Skip navigation
10 steps to improve employee retention

10 steps to improve employee retention

• See more H.R./Legal articles

Staff retention has become a hot button issue as of late, thanks to relatively low unemployment and a healthier economy.  How can you, as a restaurant manager, control turnover in your restaurant? Here are 10 practices you can adopt to improve retention:

1.  Conduct performance appraisals.

When it comes to performance, team members need to know where they stand. If employees intend to grow with your company, but their performance is lagging, you need to tell them so. While conducting the assessment, you and the employee can develop a SMART action plan to get them back on track.

2.  Convey a positive attitude.

The crew feeds off of your energy, so you want to be sure it’s positive energy, not negative. Some of the best leaders I have worked for were always positive, no matter the situation

3. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other milestones.

If you are able to program these announcements into your POS system (at clock in/out) they can be highly effective and provide opportunities for staff bonding. Another option is posting a sign or corkboard with all the anniversaries and birthdays for the month. The smile that it puts on people’s faces, in addition to the recognition it provides, is priceless. It’s a simple but highly effective gesture.

4. Take pride in the operation.

Is your staff proud of your restaurant? Servers should be walking up to tables spieling drinks and appetizers with confidence in the quality. Before each shift you need to get your team psyched about how well the restaurant is doing, how fantastic that new menu is, daily specials, tastings, etc. Take great pride in your wins, and share them with your team. 

5.  Allow employees to contribute.

Your employees are on the front lines, and they will have great ideas on how to modify and/or improve current systems and processes. I suggest forming an employee-led committee to gather these ideas into one central location, then introduce them to management. This will give employees a sense of ownership and pride, especially once they see some of their ideas put into use.

6. Have individual retention dialogues.

A retention dialogue is a modified stay interview that’s especially appropriate for the restaurant industry. The process is all about having positive discussions with crewmembers to determine what would make them stay and what would make them leave. You want to determine what gets them excited about being there.  If done properly, this discussion can lead to a highly positive, energized shift (with more to come). 

7. Conduct effective training.

Adequate training is vital to achieving expected performance results from new employees. This training should clearly define the new employee’s role within the organization. Understanding their role, and your expectations, is critical in developing a sense of engagement and ownership. An engaged employee wants to learn and be given new opportunities to grow.

8.  Provide growth opportunities.

If someone approaches you with an inquiry about moving up in the organization, set up a time where the two of you can sit and talk privately. Discuss their expectations and the steps they need to take to attain that position. Additionally review the positives and negatives of their current performance (as it pertains to the position in question). If available, provide a small-scale leadership opportunity to help gauge the possibility of them in a future leadership role.

9.  Hold a preshift rally.

Schedule a brief motivational rally just before each shift. The key points here are to inspire and inform your team for the shift ahead. Share facts about expected sales, issues facing the shift, sales opportunities and contests. A contest will not only improve performance, but done properly it will create an infectious energy within the staff. This leads to more effective and efficient employees.

10. Assign a dedicated manager to serve as an HR generalist.

Choose an existing manager to take on the responsibilities of recruiting, interviewing, orientation, onboarding and training. Having one person handle these responsibilities clears up confusion and gives ner hires confidence that they have chosen their new job wisely. Lack of organization regarding these HR functions creates a sense of doubt in the new hire about their choice of employer.

The restaurant business is tricky; retaining employees doesn’t have to be. These are all straightforward fixes that will address your retention concerns almost instantly.

Loren Burns has worked in restaurants for more than 17 years and is pursuing a master of human resources degree and working as a manager at a Rainforest Cafe in Orlando.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.