Higher compensation (wages) is not the only way to reduce turnover and increase employee morale. Tossing money at a problem is not likely to fix it, at least not in the long term. There are other matters at play that need to be addressed, and higher wages will only work for so long before staff members move on to work for your competition.
When employees are receiving a fair wage in the first place, other strategies can be used to help reduce employee turnover and build a strong team.
High employee turnover and low morale are challenges in many industries but seem to be chronic in the hospitality sector. Fortunately there are strategies we can use to improve retention and help increase morale, or at the very least help it from becoming chronic and more problematic.
Here are some areas to consider. They aren’t in any particular order, as I believe they are all vital. Having said that, if there was one thing that I would put above all others, it’s communication
Think about these:
A significant investment is required to recruit, train and supervise all of your staff members. Hopefully, as a direct result of well thought-out recruitment, hiring, orientation and training programs, your employees will gain knowledge, skills and work experience and choose to stay and contribute this knowledge base to their own success as well as the success of the company. It’s always worth the extra effort to get it right from the beginning and plant the seeds for your employees to perform successfully within your establishment. If you can put this effort into your employees from the beginning, they will, in turn, put the effort into making you more successful as well. That means higher profit for you and more stability for your employees!
How do you reduce high staff turnover in the food and beverage industry? Improve your customer
experience with these tips.
I’ve written on this topic before and it is one of so much significance to the hospitality industry that it’s most likely a topic I will return to again. Why? Because customers and clients hate staff turnover! Customers come to your establishment for several reasons, the least of which is consistent service. Staff turnover gives them anything but.
Turnover is a cycle and one that I don’t always believe is the fault of the job market, economy, location or many of the other causes we suggest it is. Turnover makes your establishment far less attractive, and customers usually demonstrate their dissatisfaction by not returning. Inconsistent service continues to spiral out of control and in the end slows you down completely, leaving the remaining staff and managers ill-tempered and burnt out. This is NOT a recipe for success in business.
There are no easy answers to staff turnover, but here are four things that can help mitigate the problem:
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How to hire candidates with your core values.
Without falling into “corporate speak”, candidates need to have or share some of the same core values as your establishment or the relationship will not last and will be likely chalked up to being a “bad hire.” Look at the most successful people in your employment. What traits do you see in them that causes you to think they are so successful with you? Now compare them to employees that “didn’t work out.” By listing the differences you will be able to see where personality counts and what traits you should be looking for in your establishment.
Good hiring works on the premise that opposites attract where different personalities can complement each other. Admit your own weaknesses to balance your team – look for people that are not like you!
If your management style is logical, exact and meticulous, look for people that are inventive, spontaneous and theoretical.
If you’re strict, serious and demanding, look for those that are accepting, motivated and empathetic.
If you’re careful, hands-on and down to earth, you’re after those that are inventive, conceptual and easygoing.
For each position in your company, ask yourself what’s really important in a candidate and what basic skills are required. They will all be different. A line cook’s personality will likely be very different from that of a server or an accounting clerk. What are these differences? Try this for EVERY position in your establishment and get them written into your job descriptions for all positions. Once these profiles are in place you will find it so much easier to look for and recruit the ideal candidates for your establishment.
Getting your company or corporate culture right is by far one of the most challenging mechanisms for any company. For some odd reason, we seem to think that company culture always comes from the top, from the CEO, and remains unchanged. Over time, as employees come and go, even changes at the CEO level will cause your culture to change into something very different from what it was way back when. The Oxford Dictionary gives this definition: ‘The mode of behavior within a particular group.’ Even this definition implies change; if the group members change, so too does the company culture that has developed along the way. Fair enough. Sewn through the company like a common thread, the company culture should touch every aspect of your business and be predominant in the eyes of your stakeholders. So how is company culture woven into the fabric of a company? Why is it even important?
