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10 Restaurant Employee Retention Strategies For Small Business

The restaurant industry is notorious for incredibly high turnover rates. Many restaurants have constantly revolving doors of employees being hired, trained, fired, or quitting. This chaos takes a massive toll on your bottom line, your productivity, and your quality of service. 


Having a stable, long-lasting team of employees is essential to running a business smoothly. If your restaurant is suffering from low retention rates, there can be a multitude of causes. Sometimes external factors play a huge role, but it may also be time to look inward and reevaluate why you continually experience a high staff turnover.


Let’s take a look at some actionable strategies that will allow you to practically reassess your small business’ retention rate and reduce its employee turnover.

1. Provide Competitive Compensation

Money may not be everything, but it is a huge factor in an employee’s decision on whether or not to leave a job. If opportunities arise that suit a worker’s experience and pay more, you will likely have a steady flow of short-term employees who inevitably move on to greener pastures. Wages need to meet the market average at least, and if you want to further reduce turnover, beat them. 


Offering a competitive, livable, and inflation-adjusted salary is essential to employee retention. Some restaurants underpay workers or have them rely on tips for wages, making long-term financial security in the service industry difficult for many. 


If you’re looking to build a long-lasting team, it’s a good idea to think about how livable your wages are and if they factor into your retention rate. Raising wages based on performance or time spent working for the business is also a great motivator for employees—both to work hard and invest their time long term.

2. Offer Benefits and Recognize Employee Rights

It’s important to make your business environment one that prioritizes employee wellbeing. Offering your workers appealing in-demand perks like healthcare, retirement or parental leave will make your restaurant far more appealing as a place of employment.


If your small business doesn’t offer benefits, you’ll likely lose your employees to another company where they will be offered attractive benefits.


It’s also important that your restaurant employees are safe. Sexual harassment, racism, and homophobia are serious issues that still pervade many work environments. Preventative training and education are important to communicate boundaries and policies. There should also be a system in place to effectively deal with workplace toxicity so that all employees feel safe and their rights are protected.

3. Create Opportunities For Upwards Mobility

Humans have an inherent desire to grow and learn, causing many people to leave their jobs because they are looking to advance their careers. 


If you want to keep restaurant employees long-term, it’s important to create those opportunities for advancement within the business. When filling a more senior position, try to hire from your existing pool of employees rather than look outside. 


However, it doesn’t always need to be a promotion. An increase in responsibilities can also keep a job fulfilling and exciting. Your workers are a lot more likely to stick around if they know their career in hospitality is evolving and their potential is being realized. 


4. Have a Thorough Hiring Process 

When onboarding new employees it’s easy to rush the process to fill an empty position. But this can have negative repercussions in the future.


Without fully understanding new intakes, it’s difficult to find someone that is a good fit, leading to high turnover. It is important to understand the values and long-term plans of new employees so that you can find someone that will stick around as part of the team. Rather than someone looking for a short-term gig. 


It’s important to know your new recruits’ values so you can assess if they align with the values of your business. A thorough hiring process that involves an in-depth interview and meticulous employee verification will allow you to get to know the new hires so that you can decide whether or not this is someone you want to work with for years to come.

5. Train Employees Properly 

After you’ve hired the right person it’s essential that they are properly trained and inducted into your business. You’re building a foundation that is going to define their performance at your restaurant. 


A poorly trained employee is more likely to quit out of frustration or be fired due to incompetence—a nightmare for your goal of retention. It is also important to constantly refresh and update the skills of your employees. Workshops, training refreshers, and skill development initiatives give employees opportunities to learn and grow in their work environment, making them less likely to leave.

6. Offer Opportunities for Creativity and Independence

People don’t like to be micromanaged, and a sense of autonomy and independence can make work-life significantly more fulfilling. Give your employees opportunities to make decisions and get creative. Keep their job interesting and challenging by loosening the reins and allowing them to use their skills to problem solve on the job. 

