Retention is one of the restaurant industry’s biggest concerns. Once you’ve got a great employee how do you keep him or her? In the second part of our two-part series, we look at more retention tips from restaurant-industry experts.
This is part two of a two-part series. To read part one, click here.
In the first part of our two-part series on retention, we covered onboarding, training, fostering an encouraging workplace and providing regular feedback. But there are even more ways you can retain employees.
Set goals and expectations
What are your employees working toward? Max Wesman, CEO at GoodHire, said in an email interview that setting goals is crucial, regardless of industry.
Goals are “designed to encourage consistency in performance and tell professionals what they need to work on in order to further their success,” Wesman said. “In the service field, effective goals come in various forms. For example, you might set a target for your team to decrease preparation speed and fulfill 75% of orders within 20 minutes or less; or you might set a goal for your team to earn a 90%-plus Net Promoter Score, which speaks to the importance of a positive customer experience.
“Goals are great for keeping your team focused and rallied behind a certain outcome; however, no goal is complete without a reward on the other end. If employees have no incentive to achieve the goals you lay out, they’re unlikely to work towards them. For this reason, it’s important to build out a combination of cash rewards, praise and even shift selection priority, in return for the completion of goals across a given month or quarter. With something to actively earn and work towards, it gives the team a great reason to stick around.”
Do employees feel like they have a better position to work toward? Are you hiring from within to give employees a set career path?
“It’s critical for managers to take personal responsibility for the growth and development of their team members if they want to ensure a higher retention rate across their organization,” said Renee Guilbault, principal at Essayer Food Consulting. “Taking the time to learn about employees’ personal career goals and finding ways to support and assist in their achievement often becomes the deciding factor in an employee’s decision to stay or go. This applies to large corporate environments as well as individual restaurants – great managers always put ‘people first’ and try to ensure ongoing growth opportunities for their team members.”
Offering employees the chance to grow from within is also an effecting retention tip, as employees have a goal to work toward.
“I think the most important tool for retaining employees is to offer them room for growth,” Anchal Lambda, a franchisee with Gong cha, a bubble-tea brand, said in an email interview. “Someone who starts off as a ‘boba-rista’ (Gong cha’s entry-level barista position) at our store can grow with the company, becoming a shift leader, Gong cha franchise trainer or a manager. We have even had some employees start as a part-time barista and eventually become a Gong cha franchisee themselves. Gong cha really strives to make sure opportunities for our employees are endless.
“We also believe it is important to know what your employees’ goals and passions are. We do quarterly audits and have regular conversations with employees to not only make sure they have the correct, most up-to-date operational knowledge, but also to catch up personally and get a sense for their personal goals.
“We also offer perks and incentives, including employee discounts and bonuses when sales targets and service goals are met.”
Sam Caucci, CEO of 1Huddle, said in an phone interview the No. 1 thing they hear from the frontlines is that workers in the restaurant industry want more development and career growth opportunities, including coaching and moving up through the ranks.
“When it comes to retention, I think in organizations today, they want to be leaders and they want to build high-performing workforces that deliver great service (and) drive more sales,” Caucci said. “They’re going to need to make that employee experience equal to if not better than the experience they strive for every day with their guests.”
Releasing toxic workers
And sometimes, restaurants can simply hold on to an employee far past their expiration date, meaning its okay to let go of toxic workers who bring down the entire team.
“You have some workers who are all in, then you have some workers who are give ins and then you have some workers who are not in,” Caucci said. “The all-ins are great, the give-ins are on the line. They’re not disrupting and they’re not toxic. But that third group, the not-in group or toxic group that is constantly chipping away at the culture that has been established or not showing up on time or not being a great teammate, I think organizations have to be really good at making sure they’re getting those people off the ship. Keeping them on the ship for too long sends a clear message to everybody else that it’s okay to be average.”
Conduct exit interviews when possible
Finally, if an employee quits, consider holding an exit interview with him or her to find out why they’re leading. Encourage the employee to be a candid as possible. There are outsourced HR companies that will do the exit interview for you.
Caucci cited a Gallop poll that surveyed Gen Z workers who voluntarily quit a job and found that when considering their next job, what affects the likelihood of them considering applying for a job.
“Time and time again the No. 1 thing that came up was employee referral. … Word of mouth is a very valuable driver of consumer action but also future employee referral behaviors,” Caucci said.
Closing the conversation out with a team member is obviously hard to do. Caucci said setting reminders to follow up with team members 30, 60 or 90 days after leaving.
“Sometimes it may be difficult to conduct an effective exit interview within hours of a team member leaving for a variety of reasons,” Caucci said, adding that it going back and conducting interviews with everyone who left in the previous quarter gives both parties a little time and space.
“I think it’s important because former employees go back into the communities and become either customers and promoters or they become detractors, and we need to have a pulse on that.”
Mandy Wolf Detwiler is the managing editor at Networld Media Group and the site editor for PizzaMarketplace.com and QSRweb.com. She has more than 20 years’ experience covering food, people and places.
An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings more than 20 years’ experience to Networld Media Group. She has spent nearly two decades covering the pizza industry, from independent pizzerias to multi-unit chains and every size business in between. Mandy has been featured on the Food Network and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the restaurant industry. She has an insatiable appetite for learning, and can tell you where to find the best slices in the country after spending 15 years traveling and eating pizza for a living.