At its most basic, multiple levels of a company are affected by what we have all come to call “company culture.” This often includes things like hours of work, dress code, employee development and promotion, the way stakeholder interactions take place, (like your customers!). How communications function, or in some cases don’t function, sends a strong message about company culture to everyone inside and outside of your company. Even values such as quality, authenticity and honesty fall under the scope of company culture. Company culture can even denigrate into cult status, where in the end everyone loses (think Enron!). Or from the auto industry in America where a company CEO announced his next vehicle of choice will be electric and not a fossil-fuel consuming polluter! I bet that revelation sent shockwaves through the company at every level!
Become a company of choice, a place where people want to work and people want to eat, shop and enjoy your services. Here is a challenge for you. When was the last time you thought about the company or corporate culture in your establishment? What does it say about your company?
Start by defining the culture at your company … it’s a heady topic, so try to go beyond the obvious of its “really good” or it’s “bad.” Dig in there and see what answers you get with these probing questions.
Asking your employees the same questions will go a long way in helping you to define your company culture as well as identifying weaknesses and strengths to build on in your establishment. Give these questions a try and see what happens!
How transparent should you be in running your business? What information should you share with your staff?
I’m all for transparency in business, but then on the other hand maybe not every aspect of your business needs to be made public. It’s a tough line to walk when we want to be seen as an open and transparent employer; however there are occasions where employees don’t need to see or hear everything.
Here are three to consider:
This is always a touchy subject in any company and needs to be conducted with the utmost discretion and respect, regardless of the nature of the disciplinary action. Let’s face it, most staff members know who the performers and slackers are. Preserve the dignity of the employee and make sure all disciplinary action is behind closed doors. If someone is leaving and doesn’t know it, do it in a down time of the day to limit the exposure for a departing employee. Your response to other staff members should be firm, fair and final: ‘John no longer works with us and we wish him every success in his career.’ Rumors and gossip my run wild for a few days, but it’s not your job to fuel it in the name of transparency. It is your job to keep a professional, well-functioning team in place to ensure your profits are maximized. Any untoward distractions can keep your staff members from performing at their very best. And please, disciplinary actions should never be discussed with your customers!
Diversity and politics
While we embrace a wildly diverse workforce in the hospitality industry, it is not a venue for you or your team members to discuss politics and world affairs. Many of our employees may share some of our company values, however the workplace is not where you should be extolling the virtues of one political party or system over another. This would run true at the civic, regional, national and international levels. What may seem like a very innocent comment by some may be highly troubling or even offensive to others. Watch what loose comments float around and get a handle on them if necessary.
Keep your wealth at home
This can be a matter of optics more than anything else. As a restaurateur, you have spent countless hours, not to mention thousands of dollars to build the restaurant you have. Employees don’t always understand the cost and effort that goes into your time and financial commitment and may see that hot new Mercedes as a bit over the top. Don’t give your employees an opportunity to say how stingy the wages are so you can afford to buy a hot new sports car. Flaunting it may backfire on you.
Keep it professional and you will have the respect of those around you. Remember your goal is to keep an effective team as professional and profitable as possible and not send them packing to your competitors.
Be professional and share with your staff only what you need to. Transparency in business is good – but only up to a point.
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Should your staff drink on the job?
The food and beverage industry is often characterized by employees that work hard and play hard. Don’t confuse the two. Employees should never be consuming alcoholic beverages before or during (or after!) their scheduled work shifts. I am actually surprised that I’m including this topic, but an alarming number of people in the industry don’t see this as a problem or challenge!
I have heard some owners suggest that in a more casual atmosphere, bartenders and even service staff having a drink with the locals helped customers feel more relaxed, or in a resort location it enhanced comradely spirit. Don’t believe this for a second!
Many jurisdictions around the world have government-mandated requirements designed to protect staff members’, customers’ and your financial health. A business shut down due to alcohol consumption infractions serves no one: lost wages, lost income, lost brand loyalty and lost profit are the end result. It also sets a poor example of effective leadership from management.
Service staff and bartenders needn’t be consuming beverages on the job in hopes that it will help relax customers and make them feel more at home. That’s the job of your frontline training procedures and policies to enhance customer service to a level that exceeds the customer’s expectations. Inebriated staff members don’t enhance any part of your business, and in fact put you at great personal and financial risk that is upheld by the laws in your province, region or state.
