Subscribe to Email Updates

    4 Ways QSRs Can Increase Employee Engagement

    As an owner or GM of a QSR, you know firsthand how difficult it is to find new talent for your restaurants. Unfortunately, your HR challenges likely don’t end there. 

    With an employee turnover rate of 130% across the entire restaurant industry, employee retention has become just as big of a problem for QSRs as hiring. Many restaurants in the United States lose more than one full workforce every year. To say that these numbers are staggering would be an understatement.

    As a QSR owner or GM, it can quickly become demoralizing to work so hard to hire a team only to see them slip away so quickly. So, what can you do about it?

    The Answer: Engage Your Employees

    More and more QSRs are realizing they have to do a much better job of engaging their workers if they want to break the vicious turnover cycle currently plaguing the restaurant industry. It’s estimated that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies as much as $550 billion per year. This means that for those QSRs who are able to continuously refill their rosters throughout the year, the cost of doing so is very high.

    The message for QSRs is clear: If you want to reduce your labor expenses and increase your retention rate, you must actively invest time and resources into boosting your employee engagement. The challenge for many QSRs is how exactly to best engage employees.

    4 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

    1. Use Surveys to Listen

    Many QSR GMs believe that they’re in touch with their team members’ thoughts and feelings. However, these same GMs are often surprised when an employee leaves the company—proof of the disconnect that exists. 

    An excellent way to lay a strong foundation for employee engagement is to regularly survey your team members. Surveys provide an objective view for you to understand the true state of your team’s feelings about work responsibilities, environment, culture, etc. It’s important to require all team members to complete a survey while also giving them the option to remain anonymous. It’s equally important to conduct these surveys at regular intervals, such as quarterly, so you can track and measure improvement over time.

    2. Recognize and Reward the Team

     All of the pressures facing QSR owners and GMs today are causing unintentional neglect of some of the most important keys to their team’s success. One of which is employee recognition

    A variety of stressors—including economic pressures from the pandemic and an extremely tight labor market—have caused some QSRs to let employee recognition fall by the wayside. When restaurant leadership is (with good reason) hyper-focused on keeping the doors open, it can be hard for them to rise above the pressure and remember the importance of recognizing their employees.

    No matter how much pressure you are under and how limited your time is, it’s imperative that you make employee recognition a priority, especially if you want to decrease turnover. The more time that passes without recognizing an employee, the higher the chances of that employee leaving. 

    One to keep this at the forefront of your employee engagement strategy is to designate one or more of your managers as the Recognition Leader for the team. The appointed manager will be accountable for regularly recognizing employees for their contributions. 

    Recognition alone, however, is not enough. It’s also important to back the recognition with a tangible reward to really signal gratitude toward your employees.  For example, if an employee goes a certain number of days without an absence, you could reward them with a gift card to a store they enjoy.

    By putting a recognition system in place backed by accountability and coupled with a goals-based rewards program, you will give a huge boost to your employee engagement and substantially decrease your turnover rate.

    3. Conduct Stay Interviews

    Exit interviews have become commonplace across many industries in the U.S. They can be valuable because they shed light on why an employee is leaving the team. Insights gleaned from exit interviews help managers know what changes they can make to improve conditions for existing and future employees. There is no doubt that exit interviews will continue to be a valuable tool used by QSRs to increase future employee engagement. 

    What’s less often considered is the stay interview. A stay interview is an interview conducted with a current employee who has not shown any indication that they plan on leaving the team. Stay interviews can be thought of as personalized employee surveys with much higher quality feedback. A stay interview takes place face-to-face, one-on-one. The purpose of the interview is to gauge that specific employee’s satisfaction level with the restaurant and their feelings about their future path with the organization. 

    Perhaps the biggest benefit of a stay interview is the mutual trust that is built between manager and employee. In a successful stay interview, the employee feels heard and the manager walks away with a much better understanding of the challenges that employees face on a daily basis.

    4. Invest in Employee Development and Well-Being

    Some QSRs have been resistant to investing in employee development and well-being programs. Many fear the perceived impact these programs may have on their bottom line.

    However, many owners are now realizing that this view towards the bottom line can be shortsighted in light of the long-term negative financial impact of high turnover rates. In other words, an investment in employee development and well-being programs leads to a long-term positive effect on the bottom line by reducing costs incurred by high turnover rates.

    The reality is employees know if they’re just a number or if they’re a team member who is valued as a person. Many QSR employees have a long-term plan in mind for their careers, and they may view their current role as a stepping stone to the larger goal. It’s important for managers to engage in a discussion with employees about their career goals. These managers need to be equipped to offer solid career development programs that they can easily offer their employees in order to demonstrate that they really do care about that employee’s career. 

    QSRs are now starting to couple well-being programs with their career development programs. These programs address work-life balance priorities and initiatives. They also provide resources for employees to pursue physical and mental health and well-being. Options such as gym membership subsidies, nutrition programs, and psychology resources are just a few examples of benefits QSRs are rolling out to improve employee engagement in a meaningful way.


    Retaining employees may feel more daunting than ever. Luckily, the strategies and options for increasing employee engagement are stronger than they’ve ever been. Implementing one (or all) of the approaches outlined can substantially make a difference in your restaurant’s retention—especially if you continue to refine your approach to meet the specific needs of your workforce.

    If you would like to learn how you can increase retention by focusing on the early steps of the hiring process, contact one of our Hiring Specialists!


    Workstream is a hiring platform that helps employers get 4x the number of qualified applicants. The world's most trusted brands use Workstream to optimize job board postings, automate screening and interview scheduling, communicate via text message, and streamline the onboarding/training process. See what all the buzz is about by scheduling a demo or email us!

    You may also like:

    WS Blue Gradient

    Schedule a Demo

    We serve companies ranging from brick and mortar small businesses to Fortune 500, simplifying the hiring process for:

    • Transportation Companies
    • Hospitals & Assisted Living Centers
    • Grocery & Convenience Stores
    • Restaurants - QSRs to Fine Dining
    • Parks, Stadiums, Arenas
    • Manufacturers / Warehouses
    • Gas Stations
    • Festivals
    • Gyms & Salons
    • Hotels, Resorts, Wineries
    • Logistics Partners