Is reducing turnover in your restaurant on your list of New Year’s Resolutions this year? You’re not alone. Even in today’s economic market when there are more applicants than ever applying for jobs, turnover is still a problem in restaurants. Having more applicants to choose from makes the job of hiring the right people – people who will stay – more challenging than ever.
Savvy operators already realize that turnover has a profoundly negative effect on the service their guests receive. Customers hate turnover. Why? Service becomes inconsistent or shuts down completely. Managers and staff are cranky from working double shifts. The extra cost of continually recruiting and training new restaurant employees has to be covered somewhere — that could mean raising menu prices. And pity the poor customers who have questions about the menu and hear this from one of your new servers: “Uh, sorry, I don’t know … Today’s my first day … I guess I could check with those guys in the kitchen.”
Turnover makes your restaurant a far less inviting place to be. And your customers will show you how they feel about it simply by not returning. So how do you break the cycle?
1. Become a better recruiter so you’ll attract more suitable applicants.
2. Become a better interviewer so you can select only the best candidates.
3. Become a better leader so those employees will want to stay.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as 1-2-3. If you want to truly improve your turnover rate this year, you need some solid ideas that will help you improve your recruiting, hiring, and retaining of employees.
We’ve documented the 52 best staffing ideas we’ve come across in our years in the hospitality treatment in the updated book Turn the Tables on Turnover: The 52 Ways to Find, Hire and Keep the Best Hospitality Employees. It’s part of our featured Find, Hire, and Keep the Best Employees package – save $68 today! Click for more details.
When Karen arrives late (again) and Steven is out back on his cell phone (again) and customers wait and other team members cover and fume (again), it’s easy to blame Karen and Steven for the low morale and poor service. But the truth is, it’s not their fault. Ultimately, every employee problem that you have—bad attitude, shoddy service, laziness, low standards, poor work ethic, etc.—is your fault. Really.
Your employee’s attitudes toward you and your restaurant are created based on how lowest-performing employees are tolerated by management. The simple truth is you hired them (or kept them), tolerated (or ignored) them and failed to motivate or train them. Ultimately, you’re to blame. Those are the facts. Now what to do you do with them?
You take control of your staffing challenges. Remember, you have the power to hire, fire, train and cultivate employees—and you have the obligation to do so for your customers, your company, and your team members. Here’s how to get started with smart restaurant staffing strategies:
- Hire smarter. First impressions are important, but many employees can perform well in interviews and fail in the job.
- Be fair. If you find yourself continually defending an employee, ask yourself why. Truly great employees rarely need defending. Often, they go unnoticed because they do their jobs well and don’t get involved in workplace dramas. The employees that “need” defending are typically those who are great when you’re around. If you give special breaks to “special” employees, you’ll alienate the rest of the team… especially when those team members know that the “favored” employee is less than great.
- Bump the bad apples. It’s true that one bad apple truly can spoil the entire basket. Instead of lowering your expectations to meet the needs of your team member, find—or promote—a team member that meets those expectations and get rid of those who don’t… even if that means being shorthanded for awhile.
- Train, train, train. Your servers must be professional salespeople and your supporting team members must be just that, supporting. Continually challenge and reward your salespeople by providing them with real sales goals, training them in sales techniques, and clearly showing the “commission-based” rewards of their efforts. Be sure to share those sales facts, goals, and accomplishments with the rest of the team and show team members how the operation’s salespeople contribute to job security and raises.
Staffing up for the holidays? When interviewing potential new servers, try asking questions that will uncover the applicant’s strengths and challenges… and find out what’s really behind that friendly smile.
- “Tell me about yourself.” Watch body language here. Is there eye contact? Smiling? Good diction? It’s more important that a person can communicate well here than what is said.
- “Have you been applying with restaurants or other businesses?” If so, what type? Those who truly enjoy serving others are only looking for jobs that involve service.
- “Would you consider yourself to be an honest person?” Of course, an applicant will say “yes” here, but then make this request: “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated your honesty.” Was there an honest response?
- “On a scale of one to 10, how hard do you work?” Then ask “Why do you rate yourself a __?” A truly hard worker will mention past work schedules, school achievements, athletic endeavors, etc.
