Any restaurant knows that hiring and retaining good employees is a struggle. With a seemingly endless stream of new employees to train, it's no surprise that the turnover rate tops 70%.
Why the high turnover? Restaurants are a huge employer of teenagers and students, with ⅓ of working teenagers in the U.S. employed by restaurants. Teens will often move on to other opportunities, and students rarely work the full year.
Even with full-year employees, there isn’t much opportunity for growth and upward mobility without switching to a different employer.
Retention is crucial. The cost of replacing an hourly employee is a staggering $5,000. If you’re hiring multiple employees a year, this adds up quickly. But what’s the solution?
Learn how to hire the right employees for your restaurant, and get them to stick around long-term.
Figure out your values
Having core values and sticking to them is a huge part of your restaurant culture. Values guide your decisions and set you apart from competition. Do they include quality, community, transparency, and employee well-being? Sit down and really think this through.
Once you know your core values, you can start looking for employees who embody them. This will help you find people who are a better fit and will be happier in the long-term.
Define the position
Before writing a job description, figure out the top skills and traits you’re looking for in an employee. Tailor your job description to fit the specific role, and be clear about exactly what is needed to succeed.
When someone is a fit for both the job and the culture, they are more likely to perform well and enjoy the job, increasing retention. When interviewing candidates, asking questions about their interests can help you delve beyond their skills and experience.
Advertise open positions online
By advertising open positions online, you'll have a much larger talent pool to choose from.
Pick job boards that allow your position to be seen by the most eyes possible. There are a ton to choose from, including Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder and ZipRecruiter. Craigslist is often a cheap way to post an ad in your local area, and can be free depending on what city you’re in. Restaurant or hospitality industry job boards are also an effective way of reaching candidates with relevant experience.
Advertising open positions on your social media channels is another great way to maximize your applicant numbers. Bonus: You’ll even reach candidates who aren't actively looking for a new job, and pique their interest.
Also consider developing a relationship with local colleges. This gives you the opportunity to hire new grads before anyone else.
Ask for referrals
Leverage your employees' networks. Because your employees are already familiar with your restaurant culture and environment, they're more likely to recommend people who are a good fit. This speeds up the process of both hiring and integrating new employees into your team and culture.
You can also make this a win-win by giving perks to employees who refer successful hires, such as a referral bonus.
Hire from within
If you’re hiring for a more senior position, consider promoting a high-performing employee. Not only do you already know they’ll do a great job, but you don’t need to go through the hassle of hiring and training someone new.
Develop a positive online presence
You may screen candidates before making a hire, but candidates also screen you. If you have negative reviews online, this can deter people from applying - 69% of candidates won’t consider a job if it has a poor reputation, even if they're unemployed! Check websites like Glassdoor for reviews from past employees, and consider actively responding to both negative and positive reviews online.
It’s also important to keep all company information up-to-date. This includes responding to reviews, but also continuously updating social media channels and sharing fun information about your work environment. This helps engage candidates and makes sure they have a good idea of your restaurant culture before applying.
Conduct working interviews
A candidate may seem great on paper and in the initial interview, but will they really succeed in the position? A great way to find out is by having them come in for a working interview. You’ll be able to see their skills in action and any areas for improvement before making a decision.
Simplify the application process
If your application process is too long, you may lose candidates along the way. Make things fast and easy, and avoid long questionnaires or personality assessments. This keeps you competitive with other hiring restaurants, and prevents you from missing out on talented people!
A good candidate won't be around for long. If you find someone you’re interested in, it’s important to act quickly. Even if you haven’t made a decision yet, keep candidates regularly updated on where you are in the hiring process so they stay engaged.
Develop an effective training program
Having a solid training program for new hires ensures that they succeed in the job, while also feeling comfortable and confident so they stick around longer. Make their first day memorable by being enthusiastic and ensuring your passion for the business shines through.
You want to make sure your training program is long enough that new hires feel fully prepared before they go it on their own. Longer onboarding programs lead to higher retention rates because employees feel supported and confident in their abilities.
Assigning a mentor to every employee is a great way to make sure everyone feels supported. This includes employees at every level (even dishwashers and bussers). This technique has the added bonus of keeping you on top of any issues that arise, so you can resolve them quickly.
As part of the mentorship make sure employees are given feedback, both positive and constructive - they’ll feel like you’re really investing time in them, while also helping to improve their performance.
Incentives are a great way to reward top-performing employees and keep things exciting. Consider draws, nominating employees of the week or month, or bonuses for sales on new dishes. You can also offer commissions for any large sales they bring in, like major catering events. By spreading the wealth you’ll keep employees motivated, which will drive your sales in the long run.
A guaranteed way to lose good employees? Boredom. According to a study by Udemy, bored employees are 2x more likely to quit.
Investing in continuous training for your employees keeps them engaged. Learning new skills keeps work new and interesting, while also prepping successful employees for career advancement within your restaurant. Training can include things like paying for employees to take relevant classes or helping them gain certificates such as ServSafe.
This may seem obvious, but offering raises is great way to motivate employees. Although this seems like an expensive technique, it will ultimately cost you more in the long run to lose a great employee and have to rehire and retrain.
One way to implement raises is by awarding longevity: offer successful employees a raise after a certain amount of time. This can make them feel like they are moving upwards and developing their career.
Don’t forget the back of house staff. Tips only really allow your front of house to make more money. To solve this, some restaurants are moving to a new revenue sharing model. By charging a few cents more per dollar, restaurants give this additional money to cooks and dishwashers. This model allows your back of house to also make more money during busier periods, which is a great motivator.
As other industries move towards providing a better work-life balance, it’s important for the restaurant industry to keep up. Being flexible with hours makes a huge difference in morale. This doesn’t mean giving in to every whim of your employees. Be mindful of things like not scheduling employees for back-to-back close and open shifts, or being more flexible with holiday scheduling.
If scheduling conflicts come up, try and work through a solution that benefits both you and the employee. If your employees are exhausted and overworked, they’ll be both unproductive and unhappy.