• High employee turnover is costly to the restaurant and can result in inconsistent and inefficient service.
  • Offering career growth and educational opportunities are key to building a restaurant workforce in the post-pandemic era.

By Megan Prevost

Finding and hiring valuable employees in the restaurant industry is no simple feat. Retaining that talent can be an even harder battle to win. There are numerous reasons for restaurants having notoriously high turnover rates, including low wages, a high-stress environment and long hours.

But high employee turnover is costly, as recruiting and training new employees takes a considerable amount of time, effort and money. Likewise, having an ever-changing staff can mean that daily operations and customer service practices are inefficient, inconsistent or inadequate for customers.

While all of this might seem stressful, we’re here to remind you that there are proven methods for keeping employees around. Here are five simple ways to recruit and retain a loyal, valuable team of employees who will help your restaurant succeed.

1. Hire strategically. Start from the very beginning. Though you might be stressed and scrambling to fill empty shifts, it’s important to have patience during the hiring process. You want to hire people who will gel with the rest of your staff and who are likely to stick around for a while. Hiring someone on a whim just to fill a role might mean you lose that employee in a month and are stuck going through the hiring process all over again—which can be very costly and bad for business.

Hire people whose job history exemplifies loyalty, not someone who seems to be a job-hopper. Likewise, look for people with relevant, useful experience and a proven work ethic. Or, if no relevant experience is there, at least look for someone who portrays a willingness and capability to learn. When interviewing, be sure to inquire about individuals’ future plans or goals. Hiring someone who is hoping to grow in their career at your restaurant is one of the most strategic moves you can make.

2. Take training seriously. Adequate training is a preventative measure that you’ll thank yourself for later. When your training process is thorough, there is less room for error or confusion and more room for efficiency. Likewise, a robust, well-thought-out training process shows employees that they are valued and will be valued in the future.

Take the time to create a structured training plan for each different position you’re hiring for. Consult with long-time employees, managers, experts or even competitors on your approach. It also helps to cross-train employees to have skills that apply to various positions. Doing so shows staff that they have the opportunity to grow and that you believe in their capabilities. Plus, every well-rounded employee makes the entire team that much stronger and more flexible.

Related: How to hire better staff to make more dough

3. Keep your menu simple. Of the many things that a new restaurant employee must learn, memorizing an entire menu can be one of the most daunting and difficult. But it’s necessary. A simplified menu helps minimize confusion for both staff and customers, taking lots of pressure or frustration off of employees.

Using an easy-to-customize simple menu template, you can create a menu with plenty of white space that isn’t overcrowded with words or information. The simpler the layout, the less confusion there will be. You can minimize your menu by getting rid of items that are similar to each other or items that don’t sell well. Use photos and concise, accurate descriptions for dishes that may be otherwise confusing.

4. Make them feel appreciated. It’s not hard to understand why appreciating your employees makes them want to stay longer. A hardworking employee whose efforts go unrecognized may not even know that they’re a valued member of your team. When you let employees know that you appreciate their effort with positive reinforcement, you not only help them feel valued, you incentivize them to continue to strive for success.

Telling employees that they’re doing a good job is a great first step, but it shouldn’t be the only way you show them appreciation. Show empathy and care for employees by creating realistic, flexible schedules for them and rewarding them with ample time off.

Another obvious way to show employees appreciation is to raise their pay when they take on extra work or exceed expectations, especially since restaurant wages are usually low to begin with. If this isn’t possible, consider hosting or paying for staff events or parties to show appreciation.

Related: Expert says new benefits key to hiring and retaining restaurant workers

5. Help employees grow. Thanks to the Great Resignation that led to a labor crisis for the restaurant industry, experts agree that providing career growth opportunities is now more important than ever. When hiring employees, it’s smart to look for individuals who hope to grow in their careers. When your employees want to grow with you, they’re obviously more inclined to stay loyal to your restaurant. Likewise, you’ll be building a strong team of higher-ups who know your business well.

Start by paying attention to each individual employee and conducting regular performance reviews. Schedule these annually or every few months so that you don’t forget or have to find a reason to discuss and assess employee performance. This will help you notice employees who are growing and those who have the potential to do more.

Any educational opportunities that you can provide staff, such as certifications, college coursework or professional training, will be a huge incentive for employees to strive for greatness at your restaurant. Of course, you can also always promote employees internally to recognize their strengths and help them grow.

You’ve probably heard the common business quip about your employees being your most valuable investment. In the restaurant industry, where customer service and efficiency are crucial aspects of success, your employees really are your most valuable investment. So, don’t hold back from investing your money and your time into building a strong, loyal, agile team of employees. Keep a keen eye on each employee’s performance and progress, let it be known that you care, and watch your employee turnover rates decrease as your restaurant grows.

Megan Prevost is a marketing content writer for MustHaveMenus. When she’s not writing about restaurant marketing, she’s hanging out with her three cats and binging the latest television shows. Her work has appeared in App Institute, Bar Business, CLH News, FanSided, FSR, Miss Details, Modern Restaurant Management, PMQ, QSR, RestoBiz, RestoHub, Site Social SEO, Small Business Currents, and The Daily Fandom.