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6 Ways to Improve Restaurant Employee Turnover

The restaurant industry’s perennial challenge of high employee turnover is getting all the more difficult amid an intensifying competition for workers throughout the economy.

A high churn of employees—at an estimated rate of nearly 74 percent last year—affects operational efficiency, customer service and overall profitability. The result can be reduced hours of operation, business closures or service demands that strain the existing workforce and may exacerbate the situation.

Some of this comes with the territory, where long hours, lower wages and high-pressure environments are common. And a certain amount of turnover is natural and beneficial. But with businesses across various industries competing fiercely for a limited number of workers, restaurants cannot afford to lose.

So, how can restaurants limit turnover? Here are six strategies:

1. Employment benefits

In today’s labor market, employees seek more than just a paycheck—they look for comprehensive benefits and incentives demonstrating an employer’s commitment to their well-being.

Restaurants can differentiate themselves by providing attractive perks such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off and performance-based bonuses.

Beyond the financial benefits, employee well-being programs are becoming increasingly important to support employees’ physical, mental and emotional health in the restaurant industry where the demanding nature of the work can lead to burnout, stress and decreased job satisfaction.

By implementing well-being initiatives such as wellness programs, access to mental health resources and employee assistance programs, owners can demonstrate their commitment to the health and wellness of their staff.

2. Training and development

Investing in employee training and development programs is essential for building a skilled and engaged workforce.

By providing comprehensive onboarding, ongoing training and opportunities for career advancement, restaurants can empower employees with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their roles.

Training programs can cover topics such customer service, food safety, leadership development and technical skills.

By investing in employee development, owners demonstrate their commitment to fostering a continuous learning and growth culture, which can boost employee morale, job satisfaction and retention rates.

3. Flexible work arrangements

Offering flexible scheduling options help accommodate employees’ circumstances and preferences.

These arrangements can improve work-life balance, reduce burnout and enhance employee satisfaction.

Greater work-life balance was cited by 62 percent of respondents in a recent Gallup survey as “very important” in considering a job change, even higher than the desire for a significant increase in income and benefits (58 percent).

By giving employees greater control over their work schedules, restaurants can create a more supportive and accommodating environment, leading to higher employee engagement and retention.

4. Recognition and rewards

Employee recognition and rewards play a crucial role in fostering a positive work culture and boosting employee morale.

Recognizing and rewarding employees for their achievements, milestones and contributions can create a sense of appreciation and motivation among staff members, fostering a positive work culture.

Recognition programs can be relatively simple. “Employee of the month” awards, peer-to-peer recognition initiatives and performance-based incentives are examples.

By acknowledging and rewarding employee excellence, restaurants can reinforce positive behaviors, enhance employee engagement and boost retention.

5. International workers

Restaurant franchisees increasingly are making use of immigrant visa programs to access a broader talent pool. 

While certain visas, like H2-B and J-1, are for temporary positions, the Employment-Based Third Preference, or EB-3, gives restaurant owners the opportunity to sponsor foreign workers for permanent residency in the United States. 

Workers who come to the U.S. under the EB-3 visa typically have a commitment to long-term employment, as their visa status is linked to their job. This leads to a more stable workforce with lower turnover rates.

Foreign workers also enhance ethnic diversity in the workplace, a positive aspect of workplace culture.

6. Communication and feedback

Establishing open lines of communication between management and employees can help address issues proactively, clarify expectations and solicit feedback from staff members.

Regular check-ins, team meetings and performance reviews create opportunities for employees to voice their concerns, share their ideas and receive constructive feedback.

By listening to employees, addressing problems promptly and fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration, managers can improve employee morale, engagement and retention.

Using digital platforms can facilitate some of the communication by providing additional contact points. 

Although turnover has historically been high in the restaurant industry, owners and managers who meet the challenge with proactive strategies will foster a more stable, fulfilled and loyal workforce, improve performance and enhance customer satisfaction.

John E. Dorer is the CEO of eb3.work, a New York-based firm that helps U.S. companies solve their chronic labor shortages by hiring qualified legal foreign workers through employer-sponsored green card programs, particularly the EB-3 visa program.

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