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7 Ways Restaurants Can Retain Top Employees

The restaurant industry is known for its high turnover. And these are especially complicated times with COVID-19, given furloughs, expanded unemployment, and figuring out new staffing levels amid capacity restrictions.

Even in normal days, restaurants struggle with finding and keeping good employees. Plus, some restaurants may have bad employees, but can’t afford to fire them, due to wanting more hands to keep their business afloat.

Fortunately, there are many ways that restaurants can keep their best employees, and not have to settle for less talent and or even low-performing employees. Here are seven ways that restaurants can foster employee retention and retain exemplary team members.

Define Team Member Performance

“First, restaurant management must be able to define what team member performance is,” says Tegan Turner, an HR expert at Writinity and Research papers UK. “Then, they should look at how they’re currently supervising and growing their teams. In that case, they can determine how to truly define team member performance.”

With that said, restaurant management should keep the following objectives in mind:

Do they truly understand and know how to replicate exceptional performance?

Are they open to new approaches and strategies for finding, developing and retaining the best employees?

Have they evaluated what needs to change in their current teams?

Do Some Scouting

Just as professional sports teams routinely scout for the next best talent, and even look at the performance of their competitors, restaurant companies should do the same. As they do some scouting, restaurants should make a list of the companies that they admire the most. Afterward, with their lists filled out, they can learn what those brands do differently.

Make First-Day-On-The-Jobs Memorable

The first day on the job should be memorable for all employees who are hired on. That means managers should be visibly passionate about having the new hires on board, as well as be ecstatic about the company culture, values, and mission. Managers should continue to express their appreciation for star employees even after day one.

Your Team Comes First

Many restaurants make the mistake of worrying more about the kitchen staff than front-of-house staff. Consequently, this causes friction, and entices employees to seek employment elsewhere.

Instead, all workers need recognition. Management should also give every team member a chance to take on different roles, either through shadowing or fully participating in a different role. With every employee performing every role in the restaurant, they’ll understand most (if not all) of the stress that their coworkers can go through at any given point in time. This encourages employees to be more patient with one another and work as a cooperative unit. And, if someone was to call in sick, or go on vacation, then another employee can step in for them while they’re away.

Re-recruitment For Every Shift


With recruitment and retention comes re-recruitment. This means management should keep their team members engaged and confident every day by bringing focus and energy to every shift, as well as showing appreciation, and letting teams know why and how their work matters.

With that said, re-recruiting has two stages:

One stage is done daily after each shift, before a team member clocks out.

The other stage is done quarterly, when management decides to extend the tenure of each job, rather than measure turnover. (In other words, how long has a person worked as a cook, a busser, a host, or a cashier over the last three years?)

Implementing these stages allow restaurants to see how they can apply more recognition, development or advancement measures to extend their tenure. In other words, it’s better for restaurants to measure tenure over turnover.

Encourage Mentorship

All industries need some kind of mentorship; and the restaurant industry is no exception to this. Normally, people would mistake the restaurant industry as easy. However, there’s a lot to learn, when it comes to entry-level jobs like bussing and dishwashing.

Therefore, restaurants should have mentors for all the different roles involved in the establishment: for cooks, for dishwashers, for hosts, etc. Assigning mentors for every team member in each position allows insight and connection to flow; and even management can learn from mentors.

Let Go Of Toxic Employees

“No company wants to keep a bad employee; and the same is true for restaurants,” says Michael Bates, a business writer at Draft beyond and Last minute writing. “In fact, compared to being understaffed, a bad employee, especially in the restaurant industry, is detrimental to the business, whether they cause trouble with other employees, don’t do their job effectively, or create a negative work environment in general. In that case, toxic employees need to be let go, for the business’s sake.”


Employee retention can be an endless maze at times for the restaurant industry—or any industry for that matter—in which it’s possible to take the wrong turn before even learning what the right way is. However, as the industry continues to rethink processes of recruitment, hiring, and retaining team members, keeping the best employees is essential to running a good restaurant business and the bottom line.