Many of the laws around the service of alcohol make you your brother’s and sister’s keeper. Should one of your customers be over-served, leave you in a less than ideal state to drive and have an accident causing injury or death, the server, the bartender, bar manager and owners can all be held legally responsible.
Consider this today! Many provincial and state governments have guidelines and policies directly related to the control and consumption of alcoholic beverages sold at any establishment within their jurisdiction. They also frequently offer resources and courses to instruct staff in service requirements. Issues of over-service, how to identify an inebriated guest, how to handle them and more are all part of the training. Some of these courses may also be available online. Several trade associations either offer beverage service training or can point you to recognized agencies in your jurisdiction that can help. In many jurisdictions some kind of “serving it right” training course is required for all servers that handle alcoholic beverages as well as required training courses for supervisors and managers.
It’s always a good idea to consider updating your staff training in this important area. Things change: if you can’t remember the last time you updated your own training in this area, it might be time for you, too.
Make it a plan today to check on all staff members, old and new, regarding this critically important point of service. Make sure everyone is current and up to date regarding the policies, laws and requirements relating to beverage service in your local jurisdiction. I bet none of these agencies condone alcohol consumption while on the job …
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How do you optimize the costs on your menu? Standardize your dishes.
This is always a favorite item for me to look for on a client’s menu, especially when it uses expensive one-of-a-kind items. All too often there is an item, maybe two items, on a food menu that call for ingredients that are not used in any other recipe on the entire menu.
Okay, if it’s a special, signature dish on your menu that gets a lot of coverage and sells tons, that’s one thing. But an item that is rarely sold and has singularly unique items in the recipe that are not used anywhere else on any menu should be dumped.
One-hit wonders tie up money by carrying seldom-used inventory that is vulnerable to spoilage, potential theft and decreased quality as it ages in the back of the cooler. It also ties up capital in unrealized sales potential. And it ties up important real estate on your menu that could be used to feature or promote items that provide a strong financial contribution to your revenue.
My theory: focus on what you’re best at and leave out the obscure extras that don’t really provide a positive impact to your daily sales. Simply, don’t have things on your menu that you think someone might order one day. It means holding expensive food items in inventory for what amounts to an occasional sale which likely doesn’t enhance your customer’s dining experience or your bottom line. If you want to stand out from your competition, this isn’t the way to do it!
Sit down with your food menus and with a critical eye review them to see if any of your menu items fit this description. Review the recipes, looking for potential problem areas.
If you find a one-hit wonder, check that menu item’s financial contribution to your bottom line. How many have you sold of this menu item in the last week or month? How much inventory are you carrying for this one-hit wonder? Has inventory passed its best before date and turned into dead stock? If you got rid of this one item would anyone ever notice?
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How do you reduce staff turnover in your restaurant? Follow these tips to work on that risk of high turnover in the hospitality sector.
It’s never business as usual and change is what we do every day. The restaurant and hospitality sector is often at the leading edge of change and change management, and not always because it wants to be, but because it needs to be. With wafer-thin profit margins and employee turnover rates 20% higher than all other industries combined, it makes sense that the only thing left to do is manage change.
First of all, let’s look at some stats.
Turnover rates for the restaurant–hospitality sector in the US (Bureau of Labor Statistics):
Some of the common reasons employees give for leaving a company:
The insight here would be to offer better overall workplace conditions. Really, the opposite of everything I just listed. In addition, here are five tips that can help to increase staff retention.
The reasons and the tips I have highlighted to alleviate the challenges of employee turnover are universal to any business or establishment, but are seemingly more critical in hospitality given the turnover rates. Identify your needs and evaluate what you need to change today to bite away at those turnover rates. I’d love to hear about your challenges and successes with this: it’s definitely change for the long haul!
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Mike has worked across Canada as a food and beverage professional and currently divides his time between writing and teaching people how to start and run their own businesses.