5 Tips to Turnaround Restaurant Turnover in 2023

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Phil Sykora
January 12, 2023
A group of four restaurant employees holding dishes. This restaurant is not struggling with staffing turnover.

High restaurant turnover and staffing shortages are some of the biggest challenges facing the food service industry in 2023.

From August 2021 to August 2022, the average restaurant employee tenure was just 110 days according to data collected by 7Shifts. Across all industries, the average is more like 4.3 years.

That means, unlike most other industries, for just one position over the course of a calendar year, you’re hiring and training three different people.

Your restaurant could have awe-inspiring meals, endorsements from Michelin-star-winning chefs, and an atmosphere that critics can’t stop talking about – but if you can’t reduce turnover in 2023, your restaurant could end up chronically understaffed, with reviewers forgetting all about the meal and only remembering the poor service.

So, how can you – as a restaurant owner or manager – make sure your employee retention stays high? Or, if you’re already struggling with these issues, how can you turn them around? Here are 5 tips to reduce restaurant turnover in 2023:

1. Pay Your Workers More (and On-Time)

Paying your restaurant workers more might seem like it cuts into your already-low profit margins. And many restaurant owners might point out that if they could pay their workers more, they would. But, when you consider the high costs of turnover and onboarding, losing a little bit of money in the short term could mean huge savings in the long term.

When surveyed, a significant portion of dissatisfied restaurant workers say that their primary concern is that they just aren’t making enough money. According to Talent.com, the average salary for a restaurant worker is only $29,090 per year. Some of those positions are earning tips, but not enough to account for such a large discrepancy between the median salary for all other jobs, which is about $20k higher.

With labor shortages across other businesses and industries, this leads many restaurant employees to look elsewhere for better-paying work. 

To add insult to injury for owners, the average cost of onboarding a new employee is about $4,100, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Owners and managers can stay ahead of turnover by paying employees more so that they’re incentivized to stay. 

Depending on the restaurant, this may even reduce overall costs. The numbers are obviously going to vary from business to business, but if you have to onboard three new employees over a year just to work the same position, that’s equivalent to paying one employee ~$12,000 more – and you won’t have to waste time with training and paperwork.

Furthermore, if employees are ever paid late or inaccurately, that will only hurt your business. Keeping track of overtime and holiday pay is a common obstacle for restaurant owners and managers. Many employees have variable schedules, adding an additional layer of complexity. Implementing a payroll software could help you better manage some of these day-to-day issues before they become major stressors for your team.

Coins and calculator on a table. Someone is manually calculating restaurant payroll.

2. Offer Flexibility in Scheduling

Many restaurant employees work part-time, and this can be especially true for students who are balancing their studies with their work. Some employees may also work multiple part-time jobs with schedules that change week to week. Regardless of their circumstances, schedule flexibility is important when it comes to keeping employees happy and reducing restaurant turnover.

Workers need to be able to trade shifts and request time off. If your restaurant can’t adapt to workers’ ever-changing scheduling needs, they’re going to be forced to quit, regardless of whether or not they enjoy working for you. Additionally, conflicts between coworkers become all too common when scheduling issues arise. Owners and managers need to have a plan to deal with those issues.

If a shift interferes with a final exam, for instance, and no one else is around to cover it, that worker is probably going to prioritize their studies over their part-time job. Easy and intelligent scheduling is a must for restaurant owners.

3. Make Appropriate Pandemic-Related Changes to Avoid Turnover

Due to economic slowdown, supply chain issues, and a decrease in tourism, from the start of the pandemic to today, the food service industry has lost 3.1 million jobs.

Today, in 2023, the industry is still recovering. Many employees still consider their personal health and safety – and the health and safety of their loved ones, who may be high-risk for COVID-19 – as a primary stressor.

Make sure your restaurant offers low-contact options such as delivery and curbside pickup. For employees who are worried about social distancing, see if you can offer them positions that better suit them, with minimal face-to-face contact with customers. If applicable and appropriate, make sure your restaurant is enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing requirements. In addition, temperature checks and counter shields could be implemented for increased safety.

A restaurant worker wearing a face mask as she wipes down a counter.

4. Listen To Your Employees and Treat Them with Respect

Creating a team atmosphere where your employees feel heard and understood is one of the most important steps you can take in reducing turnover. When people feel like they’re part of a group – and that the group cares about their well-being and advancement – they’re willing to put up with a lot.

Every restaurant has its own issues, and the people who know those issues best are the ones who deal with them on a daily basis. A 20% discount on meals for friends and family might be a nice incentive, but when employees are complaining that there are problems with the payment system or that the kitchen is hotter than a sauna, it’s best to focus on the big issues first, so that the employees feel heard and respected.

In order to do so, your employees need to get to know one another.

5. Host Team-Building Activities to Promote Communication

It isn’t always easy for your employees to get to know one another while they’re on the clock. Team outings, such as visiting local attractions or team lunches at (other) restaurants could be a great way for your team to get to know one another better, fostering a community atmosphere. 

Restaurant owners can also consider organizing team sports or fitness activities, volunteer work, or team-building games to build team spirit. These types of activities can be a fun and rewarding way for employees to bond and get to know each other better.

A team of restaurant workers holding hands during a team bonding event.

Conclusion: 5 Tips To Turnaround Restaurant Turnover

Remember that restaurant staff are individuals with personal responsibilities and commitments outside of work. As such, it is crucial to show respect and kindness towards them if you want to reduce restaurant turnover. Some employees may feel undervalued or underpaid. Listening to their concerns and making necessary changes to address issues goes a long way in making them feel valued and respected.

Oftentimes, when there are issues, your employees will let you know about them as long as you’ve fostered a community that values open and honest communication.

Restaurant turnover is a challenge in the restaurant industry, but Push helps with people management and onboarding, offering a solution to streamline the process and improve employee satisfaction. Disorganized schedules can lead to unhappy employees. Push helps to alleviate these issues and create a more efficient work environment. To learn more about how Push can help reduce turnover in your restaurant, chat with one of our specialists today!

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January 2023


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