While all industries have had difficulty in employee retention and hiring in the face of the COVID-19 fallout, restaurants have been particularly hard hit. In fact, three out of four restaurant owners report employee hiring and retention as their biggest challenge, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry Mid-Year Update.  This has caused restaurants to lessen their opening hours, limit seating capacity, and it threatens their ability to properly service their customers.

Foster a Positive Workplace Culture

Snagajob recently completed a survey to discern the factors that are contributing to the current labor shortage in the restaurant industry. More than half of the 4,700 workers surveyed pointed to emotional abuse from their managers as a factor in their decision to leave or stay in the industry.  Wages, scheduling and child care were also noted in the survey.

Taking significant steps to create a safe work environment and focus on a strong positive company culture can really help attract staff to an establishment.  Create an open dialogue between staff and managers to get ahead of any potential issues that could hurt retention after staff is hired.

Offer Competitive Pay & Healthcare Benefits

The current job market allows many workers to receive higher salaries, in the restaurant industry and others.  After experiencing what it’s like to have higher pay amid the pandemic, few employees will return to a workplace where they feel they’re unfairly compensated. Since this is such a pervasive issue in the restaurant industry, if one can afford to pay higher wages, it can easily make an establishment stand out.

The current job market also provides workers opportunities to look at companies with better healthcare benefits. Healthcare benefits is one of the most important factors employees consider when seeking employment. By providing competitive wages and attractive healthcare coverage, restaurant owners can better draw in more employees.

Set up a Referral Program

Current employees can prove to be a valuable resource in recruiting new hires. Setting up an employee referral program can encourage your staff to convince other people they know who are looking for a job to apply.

Employee referral programs could be a certain reward at the time of hire and then another after a certain amount of time (3 months, 6 months, etc.). Make sure rewards work for front of the house staff as well as back of the house. Track and monitor rewards so employees take it seriously. Additionally, referred new hires often feel more comfortable and are trained quicker since they have an established relationship with the current employee. And be sure to include the referral program as part of all employee training, so that it’s top of mind for all employees.

Further, according to LinkedIn research, referrals save an average of $7500 in sourcing costs, and these employees typically stay longer than non-referred employees.

Ask Current Staff How to Improve Retention

Turnover in the restaurant industry is high. Gallup studies show that replacing an employee can cost one-half to two times their salary.  Employee retention can lessen the need for new hires and cut those replacement costs down.

Talk to staff before it’s too late. Find out what they like best and least about the job. Build a work environment they want to be part of and meets their needs. Conduct exit interviews with employees that do leave. If other employers are offering benefits that would tempt them away, maybe you can offer those too.  Exit interviews can also reveal any persistent issues that need attention. 

Broaden Your Recruiting Efforts

Beyond referrals, establishments should utilize job websites and social media.  Don’t stop at just posting the job.  Interact and and respond in a timely fashion. This shows potential hires that you are attentive.  This is crucial.  Geo-targeting your posts can narrow your reach, but it can also rule out long-commute issues before they exist.

Consider ways you can get involved in the community to reach new audiences too. Perhaps get a booth at the community fair to support a local organization and have paper or electronic applications on hand.

Each restaurant is faced with its own challenges during these times. Utilizing some or all of these strategies is a great start in overcoming ongoing staffing obstacles, so establishments can adapt and thrive.