Top 3 Tips for Restaurant Employee Retention in 2015 (Part 2)

Let’s face it: restaurant staffing is a pain in the butt. How many times in the last year did you put aside business strategizing to instead focus on dealing with trudging through yet another pile of resumes and applications? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just keep the employees you have, improve their knowledge of your cuisine and operations, and inspire them to improve all the time? Today’s post focuses on the top three ways that you can reduce the time you spend on staffing issues—and increase the time you have to grow your restaurant. 

Want more tips? Check out Part 1 to learn the other restaurant employee retention tips that make employees issues a non-issue in 2015. 

3. Inspire Them with Equality

This isn’t just another way to say “treat your employees fairly,” you know you should be doing that (and I’m sure you are doing that). This tip is actually about accountability—and about holding everyone to the same high standards. If one of your servers consistently shows up late to work and needs extra help with her tables, or if your entire wait staff dreads being paired with a specific busser, you need to have a chat with your low performer. Not only will your chat allow you to start the steps of your due process warning system, it also sets up a restaurant-wide system of accountability.

When you warn your employees and offer them reasonable expectations for improvement, you are demonstrating that you hold them accountable for their poor performance. This also confirms that improving performance is the employee’s responsibility. Plus, when you reprimand underperforming employees, it subtly reinforces the message that your high-performing staff is doing well.

2. Impress Them with Your Unique Skills

The best leaders are people who impress their employees with brave moves, a strong work ethic, incredible sales skills, encyclopedic food knowledge, or other expanded abilities. Show off your unique skills! If your employees look up to you, they’re likely to understand that they can learn from you, and that makes them likely to see you as a worthy leader.

Whether you’re a food expert, a drinks guru, an upselling pro, or a customer service magician, keep your skills at the forefront of all your interactions with your staff—and inspire them to become unique and remarkable leaders as well.

1. Direct Them toward Success

The #1 thing that you should do to keep your restaurant employees loyal to your business in 2015 is to guide them on a path to success. This simple employee management task may very well be the most helpful thing that you can do for your employees—but it also is the most often forgotten. In theory, this is simple: tell your employees what to do, so that they always know how to make your restaurant the best it can be. However, real life never seems to match theories, and it’s important that you get this right.

How to do this the right way

When managers, chefs, or restaurant owners first start telling their front- and back-of-the-house employees what to do, they think they have to micromanage everything. I understand this impulse—after all, you want your restaurant to be perfect for your customers every single night. Though it’s important to have a clear vision of what should happen in your restaurant, it’s also important that you let your employees decide how to make that vision a reality.

Set your restaurant on the path to perfection and employee retention by:

  • Telling your employees your expectations for every type of customer interaction 
    • Say: “I expect that you will greet guests with a warm smile and a suggestion that they order a drink while they’re looking over the menu.”
  • Explaining a few different ways they can meet your expectations 
    • Say: “You can do this by suggesting a featured wine, a seasonal drink, or your favorite drink—by the way, if you look them in the eyes while smiling, they’ll feel more at ease, too.”
  • Having them brainstorm more ideas they can use to best meet your expectations
    • Say: “How do you usually recommend menu options to customers you’ve dealt with in the past?” OR “What are some really successful ways you’ve done this before?”
  • Clarifying who they can turn to if they need more help
    • Say: “  Most of the time when the restaurant is open, I’ll be circulating to check on guests. If I’m busy and you need some feedback, try asking the hostess. She’s been here for three years and has some great pointers.”

Get ready for a great new year

Whether you’re holding your employees accountable for their actions, impressing them with your unique skills, or setting your employees on the path to success, you should always make sure that you are a benevolent force in your employees’ work life. No one wants to work for an angry, yelling, nitpicking boss who is unpredictable, so make sure that no aspects of your work personality reflect that in 2015. If you find that you’re yelling or frustrated a lot, make sure that while you’re correcting your reactions, you also treat each employee’s personality flaws with the same understanding they’re offering you—after all, no one is perfect. That’s why we all have New Year’s resolutions.

Photo licensed  for use by InterContinental Hong Kong