Creating or Maintaining a Restaurant Culture - Talking Turnover

There is never just one reason for turnover by staff members or managers, but multiple. Managers leave due to the treatment or decisions made by supervisors or owners. Staff leave due to the treatment or decisions made by managers. Trying to figure out what exactly is causing the turnover is based solely on individual restaurants. So why should you care?

Studies done by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, the National Restaurant Association, and many other industry publications show the high turnover rates and that thousands of dollars are lost on each employee that leaves employment in the form of advertising, the hiring process, and through training. (Please refer to "The 5 Real Reasons Your Losing Restaurant Staff and A National Study of Human Resource Practices, Turnover, and Customer Service in the Restaurant Industry")

Some of the causes are due to people not listening to each other, some managers looking at staff as being disposable, and that a large percentage of new hires are young adults. Please refer to the article "Hiring The Right People" under my blog page.

Here are some causes you may or may not be aware of.

  • Favoritism - Most acts of favoritism I have seen are in the form where hosts give servers preferential treatment because they became friends with the servers. This type of favoritism leads to good workers, who are not being favored, leaving because they are not making enough money, get frustrated and angry. Managers may favor individuals who have been with the company for a long time without even realizing that they are doing it. Stop and think about this. Do you treat staff members who have proven to be reliable and hardworking different from those just starting? I did at one time.

  • No Respect - We all know what respect means but are we always aware of our own actions? When a manager asks a cook for another salad and the cook answers "Why?" Do you answer? Or when servers come in late. Is that okay? Do managers allow it without consequences? Actions like these by the staff members show a lack of respect to the managers. On the other hand, when a staff member asks a manager for help and none is given or when a staff member says "Good Morning" and receives no response this also shows a lack of respect. Respect works both ways.

  • Frustration - People will leave their employment when they do not have the right tools to do their job, do not make enough money, do not get the help when needed, when there is no support (unity) among the workers (staff and managers) and, of course, when there is no respect etc.

Managers tend to step down from their positions and take a server position in another restaurant because in many restaurants servers can earn more money than managers when broken down to an hourly rate. They have fewer responsibilities, fewer problems to deal with, and more flexibility with their down time. All are reasons to give up their managing positions.

  • No appreciation - It is human nature to want to help but when that help is abused then nothing good will come from it. People tend to leave when they do more than what is expected of them and see others get better treatment.

  • Not knowing individuals personally - We create more problems in regards to turnover when we hire managers that are unapproachable, unfriendly, quick to frustration or anger, don't set a good example, or just don’t seem to care.

For staff - Here is a classic example: A server was given a Dunkin' Donuts card as an appreciation gift but did not drink coffee. When scheduling staff it would be good to know if someone lives far away, has another job, or how many tables a server can handle professionally. When we learn about individuals we can eliminate many work related problems.

As you can see all these topics are intertwined and can be resolved with good leadership. When we start to understand the causes (there are more than what's listed here) we can slow down the turnover and create a culture which includes respect, unity, and appreciation.

I will be talking more about some of these subjects in future articles. But in the meantime, if you have any questions on any FOH issues please feel free to contact me at I will be happy to answer any questions or give any ideas that may help you.

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