Labor costs are one of the top concerns for every restaurant operator. While high turnover has always been an issue in the restaurant industry, the current workforce shortage has thrown it into full-throttle and today’s managers are in a battle to hire and retain the best talent. 

With the competition offering higher wages, sign-on bonuses, educational and childcare incentives, and more, employees may be easily convinced that the grass is greener on the other side. Tack on the additional consideration that companies spend an estimated 42 days to fill a position and $4,129 per hire, and it becomes extremely clear that employee retention is critical to ensuring uninterrupted daily operations and a healthy bottom line.

Enter the general managers. They are the unsung heroes when it comes to an employee’s experience working in a restaurant; playing an influential role in each employee’s decision whether to stay put or to move on to a new endeavor. A manager who creates a stable culture in which every employee understands how their daily actions affect the success of the entire restaurant will be able to build and maintain a loyal team of strategic thinkers. 

Today’s technology tools empower every manager with the ability to establish a collaborative culture resulting in increased employee retention.  Below are a few tips on how to overcome the restaurant industry’s biggest challenges around employee acquisition, engagement, and retention.

Streamline recruiting and onboarding

Prepare your managers for success by arming them with smart tools to properly recruit and onboard each employee in a uniform fashion. An applicant tracking system (ATS) enables managers to cast a large net across multiple platforms efficiently and at a significantly reduced cost. ATS systems help restaurants communicate efficiently with candidates and prescreen applicants saving managers time and money as compared to traditional, manual methods.

Once hired, one key to inspiring motivated employees is to create a thorough onboarding process. The faster your new hires are up to speed, the faster they can be engaged in your business and supporting your team. Cultivating a digital library of tools for your new hires, such as company handbooks, checklists, and training manuals, will help new hires get started on the right foot.

The importance of a data-driven mindset

Once a team is assembled, the focus can turn to building a data-driven culture where all employees understand the value of their roles and feel confident in how to perform their duties.

The Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Reports states that “poor training” is a top reason that employees give notice. Setting clear expectations, building trust, and delivering transparency are vital keys in cultivating a safe, professional environment in which all associates will be able to thrive.

So, where does one start? By providing employees the access to the data then educating and empowering them to actually use it to make impactful decisions.

Be open to sharing KPI’s and give employees access to actionable data. Run easy-to-read P-L reports that clearly illustrate how individual choices directly affect the organization. Teach them to identify areas of concern and encourage them to recommend solutions.

Employees might be performing tasks ranging from bussing tables to seating guests to counting inventory, but when they think, work and are rewarded as a data-driven team, they begin to understand how their individual actions directly impact the store’s profit, and ultimately the team as a whole.

Foster an ownership mentality

General managers who lead by example cultivate associates who follow suit. Highly effective managers step in to help during tough shifts then pull the team together after to discuss what worked and what didn’t, opening a productive dialogue to evaluate performance and resolve issues.

When done properly, this creates a safe space that fosters professional growth. Co-workers must build trust and respect for one another. They must be willing to support their peers through tough shifts, celebrate the wins and hold each other accountable when they fall short of expectations. Every job is essential, and the team wins and loses together.

The use of a multi-level software can provide certain groups views of their key stats and trends. With a real-time view and actionable data, employees can look for operational trends, identify flaws, and suggest improvements. Job fulfillment results from knowing you are positively impacting customers, peers, and the bottom line. Understanding the “why,” tackling the issues, and celebrating the wins as a team builds a team of “owners.”

Continue to measure turnover rate

Continued evaluation is critical, and today’s restaurant technology can provide insight into the causes of low retention. A review of the data may hold the key cause of a sudden spike in turnover. Look at staff performance indicators such as customers served per labor hour to ensure that shift schedules are optimized. Whatever the cause, answers can often be uncovered in the data.

While there is a current disruption in the labor market, high turnover is no stranger to our industry. With the right technology, every manager can boost employee morale, customer satisfaction, and the bottom line through improved employee acquisition, engagement, and retention.

Morgan Harris is the Co-Founder and Chief Customer Advocate at Restaurant365.

Employee Management, Outside Insights, Story