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  • Writer's pictureCaroline

Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Employees in Food Service

Updated: May 22

The restaurant industry is notorious for its high turnover rates and constant demand for experienced and reliable employees. With an average annual turnover rate of a staggering 80% over the last ten years, attracting and retaining restaurant employees is a challenge that nearly all restaurant owners and managers face. However, with the right strategies and a supportive work environment, you can build a dedicated and talented team that not only thrives in your business but wants to stay there as well! Looking for ways to attract and retain your employees? Read on!

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Employee Rewards


Competitive Compensation

One of the most significant factors in attracting and retaining restaurant employees is offering competitive compensation. Restaurant employees cite low pay as the number one reason for leaving their jobs or the industry altogether. Paying your employees well not only shows that you value their work but also motivates them to stay. Make sure to research industry standards and pay your staff accordingly, taking into account factors such as current job responsibilities. Once you have a competitive compensation for your role - advertise it! Listing the salary in the job description is a great way to attract top talent, and is quickly becoming the industry standard, with more than 43% of job postings listing their salary in 2023. In addition to hourly wages, consider offering performance-based incentives, such as tips or bonuses, to reward exceptional service. Since 2021, more than 84% of employers reported that they increased wages to attract and retain their restaurant employees.

Benefits and Perks

In addition to offering a competitive wage, providing benefits and perks can significantly increase retention rates among your employees. Offering health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans to showcase your commitment to your employees' well-being. Consider additional (and likely more affordable) perks like staff meals, discounts, or even opportunities for advancement within the company. Make sure to list these benefits in the job description to set your roles apart from the rest. These benefits will not only increase retention rates among your current employees but will also make your restaurant more attractive to potential hires.

Employee Training and Development

Providing opportunities for skill enhancement and career growth can be a powerful tool in retaining employees. When employees feel that their personal growth and development is valued, they are more likely to remain loyal to your business. Invest in training and development programs for your restaurant staff, like regular training sessions, business development, and specific areas of upskilling. Regular training sessions not only improve the quality of service but also demonstrate your dedication to their professional growth. Encourage your employees to take on new roles and responsibilities, and support them in pursuing certifications or courses that enhance their skills.

Flexible Scheduling

Restaurant work often involves irregular hours and demanding schedules, and if they don’t fit the staff’s schedule, they are likely to find somewhere else that will. Offering flexible scheduling can be a game-changer in retaining employees. Allow your staff to have input into their work hours and days off when possible. This can help them balance work with personal life, reducing burnout and turnover rates. Promote a healthy work-life balance for your employees by ensuring they have sufficient time off to fulfill needs in other areas of their lives - taking care of family, resting, and more. Encourage time management practices that allow employees to maintain a life outside of work, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and employee retention.

Employee Environment


Positive Work Environment

Creating a positive work environment is crucial for retaining restaurant employees. “A happy, engaged staff not only performs better but also improves customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.” Encourage open communication and feedback, and listen to your staff's concerns and suggestions. Foster a culture of teamwork and respect where employees feel valued and appreciated. Recognition for hard work, such as "Employee of the Month" awards or verbal appreciation, can boost morale and motivation.

Employee Recognition and Incentives

Recognize and reward outstanding performance. Implement an employee recognition program that highlights exceptional achievements. This can include financial rewards, gift cards, or even extra time off. By acknowledging and rewarding hard work, you boost motivation and loyalty among your staff.

Staff Engagement and Involvement

Involve your staff in decision-making processes and give them a sense of ownership in the restaurant. When employees feel like they have a say in how the business is run, they become more invested in its success. Encourage input on menu ideas, marketing strategies, and operational improvements. A more engaged team is more likely to stay committed to your restaurant when they feel they have buy-in on how the business operates.

Deloitte's Deputy CEO has a lot to say on our Gen Z and Millenial-aged workforce; “It is crucial for employers to understand these generations and continue to drive progress on the challenges that matter most to them…they are values-driven. They’re looking for employers who can help empower them to make a difference.”

Attracting and retaining restaurant employees is an ongoing challenge, but with a combination of competitive compensation, benefits, a positive work environment, and opportunities for growth, you can build a loyal and dedicated team. Remember that employee satisfaction and retention are closely linked to the success of your restaurant. By implementing these strategies, you can create a workplace where employees are not just working for a paycheck but are genuinely invested in the success of your restaurant. This, in turn, will lead to improved customer satisfaction and the long-term growth of your business.

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