- “Why do you want to work here?” If you don’t hear an answer that includes the applicant enjoys working with people, keep interviewing.
In a restaurant environment — and most any work environment — work roles will change when teams begin to form. As the restaurant manager, it’s your job to begin preparing for the inevitable resistance. It will start with the familiar complaint: “That’s not my job,” or an assortment of variations: “We’ve never done it that way before,” and “Do I get a pay increase for doing that?” Many of the problems that teams suffer generally fall under the category “resistance to change.”
No matter how hard restaurant managers push employees toward constantly improved performance, there will always be those employees who prefer stable, predictable work — jobs that can be explained on a half-page job description and mastered in a half-day training session. After all, it’s just restaurant work … right?
In a team environment, employees will often be asked to learn several jobs, be ready to switch jobs, move into leadership positions, master new skills and back up others. It’s no wonder you’ll find resistance.
Nowhere is this resistance stronger than among supervisors and managers. For many, not only will their job duties change, but they will be asked to change their communication style, the way they give instructions and how they use their power. “Position power,” based on title, gives way to personal power. And when you ask people to give that up and help out the lower-level employees, expect that a few feathers will be ruffled.
When you make the decision to change your culture, no one will be exempt from the pain of that change. But don’t let that scare you. Instead, think about how best to introduce the change — gradual change is often best.
And think of how you will deal with those who are hurt by the change. It’s often easiest if everyone on staff is asked to make changes. There shouldn’t be any exemptions — particularly among management staff. If egos become bruised, treat the injured parties with respect and care. Leaders and supervisors who lose their authority and whose concerns are ignored can poison the rest of the team with their grievances.
Excerpted from All For One: 52 Ways to Build a Winning Team. This innovative book is part of the 52 Ways series of restaurant management books that offer one idea a week to increase profits, improve staff morale, reduce turnover, and make more money! Buy four 52 Ways books, get one free!
Attention restaurant managers! If you’re bending the rules for one low-performing employee, the rest of your staff will certainly notice. Low standards produce low morale and low performance levels throughout your operation. That’s why you can’t be afraid to correct and discipline employees when you see a problem. Here are some restaurant management tips on how to effectively keep standards consistent, and employee morale up.
- Discipline immediately.
- Be specific in explaining the problem.
- Focus on the performance problem, not the employee.
- Ask for the employee’s help in solving the problem.
- Reach an agreement and write it down.
- Express confidence in the employee’s ability to solve the problem.
- Praise the employee at the first sign of improvement.
Consistent standards in restaurant management will lead to happier employees, better teamwork, and less turnover. For more restaurant staffing tricks of the trade, check out Turn the Tables on Turnover: 52 Ways to Find, Hire and Keep the Best Hospitality Employees. Click to learn more!
During the holiday season, we’re so busy making sure our customers are feeling the love, our employees are often left out. And that’s okay. Employees you want to keep want to be busy… they want to earn more tips, make the shift fly by and maybe get some overtime. Then, when they’re not at work, they want to be preparing for their own holidays.
That’s why holiday parties after the holidays seem to work best for everyone in this business. Here are some ideas to make your holiday party even more successful:
- Poker party – Whenever you provide some type of game that forces people to move around and interact, you’ll build relationships between people who rarely communicate. Poker, bunko and even charades are all easy ways you can add excitement to your party.
- Comedy club – Sure, you could all go to the comedy club, but consider bringing entertainment in-house since you already have the space, food and drinks. Music is great, but often too loud to let guests really interact. A comedian with a couple of short acts can add a lot of fun to your party.
- Who me? – Ask team members to write down two things about themselves that may be a surprise (like “once hitch-hiked to Mexico” or “class president in high school”). Then mix them up and read each one to the group. Team members guess who it is and after all the statements are made, the answers are revealed and everyone learns more about their co-workers.
- Award ceremony – The holiday party is the perfect time to publicly award your team. On top of achievement awards, create enough contests that everyone can win something. Door prizes, baby photo contests (match your team member with the photo) as well as all-in-fun prizes (best smile, loudest laugh, etc.) ensures that everyone wins something.
