Motivating ‘Just Passing Through’ Talent to Stay at Your Restaurant

A big challenge in leading restaurant employees is that for many of them, they are “only passing through.” While some will pursue a restaurant industry career, many of these employees are on their way to something else. Perhaps, it is a first job, or a second job to help pay bills or simply a part-time job for extra cash while going to school. In part this contributed to 2015’s 72.1 percent national turnover rate in the restaurant industry (as reported by a Bureau of Labor Statistics report). What if you could stretch the time someone worked for you to twice as long? At an average cost of turnover for restaurant workers at over $5,000, how much money could you add back to your bottom line if employees just passing through stayed a little longer?

What could you do to keep some of your best talent on your team?

Foster Dreams

Most everyone has a dream. Some of your employees are trying to save to buy a car. Some are paying for diapers and baby food. Some are educating themselves or their children. Above earning money to meet a need or satisfy a want, your team members likely have other dreams, and you can encourage those dreams. Maybe it is a dream to have a mentor or to travel to serve others or learn how to do something new. As a leader, you have resources and influence, and you can always encourage. Use what is available to you to foster the dreams of your team members. They are likely to stay longer and be more engaged working for someone who cares about their dreams.

Grow a Culture of Commitment Rather than Compliance

Workers who are merely compliant will not use any discretionary effort to serve your guests. However, committed employees will go the extra mile to see that guests needs and expectations are exceeded. People are generally as loyal to you as you are to them. If the leader will commit to the development and growth of the employee, the employee is more likely to commit to the organization more of their talent and their time. Leaders who coach for commitment, instead of merely compliance, invest more to prevent people problems rather than incurring the expense of having to solve people problems. Committed members of your team build the brand of a business. Compliant employees, at most, barely protect a brand. Committed team members create committed teams and committed teams become winning teams.

Make Work Fun!

Cultivate a spirit of teamwork and nurture peer relationships with your team and they are likely to stay longer. Team members will stay and work at even a difficult job where they have friends and where they have fun. While serving guests is always the highest priority, there is no reason that work cannot be fun. Plan team outings that help your team know one another on a personal basis. Have friendly competitions within the restaurant that help grow the business and allow team members to earn rewards and recognition. Have family nights allowing team members to invite families for a special event. Use regular team meetings as an opportunity to recognize excellence in food preparation and serving guests. Keep a board in the team member back-of-house area that displays compliments from guests. 

The very nature of the job ensures that a certain amount of turnover is inherent in the restaurant business. However, attract the best talent you can find, foster their dreams, grow a culture of commitment and make work fun. With that intention, you may be surprised how much longer you can hold on to talent that is just passing through.