top of page

HIRE Education, Part 2: Employee Retention Strategies for Restaurants

Today’s job seekers certainly have the upper hand–especially in the restaurant game. Great employees add to the culture of your business, keep profits rising, and are the key to any successful operation. Finding great staff in these highly challenging times can be difficult, but keeping them can be even harder.

With a labor shortage still looming, compensations rising, and safety concerns still at top of mind, it’s more important than ever that employers find ways to stand out from the crowd to grab onto–and keep–a steady, dedicated, and happy crew.

High turnover rates in a restaurant aren’t just operational or moral issues. Employee retention, or lack thereof, can have a major impact on your restaurant’s bottom line. Replacing an employee is expensive. In fact, it can cost up to twice as much to rehire, train, and replace an existing employee than it is to retain one. When you add to that the less measurable costs like lower productivity, increased food costs, and negative impacts on customer loyalty, there is a dollar and cents factor attached to the need for employee retention strategies.

High turnover costs include several factors, including:

  • Hiring costs: Creating content for online job boards, advertising costs, and time spent interviewing candidates are all expenses associated with turnover.

  • Training expenses: Taking seasoned staff members away from their regular tasks to train new employees–instead of focusing on their own daily responsibilities–reduces productivity and negatively impacts your operation’s efficiency.

  • Added food costs: New employees are more prone to making beginner mistakes resulting in wasted food and ingredients.

  • Negative impact on customers: Errors in orders, delays in service and delivery times, and the feeling that “something’s just not right,” can scare off customers and cause them to lose faith in your overall brand. This loss in customer confidence is a high price to pay, as once a customer leaves, they may not come back.

  • Poor company culture. In addition to added costs, restaurants with high turnover often see a negative impact on company culture. When employees leave, the remaining staff has to pick up the slack, working even longer and harder than they already do. And with so many job openings available right now, your staff can easily find work elsewhere.

To reduce staff turnover and be more attractive to potential new employees, we’ve put together a few strategies to implement at your restaurant:

Start with onboarding

Establishing your brand, communicating your business’s core values, and portraying a positive and people-friendly work atmosphere starts with the onboarding process, and is a key component to your overall business’s overall retention.

Create an effective employee handbook: As you develop retention strategies, creating an effective employee handbook should be at the top of your to-do list. A cost-effective way to give new hires a consistent and organized onboarding experience, a well-written handbook sets your staff up for success, providing them with all the information they need to know to perform their jobs well at the outset.

A key component of the onboarding process, a good employee handbook gives insights into everything new hires and existing team members need to know to thrive at their job. Though every operation has different needs, (delivery and catering operations might even warrant a separate handbook) the general structure of an employee manual can be basically the same.

Include details like proper table settings, cleaning procedures, and food safety; an explanation of the way your front and back-of-house interact; expectations, scheduling procedures, call-out methods; delivery driver parameters, and anything else that is key to keeping the wheels of your operation rolling smoothly.

Remember your staff is your best resource for employee handbook content, so involve them in the process. This not only helps make the book better, but it allows your staff to feel like their opinions matter.

Benefits of an effective employee handbook:

  • Fosters a strong work culture

  • Gives employees a sense of belonging.

  • Keeps employees aligned on important policies and expectations.

  • Serves as a consistent and accessible resource for employees.

  • Provides valuable legal protection for you and your business.

Be flexible and family-oriented

Unpredictable hours and a lack of advance notice for shifts can make working in the restaurant industry challenging for anyone, but it’s even harder for parents and caregivers.

Giving employees more autonomy over scheduling, allowing staff to choose their shifts, and creating schedules well in advance gives people time to find childcare and other caregiving arrangements. This shows your employees your genuine concern for their well-being and that of their families.

Upgrade your benefits package

To meet evolving employee needs, and make the industry more attractive to workers supporting families, more and more restaurants are offering benefits packages to attract and retain top-tier staff.

According to recent studies, 31% of restaurants in the U.S. offer medical insurance to employees, with several major chains offering paid parental leave and tuition assistance.

Show employees appreciation for their hard work.

Your staff makes a multitude of sacrifices on a continual basis to keep your bottom line rising. Showing your employees that they’re valued and appreciated for their efforts will help make the challenges worthwhile. A simple “We love our staff” post on social media or a handwritten thank you note tucked inside a paycheck can speak volumes.

Use anonymous staff engagement surveys

Your employees want–and deserve–to feel valued and heard, but many times don’t speak up for fear of repercussions. Anonymous employee engagement surveys give them a chance to tell you what’s on their minds without worrying. Not only does this help boost employee confidence, but this invaluable feedback can help you to gauge hidden issues and lay the groundwork for positive changes at your restaurant.

Support employee mental health

Working in the restaurant industry can be stressful, and the last two years have piled on additional stressors to an already taxing job. With physical demands, long hours, inconsistent schedules, and difficult customers, employees are looking to other industries for work.

But there are ways you can prevent this. Providing extra paid time off can be extremely beneficial in reducing burnout and offering employees a chance to recharge. Keeping in touch with your team, from cleaning staff to top management, and approaching them with your offer for a little down can be the difference between retaining and losing valued staff members.

Adding mental health benefits, (including addiction-related resources) into your onboarding package also shows you are concerned for your staff’s mental well-being.

Strengthen company culture

Building a more positive company culture takes time and commitment. Opening lines of communication with employees, providing more autonomy, and offering better benefits are all great steps you can take to boost morale. But there’s more you can do.

  • Organize team outings like softball games or company picnics.

  • Arrange staff to volunteer at shelters or community outreach organizations. Give your staff an added incentive with bonus time off or gift cards.

  • Offer paid time off for employees who work for 4 weeks without calling out.

  • Celebrate work anniversaries publicly to show your entire staff the rewards of long-term employment at your restaurant.

  • Keep your door open. Employees who know you’re ready to listen are more apt to stick and stay.

We didn’t get here overnight, so it stands to reason that making positive changes won’t happen in an instant either. Implementing retention strategies takes time, creativity, and money, but can make a huge difference and have a sizable impact on your business’s culture, success, and bottom line.

By Eileen Strauss


Thanks for subscribing!

Get a Taste of Our Secret Sauce
Stay up to date with the latest restaurant delivery news

Bringing in






Driving Repeat Business

Making Delivery Work

*Sauce recovers over 98% of restaurant delivery refund claims.

Commission Free Direct Delivery

Access To Unlimited Supply Of Delivery Drivers

Live Mobile Order Tracking

Live Delivery Support

Refund Reconciliation Management

Virtual Telephone Answering

Feedback Collection & Management


bottom of page