High employee turnover and its associated costs are a perennial headache for restaurant operators. It occurs at all staff levels, from hourly and tipped staff through managers. It can’t be eliminated, but certain measures can help contain it.
Here are nine ways to create more loyalty:
1. Start by hiring smarter. The best employees have the ability to do the work, are willing to do the work (and if you’re lucky, actually enthusiastic about it) and are coachable and manageable. These are intangibles you can’t discover just by looking at a resume, so you may need to spruce up your interviewing skills to ask the questions that will help you understand their attitudes and motivation. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach the right attitude. For management positions, experience is very important. However, you’ll want to look beyond their previous experience to learn why they’re interested in your position, how they approach customer service, whether they understand the business side of the restaurant and whether your position fits into their career path.
2. Convey your business and customer service philosophies clearly. Employees can’t please you if you don’t define success for them. Explain why you do what you do and not just what you do. You want them to see if you’re a good fit for them as well as whether they’re a good fit for you.
3. Set high performance standards. When high performance becomes a team commitment, team members will expect it from each other and support each other in achieving it.
4. Pay a competitive wage with competitive benefits. Yes, this is a hot button issue now, particularly in the quick-service industry, and you can still demonstrate that you value team members by paying them more than bare minimum. Sometimes you can be a hero by paying just a little more. And benefits mean a lot, particularly for employees at the lower end of the pay scale. Families living paycheck to paycheck can’t afford to get sick and need to know at least a minimal level of benefits will be there for them.
5. Treat your staff with dignity and respect. People are not disposable tools…they deserve respect. But there’s a selfish element to this as well. Your employees are your “face” to customers and in large measure why customers return. Treat your employees like you want them to return to work each day so they in turn treat customers with the same regard.
6. Show them you value their contributions to the restaurant’s success. Many lower-wage employees, particularly those in the back of the house, can’t see how they make much of a difference—unless you tell each of them.
7. Ask their opinions and ask them for customer feedback. Frontline workers hear what customers really think about your food, service and operations—way more than a manager will ever hear from the walk-by “how was everything?” question. They see what works and what doesn’t, so ask them on a regular basis (all-hands meetings are a good idea) how to improve operations, and then reward the suggestions that work.
8. Engage the team and develop their skills. Even if there aren’t many opportunities to move up the career ladder, providing cross training will help them develop professionally as well as improve their performance and productivity—while also helping you out in a pinch when you’re short staffed!
9. Recognize them for a job well done. Take the time to compliment and encourage them individually, as well as through more formal employee incentive programs. Too often, we get caught up in our day-to-day operations (the urgent) and forget that it’s our people (the important) who can make or break our business. Keeping that in mind may well help you keep your best employees longer.
David Peasall is human resources director at FrankCrum, a national professional employer organization that provides outsourced human resource services to restaurants and other small to midsized businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.