as headcounts rise.

Considering that replacing a full-time employee can cost up to two times the amount of that employee’s annual salary and that a new employee needs on average up to two months to become proficient the high employee turnover becomes a real loss for businesses and employees. In the turnover crisis, businesses struggle to deliver consistent customer experiences, and employees are expected to fill the knowledge gap. The pressure to deliver on expectations, such as the timeliness and sequence of service impacts the customer experience and leads to employee burnout.

Why do employees quit?

Whilst the three main reasons for making people quit revolve around low employee motivation, poor compensation, and a work-life imbalance, other factors such as adequate health care, decent housing, and proper employee meals play a significant role in making employees quit. More importantly, the lack of progression, weak leadership, and not being recognized for their efforts. Many leaders fail to understand how important a safe and rewarding environment is in employee motivation and retention. They manage in a way that negatively impacts their organizations’ profitability as well as people’s performance and health. A study conducted at the University of Canberra, Australia in 2011 found that having a job we hate is as harmful to our health and sometimes worse than not having one. Employee stress and anxiety are less about the work they do and more about weak management and leadership. When employees know that leaders care about how they feel their stress levels decrease. The pandemic made employees rethink what is important, shifted their focus on well-being, and look for better opportunities which led to “The Great Resignation”.


So, what can you (the restauranteur, the leader) do?

Invest in the employee experience at your company. Creating positive employee experiences helps attract, hire, and retain top-notch talent and drive business outcomes. Mapping the employee’s journey elicits the understanding of their experience in a holistic way. The employee journey is the total relationship employees have with a company; from the moment they apply until they quit. It covers all interactions employees have before, during, and after their work with that company. When thinking about the experience look at the entire life cycle and think about how each step of this process affects the employee’s experience. While the journey for each employee is different, start from the phases of the journey as the company sees them: recruiting- onboarding- employee engagement-retention-exit.

And don’t forget about the emotions: We are emotional creatures, and our emotions drive our feelings and actions. Think about your employees, their goals, and their challenges. What is the experience they want? What are the highs and lows in the employee journey? What are the challenges and what feelings do they stir up? What emotions drive their actions?


What do employees want to feel?

1. Happy: Tony Robbins said, "Progress equals happiness". Humans thrive on achieving goals. The attainment of our goals releases dopamine into our brains, it makes us feel good. Provide opportunities for growth. In our industry, this could mean keeping your team up to date with the latest trends and developments, inviting suppliers to conduct food and beverage training at your restaurant, and taking part in bartender and chef competitions. When setting your team’s annual objectives, consider their goals and aspirations for the future. What is more motivating than knowing that you’re working on your goals while contributing to the organizational objectives?

2. Valued: We want to feel that we matter and that we have a role to play. Everyone wants to feel that they make an impact and have a role to play in the realization of a vision or the achievement of a goal. Give people opportunities to express their ideas, concerns, and perspectives. For example, it is important to solicit employee feedback when mapping your customer’s journey. When making decisions that will affect your team, make sure to involve them in the decision-making process. Ask them how they feel about the changes that come with the decisions and get their insights on what will work and what won’t rather than announcing what has already been decided. When delegating tasks, make the effort to find out about their passions, preferences, and interests. Working on projects or tasks you can relate to, never fails to spark enthusiasm among the team.

3. Appreciated: Feeling appreciated elicits the idea that our time and effort are being spent in a worthwhile manner and gives us a sense of satisfaction. Appreciate your team’s hard work and celebrate their outstanding achievements. At the end of their duty thank them for their effort. Even if they didn’t achieve their best potential on a specific day acknowledging their effort functions as the best motivation to push a little extra the following day. When coaching your team, begin with praise and honest appreciation of what they are doing well before talking about what they need to improve. Be sure to acknowledge every improvement, even the slightest one. Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to encourage and sustain the desired behaviour.

4. Connected: At its core, employee experience is about relationships. The experiences along their journey determine the relationship with the company. The more meaningful the employee experience is, the more likely is your team to remain loyal. Connect with your employees on an emotional level. Schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with every team member to set clear expectations and assess their individual needs. Find out what motivates them, and what aspirations they have. Show genuine interest in the challenges they may face at work or in their personal life. Conduct weekly team meetings to analyze the results of the previous week, keep them informed of future events, share guest feedback, and brainstorm ideas.

5. Empowered. Empowering builds your employee’s confidence in their capacity to deliver on the organizational goals, establishes trust between the employee and the company, and nurtures future leaders. Through authority delegation and the appropriate training empower your team to make informed decisions relevant to their role and suggest improvements in service delivery. Encourage them to take calculated risks and make key decisions when you are not present. Empower them to resolve complaints, or organize small events, and happenings for their guests. Ask them to estimate the deadline for task completion, rather than setting it yourself, and follow up with them.

The article has been published on Linkedin
Photo credits Drazen Zigic
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