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    7 tips to retain your best restaurant employees

    The restaurant industry is currently seeing its highest quit rate in years, even though pay has generally increased. In order to attract and retain top performers, it's essential to provide more than just a competitive wage.

    Here are seven ways you can go beyond pay to create a work environment employees won’t want to leave. 

    1. Recognize your employees

    We all appreciate when someone acknowledges the hard work we do. Yet we can all forget to recognize a job well done, especially when we’re facing economic, hiring, and other pressures. 

    One way to do this is to designate one or more of your team’s managers as recognition leaders. These leaders make it a daily part of their work to acknowledge good work, either through spoken acknowledgment of team members’ contributions or more tangible recognition programs.

    That distinction is worth emphasizing: Tangible rewards signal gratitude beyond words. They are the epitome of “put your money where your mouth is.” To prevent a sense of favoritism, these rewards can be tied to performance benchmarks. For example, an employee who clocks in on time for 20 shifts in a row could be rewarded with a gift card to a store they like.

    2. Lead with empathy

    Leaders are the first touchpoint for keeping good employees and reducing turnover, which is why their treatment of employees is key. In fact, 85% of HR leaders agree that demonstrating empathy is more important now than it ever has been! 

    All leaders in an organization can work (and even take training) to improve how they demonstrate empathy with their teams:

    • Making a reasonable, professional effort to get to know employees improve the personal connection they have with their workday. 
    • Treating employees with sensitivity and understanding lets them know you take them seriously—even when you can’t accommodate their requests. 
    • Teaching managers and other leaders to see employees as equal people, rather than subordinates, helps them offer direction and guidance rather than issuing orders. 
    • Training can also help leadership understand their own implicit biases with multilingual employees, who make up a significant portion of the hourly workforce, thereby making sure that they are given the same considerations and opportunities as all other employees.

    Empathy helps to build personal rapport between management and other team members, which will ultimately reduce turnover. After all, people want to work where they feel valued.

    3. Provide comprehensive benefits

    Most hourly employees don’t receive benefits from their employers. But employers who do offer comprehensive benefits find their workers stay with them longer. 

     Starbucks experiences a 65% turnover rate—essentially half that of the QSR average. A primary reason behind their low turnover rate is Starbucks' comprehensive benefits package, through which every eligible U.S. employee, regardless of full or part-time status, receives complete tuition coverage for a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. 

    Yes, these efforts cost money. But so does a high turnover rate!

    4. Prioritize employees’ needs

    According to McDonald’s EVP and Chief Global Impact Officer, the top reason workers leave their jobs is a lack of sufficient childcare. This is all the more significant because parents account for more than one-third of the foodservice workforce. Employers can retain more than one-third of their workers by providing better access to childcare: flexible scheduling, for example, or a childcare stipend.

    But employees have other needs as well. And they are more likely to stick with a company that goes the extra mile to understand those needs and then shows its appreciation by providing resources to help them. 

    A couple examples include:

    • A scheduling program, updated in real-time, that the Millennial/GenZ workforce can easily access from their phones.
    • Receiving on-demand/daily pay instead of having to wait two weeks between pay periods.

    5. Respect and enable a healthy home/work balance

    Your employees have lives and needs outside of the workplace, and today’s employees want to know you’ll have their back outside of work, too.

    Let’s face it: Employees who can adequately tend to their home and personal lives will be happier, more focused workers. This is especially true in industries with traditionally high turnover rates, like quick service restaurants, which can lead to employees working understaffed shifts, covering other shifts, and experiencing burnout.

    Here are some ways you can level up your approach to time away from work, and the quality of that time:

    • Consider giving all employees the gift of paid days off for their birthday and work anniversary.
    • Introduce performance-based incentives with high-value returns like concert tickets or travel stipends.
    • Offer parental leave, sick leave, and short-term disability leave to empower employees to care for themselves and their families without having to choose between work and wellness.
    • Accommodate the needs of all employees by allowing job-sharing and offering full-time, part-time, and flexible schedules as needed.

    6. Offer custom perks 

    If you have the above bases covered, you can go above and beyond by providing perk stipends. These are often relatively low-cost programs that enable employees to improve their quality of life without impacting their hourly wage. Many companies offer a suite of options, so employees can use the benefits that are most meaningful to them.

    Such tactics create exceptional experiences for your teams, and they actively build your culture and your reputation for thinking creatively and supporting your workers.

    7. Invest in employee development

    Many QSRs and other hourly employers have long resisted paying for employee development programs. But now that most QSR owners have experienced the true cost of rehiring for a role, the industry is realizing that employee development is an investment rather than an expense. 

    Professional development doesn’t have to mean sending workers to college (though it can). It’s alright, and sensible, for the training to relate to the employees’ role (both present and future) within the business.

    Make your business a great place to work  

    Of course, workers take jobs because they need an income. But every job offers money. You can differentiate your organization and retain your employees by providing meaningful support that goes beyond a competitive hourly wage.

    Focus on the seven tips we’ve shared in this post, and you'll soon spend less time vetting and hiring new applicants and more time retaining and developing your top employees.

    And if you want more tips on how to hire and retain hourly employees, check out our Practical Guide to Hiring Hourly Employees!


    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 info@workstream.is!

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