Healthy risk-taking and spontaneity keep a job fun and interesting, making it one that your employees don’t want to leave.


It is also important that your staff feel safe to respectfully give feedback and ask questions, even if they are critical of you. They should be able to express their feelings openly without fearing reprisal. Healthy honesty in the workplace is important in creating working relationships that stand the test of time and pressure.

7. Provide Recognition and Give Rewards

It is essential that your employees feel valued for the work they do. Celebrating milestones, recognizing progress, and giving rewards greatly increases worker satisfaction. These are the people making your business tick, so actively recognizing their importance makes them feel seen and like an important part of the team. 


Positive feedback and encouragement on a daily basis make a huge difference in overall job satisfaction long term. A token of recognition on their work anniversary is the kind of thing that keeps employees loyal and happy.

8. Be a Good Boss

People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. 


If you want to increase employee retention, you need to be a leader rather than a boss. Maybe it’s time to self-reflect on your management style and your relationships with employees.


How do you describe yourself as a manager? Finding a good balance between micromanaging and complete absence is important to keeping restaurant employees happy, motivated, and effective. 


Some qualities in a good leader include confidence, trustworthiness, adaptability, and availability. If your employees trust and respect you it’s less likely they’re going to leave because of all too common worker-boss tension. 


It’s also important to have good relationships with employees. Friendliness and professionalism are key. You want to be personable and trustworthy but also maintain the boundaries of employer-employee relationships. Fostering an environment of mutual respect makes the workspace one people want to be a part of, thus reducing turnover and increasing productivity.

9. Prioritize Employee Happiness

Are your employees happy at their job? Happiness is a major factor when it comes to employee turnover, and it’s important you take steps to minimize suffering. There are many ways to bring balance and joy into the workplace, but it’s essential to do the work of talking to employees and getting feedback. 


There may be a specific aspect of work that makes things difficult, such as a server worried about getting home safely after a late shift. In cases like these, you can actively look for solutions and make a practical difference in their day-to-day quality of life. 


On the other hand, there may just be a general sense of boredom and dreariness amongst your workforce. Here you can get creative to create small moments of joy to break up an otherwise monotonous day. Free coffee, a spontaneous half-day, and team-building activities are just a few practical things you can implement to make the workplace a more enjoyable space.

10. Make Your Business One Worth Working For

People are more likely to stay at a job if they have a sense of pride in the business they work for. If you’re passionate about your restaurant, it’s contagious to people who work for you.



Being a server or cook at a quality restaurant can provide a sense of satisfaction, dignity, happiness, and loyalty. That’s not to say you need a Michelin star but cooking and serving good food is a lot more enjoyable than bad food. 


It’s also essential that the physical environment is clean, safe, and welcoming. Your employees are going to spend a good portion of their day at the restaurant, so the space should be one they feel comfortable in.

11. Assess Your Employee’s Work-life Balance

Remember, your employees have a family, a home, and a life outside of their job. 


If that job starts to compromise the other parts of their life, they’re not going to stick around for long. Although the restaurant industry is incredibly demanding, it is important to ensure that all your staff gets regular breaks during their shifts to eat and rest. 


In the long term, burnout is a serious concern, especially in the food service industry, where long, underpaid shifts abound. Giving your employees flexibility can help them fit their home and work life together more neatly, making their employment more sustainable. Getting to know your employees will help you manage them more effectively and having compassion for them will increase your retention rate.


Improving your employee retention rate is an essential part of creating a sustainable and productive work environment. Constant states of hiring, firing, and quitting cost your restaurant money and quality. Use these retention strategies to take practical steps to ensure remuneration, provide incentives and create an overall positive work environment.


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Meta Title (Must not exceed 60 characters) 10 Restaurant Employee Retention Strategies For Small Business Owners
Meta Description (Must not exceed 155 characters) Find out how you can reduce high employee turnover rates in your restaurant. These employee retention strategies are easy to implement and effective. 
Alt Image Description Cheerful waitress standing at the restaurant counter.




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