The 5 Real Reasons You're Losing Restaurant Staff

By: Donald Burns

4 Minute Read

Jun 27, 2018

Losing Restaurant Staff
losing restaurant staff

The restaurant industry has never been a low turnover kind of business. In 2016, the turnover rate was 66.7, and it rose to 72.1 in 2015. Back in 2007, the turnover rate was a whopping 80.7!

As an industry, we are definitely doing better... just not good enough.

You’ll hear catch phrases like, “the war for talent” being used quite often, but the problem with that phrase is the mindset. Maybe the correct phrase should be “the war with talent." It seems that as an industry, we push people out of our business more than we pull them in. Here are some of the real reasons you may be losing restaurant staff today.

1. You’re not a nice person to work for. 

If you describe yourself as tough, business minded, direct, no-nonsense, or a hardass manager, let’s face it… you’re probably a jerk. The issue is, your staff knows you're a jerk. People will tolerate a lot when they need a job... but only to a certain point. Everyone has a breaking point. If you keep acting that way, you’ll soon see a steady departure of your staff.

The Gordon Ramsay "yell, scream, and demean your team" mentality is great for TV ratings! It’s not great for building a solid team. Restaurant culture does flow down from the top to the staff. Plus, how you treat your team is how they will treat your guests. When you talk down to them long enough (no matter how hard they need a job), they will leave.

2. They have to work with poor equipment.

Owners who do not invest in decent basic equipment for their team to do their job effectively are simply greedy. Forcing your team to make due with equipment that needs to either be repaired or replaced is a form of mental anguish. Your team is under stress and pressure; try executing service with substandard equipment. It sucks.

Your team will make the best of the bad equipment situation for as long as they can. Not fixing the basics and giving them the tools they need sets the tone that you don’t even care about your own business. If you don’t care, why should your restaurant staff? Set your staff up for success with the best equipment available whether in the front of house or back of house.

3. They have to put up with poor performers. 

The best performers on your team hate that you will not terminate the poor performers. Those that don’t pull their weight on the team or are just the definition of negativity bring everyone down.

The superstars have to work twice as hard to pick up the slack that the poor performers can’t.

Making your best performers overperform is added stress which at one point will make your top performers walk out. Soon you’ll be left with the bottom of the bunch. Then sales and service will suffer. Then, you’ll be looking to either sell the business or close the doors.

4. There's no opportunity for growth.

The up-and-coming workforce is overflowing with millennials. This is the group born between 1980 and 1995. Here are a few things you need to know about them and what they want in a employer:

  • They want flexible hours. Long shifts are not attractive to them, so your need to offer shorter shifts so they can have the free time they desire.

  • They love technology. Most millennials grew up with mobile phones and the internet. It’s a part of their daily life. Companies like HotSchedules understand this and have online scheduling programs and online training platforms that allow your millennials to get up to speed quickly.

  • They crave opportunity. They are eager to expand their skill sets and amass knowledge. A top factor for motivating and keeping millennials is growth!

If you want to keep millennials around, you will need a comprehensive training program that allows them to sharpen their skills. Send them to an offsite training class for continuing education on cooking skills, communication skills, leadership training, or advanced beverage training (sommelier or cicerone). Schedule a trainer to come in to your establishment and conduct an onsite workshop. There is really no reason you cannot develop a yearly training program that shows your team you are invested in their growth.

Restaurants become better when the people in them become better.

Donald Burns

The Restaurant Coach

5. You do not appreciate them.

Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “thank you." This is so simple, yet so many times we forget to say those words to our employees who take care of our guests. There is an expression that “familiarity breeds contempt” and it definitely has merit. According to the Law of Familiarity in Gestalt psychology, it's easy to take for granted the people you spend the most time with. Think about it; it could be true in your restaurant.

When you communicate with your team, give a sincere compliment and a specific reason why you appreciate them. Make it personal because that is what they want. They want you to care.

It’s really our war with talent that drives restaurant staff away. It’s how you treat the people who interact with your guests that makes all the difference. Don’t treat your team how you want to be treated, treat them how they want to be treated. The sentiment will travel for your guests as well.

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