How to Recruit and Retain Star Restaurant Employees

By: Gina Lee De Freitas

The people that work at your restaurant are the face of your company so finding the right people as well as retaining those people is critical for keeping costs down and keeping the doors open. 

Recruiting and retaining employees in the restaurant industry has become an exceedingly difficult task. A staggering 43% of jobs in the food service industry remain open, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the overall turnover rate is 35%.

Quick service restaurants are hit the hardest when it comes to recruiting and retention, and the reason is simple. For decades, QSR chains have survived by paying a staff of teenagers and young adults minimum wage, but today, millennials and rising members of Gen Z do not look at low wages as a prize. Furthermore, these younger generations get no satisfaction from the physical work that comes with working at a QSR, along with limited opportunities to learn new skills or advance up the chain.

This is a serious problem for restaurants because raising wages means raising prices, and raising prices means losing customers. Since future prospects look dismal, QSR owners and managers must take innovative approaches to recruit and retain a proud and intelligent generation of young employees. If you are the owner or manager in the restaurant industry, consider the following.

First, invest in the future of your employees by supporting their education ad establishing a career development program. Providing leadership opportunities and consistently teaching higher-level skills creates a sense of loyalty.

For example, Chick-fil-A offers $1,000-$2,000 scholarships to qualified employees, as well as other leadership incentives that includes a growth and development plan, and the result is the lowest QSR turnover rate in the industry at 5%.

Second, offer decent benefits from the beginning. Out in St. Louis, a QSR chain called Lion's Choice offers a great package of dental and medical insurance to recruit good employees and retains them by providing a solid 401(k) and life insurance. Remarkably, 80 percent of Lion's Choice employees have been with the company more than 10 years. In fact, the chain's 15 restaurants went an entire year with zero turnover.

Third, create an inclusive culture that every employee can embrace and that is more than dictated rules. Celebrate the milestones of your employees at work and outside of work and create a working family. Provide employee perks and rewards, keep schedules flexible, be objective and show empathy, be transparent by opening up the books to employees, allow two-way feedback, celebrate diversity, and embrace technology to keeps things interesting and efficient.

These things provide energy to a staff, and keep your employees engaged and happy, and in the end, you save money because efficiency increases, and you cut recruiting and new employee training costs.

About Butts in Seats!

When it comes to restaurant trends and marketing, IMM knows what they are talking about. Gina Lee De Freiitas, President of IMM, and Corien de Jong, SVP Executive Creative Director, have more than 25 years of experience in the vertical. So when they talk about the tools, tips and resources your restaurant needs to succeed, rest assured they’ve got it covered.

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