What Restaurant Employees Want

Restaurant operators have a variety of opportunities to improve their staff experience, according to What Restaurant Employees Want, a state-of-the-industry report from 7shifts. The research details what matters most to industry workers and what operators can do to provide an excellent staff experience.

Among the highlights:

  • Restaurant employees crave recognition and feedback.
  • Team members are seeking more of the benefits typically associated with 9-5 jobs, like health insurance, paid sick days, vacation and retirement accounts.
  • Service professionals prefer shorter, more condensed training so that they can start the job more quickly.
  • Employees in hospitality aren't just stopping by; many are looking for long-term careers with growth opportunities.

"Our report's big takeaway is that restaurant operators should prioritize employee experience, as it significantly impacts both retention and engagement,” Dominick (D.J.) Costantino, Senior Content Marketing Manager and Host of The Pre-Shift Podcast at 7shifts, told Modern Restaurant Management magazine. “Based on what employees told us they were looking for, some of the ways restaurants should focus on are offering more recognition and feedback, creating more opportunities for growth, and providing benefits like same-day pay, and doubling down on flexible scheduling.”

One surprising result, he found encouraging was the number of employees who identify as “lifers.”

"It shows that many workers do see this industry as a long-term career, and that is a strong foundation to build success on," Costantino said. "It’s something that operators should take into consideration—if you treat your teams right, and create a strong culture, you may be able to build a team that sticks around for a long time."

That said, workers report that when they do leave jobs it's often due to management, signifying culture changes or adjustments that need to be made to retain the best workers. 

"Changes in culture should include fostering an environment of regular recognition and constructive feedback. Managers should be trained to provide consistent and genuine feedback and recognition. Quick adjustments could be implementing regular check-ins, pre-shift meetings, and establishing clear benchmarks for promotions.

Costantino offered best practices for giving constructive feedback and recognitiion.

"Best practices for giving constructive feedback include being specific about behaviors, focusing first on improvement rather than criticism and balancing negative feedback with positive recognition. Specificity is the key—use specific examples for both positive and constructive feedback. You’ll also want to ensure that feedback is timely as everything stays top of mind. Specificity can go a long way in ensuring feedback feels genuine. Avoid generic compliments and instead highlight specific actions or outcomes that were impressive. As you continue to provide feedback and build feedback on top of itself, it will come more naturally for both parties"

Jordan Boesch, CEO at 7shifts, said the report answers a lot of the questions that restaurant owners and managers have about why their workforce might be dissatisfied and why they may be experiencing unhealthy rates of turnover.

"But it doesn't just focus on problems. Instead, it uncovers what restaurant employees need and want today, and specific action steps that management can take to improve their team member experience. By tapping into these opportunities, restaurants can better attract and retain the kind of talent that will make their companies thrive."