Resolve to Reduce Restaurant Employee Turnover in 2020

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What are some of your 2020 resolutions for your restaurant? With the annual restaurant staff turnover rate at 75% in 2019 – the highest of any industry – it’s a safe bet that 2020’s rate will be something to keep at the forefront of your resolution planning for your restaurant. Employees may leave your restaurant for any number of reasons, like pursuing higher pay, a better work-life balance or more stability. Though it may be easy to shrug off an employee’s departure as “cost of doing business,” you should approach your staff turnover rate with deep consideration for what this means for your bottom line and your customer satisfaction.

So, you want to know how to reduce turnover in your restaurant? While monetary perks are a real and lasting incentive for maintaining your staff, you can also take the approach of creating an environment that makes your employees proud to come to work. If you can establish a team dynamic that supports and encourages one another, your turnover will significantly decrease, and your customers will take notice.

We’ll break down how employee turnover affects your business and some surefire ways to decrease the number of employees leaving your restaurant.

Why Does Restaurant Employee Turnover Matter?

It should come as no surprise that hiring a new employee is much more expensive than maintaining your current staff. Constant staff turnover, while pricey, is also really detrimental to your workplace environment. With one fewer front-of-house staff member, sections become bigger, a spare second to run food and drinks is harder to come by and the payment process might slow down. With one fewer back-of-house team member, additional responsibilities on the line will be added to staff members’ plates, extra shifts will need to be accounted for and fewer staff members to fulfill the same number of tickets can cause a bottleneck.

Your customers also feel the weight of a revolving staff. With more inexperienced servers on the floor, the odds of mistakes increase tenfold. It’s not uncommon to see a spike in your employee turnover rate when one or more employees leave, and turnover tends to increase in January, following the holidays. This makes planning for 2020 turnover all the more pressing.

Understand the Cause of High Turnover in Your Restaurant

Restaurant employee turnover looks different for different businesses. To reduce employee turnover in your restaurant, track which roles have the shortest and longest tenure based on your restaurant’s employee history. Identify which roles take the longest to fill and which roles you are constantly hiring for. Once you’ve gathered the necessary information, pay attention to where you see trends occurring, as they will highlight areas where you should be focusing your retention efforts. Maybe you notice you’ve lost a lot of your original bar staff, but your back-of-house has stayed consistent. What’s the back-of-house doing well that makes staff want to stay long-term? What’s the bar team failing to do?

Next, have honest conversations with your entire staff. It’s important to take the advice of your current staff when it comes to understanding turnover, as they have a different perspective on why members of your team may be looking elsewhere. Ask them about their experiences working in your restaurant: what they think management’s doing well, areas where they can improve and specific things you could offer to keep them around long-term. Make sure they understand the conversation is confidential and that they feel able to speak freely and directly.

Implement an exit interview if you don’t currently have one in place. This will give you some candid insight into why your staff members leave and what you can potentially do better in the future.

Pay attention to repeat responses. If multiple staff members mention they don’t see themselves sticking around long-term, it’s worth exploring how you can incorporate more career advancement opportunities and skills-based learning. If multiple staff members mentioned they’re having a hard time juggling shifts with at-home responsibilities, consider expanding your employee benefits or reevaluating your team scheduling practices.

Talk with the other members of your management team to come up with an action plan. Organize a follow-up meeting with your entire staff to let them know what you’ve learned, how you plan to address it and that you encourage their honest feedback throughout the process. Transparency mixed with action will give your staff assurance that you mean what you say.

Read on for actionable changes you can make in your restaurant in the new year.

Six Methods of Reducing Employee Turnover

Throughout your interview process, you’ll be able to pinpoint where you need to devote your attention. Retaining quality employees is easy if your staff feels appreciated and can see the value that working in your restaurant has on their personal and professional lives.


1. Provide Benefits and Competitive Compensation

One way to show your team you care about their well-being, both inside and outside the restaurant, is to offer employee benefits that improve employee quality of life. This guide to restaurant employee benefits will help you make decisions about how and when to offer benefits to your employees. Choose benefits based on the needs of your best performers and make sure that they are well-versed in what you’re offering.