Team-building isn’t something that just needs to happen during the holidays. Keep your team running smoothly all year long with All For One: 52 Ways to Build a Winning Team. From your assistant managers to your servers to your part-time kitchen staff, you’ll find ideas to improve team morale which translates to less stress, happier employees, better service, and higher sales. Check it out!
Your employees will rarely perform above your expectations. That’s why you should keep raising them. Constant feedback will show your employees where they stand — and where they should be going.
If you’re bending the rules for one low-performing employee, the rest of your staff will certainly notice. Low standards produce low morale and low performance levels throughout your operation. That’s why you can’t be afraid to discipline when you see a problem. Here are some tips on doing it effectively:
- Discipline immediately
- Be specific in explaining the problem
- Focus on the performance problem, not the employee
- Ask for the employee’s help in solving the problem
- Reach an agreement and write it down
- Express confidence in the employee’s ability to solve the problem
- Praise the employee at the first sign of improvement
A lot rides on the proper orientation of your new employees. For one thing, it sets the tone for their entire experience at your restaurant, contributing in large part to how well they perform and how long they stay. If you get started off on the wrong foot you could lose the new hire before he or she even settles into the position.
The importance of a standardized orientation process can’t be overstated. Yet many managers get into the habit of taking shortcuts, giving new hires a tour of the place and a few guidelines, then tossing them into the fire of the shift. Don’t make the same mistake. During the first week of employment, build confidence and comfort with the job, avoiding these misconceptions.
Misconception: Employee orientation is the manager’s job.
Reality: It’s everybody’s job — from managers to co-workers — to help newcomers phase into the position. Assign one or two of your top employees to shepherd recent hires until they’re up and running at full speed.
Misconception: It’s best to orient new hires fully before turning them loose.
Reality: Some things — company policies and procedures, general employee information, and the like — can be covered in an orientation manual or in discussions with the boss, but it takes time on the floor for new employees to pick up the ins and outs of the job. Part of learning to swim is getting into the water.
Misconception: No two employees are alike. That’s why orientation should be unstructured, allowing you to match it to the individual.
Reality: There’s nothing wrong with tailoring orientation for individual needs, but the core of the process should be standardized. All your employees should have emerged from the same starting point. Use an orientation checklist to keep everything on track.
Misconception: It’s up to managers from time to time to review the effectiveness of the orientation process.
Reality: The more useful measure comes from employees themselves. Ask them what they think, using a comment card they can fill out anonymously. If your staff was less than thrilled with orientation, it’s time to make some changes.
Guest service is the business you’re in. Without it, you can’t survive. What’s more, your guests continually raise the bar on you, challenging you daily to meet or exceed their expectations. It takes a special type of individual to want to “wait” on or be of service to others. These are the people you are looking for. Try these questions to find them:
“Do you enjoy taking care of others?” Probable answer: Yes.
Follow-Up Question: “Describe a time when you’ve taken care of other people.” Listen for a specific instance, enthusiasm.
“What is your idea of great service?” Probable answer: Smile, friendly, anticipating.
Follow-Up Question: “How did you deliver great service in your last job?” Listen for a specific example, descriptions of communication skills.
“What do you do when someone asks you a question and you don’t have an answer?” Listen for finding the answer or providing name of someone who can answer the question.
Excerpted from Staff Up! Assembling a Team That Sticks and Clicks, an easy-to-read handbook perfect for any restaurant manager. Save $68 today on our Find, Hire, and Keep the Best Employees package. Click for more details!
The key to better managing your labor costs is to turn over the applicants, not the employees. How? Become a better interviewer. The most important part of any interview comes in the planning. Being well prepared will send a clear message to applicants that you’re serious about finding only the best people to work in your restaurant.
Use this interview agenda as a baseline to create your own:
Greet the applicant and put him or her at ease with small talk.
- Explain what you hope to accomplish with the interview.
- Tell the applicant that you’ll be taking brief notes.
- Ask questions from a prepared question list.
- Follow the 80/20 rule: Let the applicant do 80 percent of the talking — you should only speak 20 percent of the time.
- Review the job description. Answer any questions the applicant may have.
- Finish by explaining your timetable and the next step in the hiring process.