How Can I Reduce My Restaurant Employee Turnover Rate?

The restaurant and service industry has a notoriously high turnover rate. As recently as 2018, research showed that restaurant turnover rates skyrocketed to, “a post-recession high of 74.9%“. But why?

Restaurant turnover is almost inevitable in American culture due to the industry’s transitory nature. A significant portion of restaurant employees are teenagers that work to support themselves or save up as they:

  • get ready to head off to college
  • supplement other income sources
  • earn money during summer break
  • prepare for full-time salaried employment

But turning over the waitstaff, bussers or managers every year, month or even every few weeks is time-consuming and costly. Here are some quick tips on how to reduce restaurant employee turnover so you can retain your best staff for as long as possible.

Interested in learning how to motivate employees? Read our blog post, “Increasing Employee Motivation.”

Hire Better & Create Opportunities for Upward Mobility

In the eyes of some restaurant owners, the need to have anybody working on the line outweighs interviewing and hiring a quality candidate. This may be beneficial in the short-term, but can lead to higher turnover rates in the long run. By raising the bar a bit and committing to the interview process, you can weed out lazy, unmotivated or generally unqualified employees.

But let’s be honest: to justify a more rigorous hiring process, you need to make it worth the candidate’s while; offer something your competitors don’t — upward mobility, competitive pay, benefits, free meals, loyalty programs, or any number of creative opportunities. The fact of the matter is that nobody likes being in a dead end job. So, the next time you hire a new employee, make a note of their soft skills and characteristics. Take time to foster their skill growth so they may one day move up in the organization and stay in it for the long haul.

Post Consistent Schedules with Flexibility

Anybody who has experienced working in the restaurant industry knows how frustrating it can be to have last-minute schedule changes or unpredictable scheduling. Maybe one week you work 10 hours, 30 the next, 40 after that, and 20 the following week. An ever-changing schedule is bad for your employees and it’s bad for organizational purposes. Instead, try to keep employees on regular hours and a consistent schedule so they can plan their lives out more accurately. Post the schedule a few weeks in advance so employees can trade shifts, request time off, etc. Otherwise, employee resentment can grow and lead to high turnover.

Whenever you’re creating the staff schedule, remember to stay flexible! As we discussed above, if you have a young staff, chances are they need flexibility due to school, family obligations, or any number of reasons. Don’t punish them for living their life, but do try to anticipate their need for (often spontaneous) time off.

Be Genuinely Open to Feedback (Yes, Including the Negative!)

You can learn a lot about your business’ ground floor if you just listen with an open mind. Yes, this includes criticism! Hear out customer and employee complaints and successes objectively without taking it personally. If something is wrong in your business, you need to find ways to fix it without getting emotional or resentful about it. Sure, sometimes employees just need to blow off steam after a bad day. But if multiple employees are always blowing off steam about the same thing, you should recognize it as a red flag and take action to fix it.

Here are some ways to provide outlets for feedback:

  • periodic staff meetings
  • exit interviews (great for real, honest opinions if you can be receptive!)
  • anonymous suggestion box for employees
  • reading and replying to online reviews (Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.)

For 5 restaurant reputation management tips, read “How Can Restaurants Manage and Improve Their Reputation?”

Just remember not to get defensive or angry at an employee for expressing their frustrations, even if you feel that they are unjustified. When pride blinds progress, there are plenty of negative consequences to go around.

Take on the Burden of Tipping Culture Yourself

One of the best ways to stay competitive and attract top talent is to pay your employees more. We all know that American restaurant employees are very dependent on customer tips. In theory, this type of meritocracy saves on cost, encourages employees to do better work and puts emphasis on customer satisfaction. But this puts the burden of paying your staff a fair wage on the customer; and we all know that some customers just aren’t up to that task, no matter how hard your staff works.

Recently, some restaurants have taken it upon themselves to shirk the classic American tipping model by instead treating their waitstaff as salaried employees with benefits. This type of competitive offering is unique in the restaurant industry and provides your staff with one of the most sought-after characteristics of a job: stability. Simply knowing they have job security, steady pay, regular raises, consistent hours, and decent benefits will result in employees who take the job more seriously and are more inclined to stay in it for the long haul.

Read more blog posts like this by visiting our HR Blog Series or contact your local Society agent to discuss how we can help your business grow.


As a mutual insurance company, we operate and exist for the benefit of our policyholders. For more than 100 years, Society has been helping businesses overcome the unexpected with comprehensive coverage packages and outstanding claims handling, underwriting and risk management.

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