Another top motivator for employees to stick around is competitive compensation. Pay attention to what other restaurants are paying their employees and evaluate your own pay structure if you’re finding that compensation is the reason why employees are choosing to leave.

Though these options might seem like a big investment, they will pay off in the long run in reducing turnover. Why? Because the cost of offering benefits or increasing staff pay is typically less than the cost of continuously replacing top performers.

To make room in your 2020 budget for employee benefits or compensation increases, look at your 2019 spend and identify your controllable costs, such as food waste and high electricity prices, and implement changes for next year. Other options to consider are increasing menu prices or adding a surcharge to checks.

2. Hire the Right People

Making sure you have the right leadership is incredibly important to the culture of your restaurant. If your managers don’t treat your staff with respect, it won’t be reciprocated and you will lose valuable talent. Make sure everyone from your hosts to your general managers feel supported and know that they are a valuable member of the team. There should be no place in your restaurant for hotheads or hostile workers. Hire people that exude genuine respect for those around them and your team will flourish.

3. Train Staff Well

One of the primary reasons restaurant employees look for new jobs is that they want more mentorship and training (in the case of younger workers) to help them take their careers in hospitality to the next level. Handing a new staff member your employee handbook and expecting them to master a role isn’t enough. Empowering your employees to feel like they have the necessary knowledge and training to be good at their job will make a world of difference for your restaurant.

Using your veterans to train your new employees is an easy way to attain a well-rounded staff. As a bonus incentive, give your trainers an extra dollar or two per hour to make the job feel worthwhile. This will ensure your trainers are doing the best job they can and will encourage the rest of your staff to pursue the position.

4. Provide Professional Development

It doesn’t matter if your employees see themselves in the industry forever: if you can show an employee you care about their long-term career success, they’ll stick around. Ask your team members where they hope to take their careers. If one of your servers wants to move into a manager role, have them shadow your best GM. If your lead bartender wants to open up their own clothing store in five years, show them how to manage the books. Help your team members take on new responsibilities and roles that put them on a path that’s meaningful to them.

5. Incentivize Your Staff

An employee incentive program is an incredibly effective, low-cost way to motivate staff during a shift. Reward on-the-clock performance with perks that encourage your staff to go above and beyond, like extra breaks, a reserved parking spot for a week, an extra day off or a week free of side work.

Identify areas based on your company goals that need improvement. If it’s hiring, incentivize your employees for referrals; if it’s sales, start a contest that rewards the employee that upsells the most during a month.

6. Schedule Fairly

The restaurant industry doesn’t make it easy to maintain work-life balance, so you should try your best to honor scheduling requests when possible. Consider individual sales performance as well as how often and what type of shifts your employees are working (i.e. a couple of weekday shifts vs every weekend night shift) when trying to plan around staff schedule requests. It may be impossible to please everyone, but using real performance metrics to explain why employees were scheduled certain shifts or some requests were approved while others weren’t, shows your staff that you’re not playing favorites. On the contrary, being transparent with your employees will build trust and encourage them to work that much harder.

2020 Action Plan for Restaurant Employee Turnover

You’re not the only restaurant (or industry, for that matter) struggling with high turnover. By proactively planning your 2020 action plan to combat employee turnover, you’re putting your restaurant and your employees ahead of the game. Resolve this new year to be one of great success, staff development and high employee retention and make 2020 the best year yet!

About Toast: Toast, a new CHECK® Business Tools partner, powers successful restaurants of all sizes with a technology platform that combines restaurant POS, front-of-house, back-of-house and guest-facing technology with a diverse marketplace of third-party applications. By pairing technology with an unrivaled commitment to customer success, Toast helps restaurants streamline operations, increase revenue and deliver amazing guest experiences. Toast was named to the 2019 Forbes Fintech 50, 2019 SXSW Interactive Innovation Finals, 2018 Forbes Cloud 100 and recognized as the third fastest-growing technology company in North America on the 2017 Deloitte Fast 500. Learn more about Toast by visiting POS and Restaurant Management Platform.

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