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Tackling staff turnover in the restaurant industry

Restaurant staff

Attracting and retaining the right staff is an issue for most business owners. 

In the restaurant industry, where the hours are long and the pressure is high, keeping hold of brilliant employees is a bigger challenge. 

Turnover in the hospitality and tourism sector is 75%, compared to 15% of the general workforce, according to talent management company People 1st.

Add in uncertainty around the status of EU nationals after Brexit and the problem looks set to get worse. 

If the recruitment and training cycle is eating up your time, here are some ideas on how to keep your star players.

Job adverts

A quarter of hospitality businesses have a vacancy and of these 38% are deemed hard to fill. This might in part be due to a fall in the unemployment rate. In 2011, unemployment stood at 8.1%, today it is 4.3%. 

All this means your recruitment team will need to work harder to attract people. 

Your first point of call should be to review where and how are you advertising. 

Perhaps the right candidates aren’t seeing your vacancies. Using agencies is likely to attract a very different type of applicant than a post on your Facebook page, for example. 

Don’t underestimate the power of referrals. Friends and former colleagues of your current staff could be the perfect fit for your team both in skills and attitude. 

To encourage staff to recommend people, you could offer a cash bonus when the new person completes their probation period. 

Shift patterns

Unsociable shifts

Unsociable hours immediately stop many talented people from applying for restaurant jobs.

To tackle this, restaurant chain Leon has introduced ‘parent shifts’ to help people with children return to work. 

Could you do something similar such as offering as part-time roles or flexible working? 

It could be great way to attract skilled older workers or people returning from maternity or paternity leave.


The introduction of the national living wage in April 2016 had a huge effect on costs for many restaurant businesses. 

However, some restaurateurs are now reporting that the forced wage increase has made food and drink a more attractive career choice. 

Today, you need to make sure you are paying at least the national minimum or living wage. This is not just to keep on the right side of the law but to show you value your staff and the work they put in. 

It’s easy to get a reputation as a poor employer so don’t put potential employees off by scrimping on pay. 

Retirement is probably a long way off for your team but paying into their pensions shows you support them not just now, but in the future too.

Although the minimum employer pension contribution will increase from 1% to 2% from April 2018, you can pay in more. One way to do this is to match employee contributions up to a certain percentage. 

Today, a good payroll system will allow you to automate some of the calculations.

Beyond the pay cheque

It’s not just money that gets your team out of bed in the morning. 

Benefits such as health insurance or gym membership can make your business a more attractive place to work.

At the other end of the scale, informal rewards such as vouchers or team nights out are a great way to celebrate good work and build your company culture. 

Jason Atherton, the man behind the Social Company, says that he’s only lost one chef in seven years. This is pretty impressive considering he’s at the helm of a 17-strong restaurant business. So what’s the secret behind the low turnover? 

Speaking to Big Hospitality website, Atherton said: 

“The rest [of the chefs] have stayed, not because we give them loads of money, but because they feel like they’ve got a future”. 

Which leads us on to...

Career progression

While it’s inevitable that some people see hospitality as a short-term career, there are loads of people with the enthusiasm to stay in the sector for the long haul. 

Offering clear career progression will help your team stay passionate. One way to get started is to consider which areas have the biggest problems and who you want to keep. 

With this overarching view you can start to build a talent pipeline. 

For example, you might have a great floor manager who has the potential to be restaurant manager. Once you have identified this need in the business and someone who could fill it, you can create a training plan.

But if you really want people to stay, you need to keep sight of your principles. For Atherton, growth hasn’t come at the expense of his original values: 

“We are a family business, and we’ll stay that way. All my guys at the very top feel like they don’t work for me, they work for us.”


For your business to be a success you need to stop doing everything and delegate tasks to the team. 

It can be hard to loosen your grip on something you care about but it is good for you and your staff. 

Done effectively, delegation gives your team development opportunities and you more time to concentrate on other things.

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