Chalkboard that says employee retention


Being in the Food & Beverage industry, you’re no stranger to employee turnover. Whether you’re in fine dining or fast casual establishments, you know firsthand how difficult it is to hire and retain quality staff members. According to Restaurants Canada, nearly one-third of operators are having difficulty finding skilled labour. And one in four operators have problems filling jobs with no skill requirements.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are strategies you can implement to keep your staff engaged, excited and productive, thus increasing employee retention. While there is no magic formula and not everything will work in every business, it’s worth giving some of these ideas a try

  1. Provide a professional and collaborative environment. If an employee feels like they are part of a team, they are more likely to enjoy coming to work. Choose team players who are inviting and respectful. Also show potential and existing employees that you care about the team by offering the right tools for the job. This includes everything from quality prep knives and anti-fatigue kitchen mats to breathable chef coats and user-friendly order entry programs. Abby Jimenez, owner of Nadia Cakes in California and Minnesota, has built her business around an environment where employees can freely share ideas. “We get people who are very creative and could probably have their own cupcake shops but they don’t want to because we let them do whatever they want to do back there in the kitchen,” Jimenez says. “We encourage it. The collaborative environment is what makes Nadia Cakes so great – I didn’t come up with 200 flavors by myself. I recognize that the collaboration is what makes this business successful because I can’t have every idea, nor do I want to.”

    The collaborative environment is what makes Nadia Cakes so great – I didn’t come up with 200 flavors by myself. I recognize that the collaboration is what makes this business successful because I can’t have every idea, nor do I want to.

  2. Make training a priority. To build an employee’s confidence, a thorough new hire training program should exist. Most employees want a clear explanation of what it takes to succeed in their new role. But don’t stop there – career development should be a continual occurrence. Encourage employees to take relevant courses or attend seminars to further their skill sets. That way, roles don’t become too monotonous or stagnant. Nurture your talent and let employees know that you believe in promoting from within. For example, a fry cook may have aspirations to be an executive chef. Show them the steps to achieve their goal and you’ll likely have a long-time employee.
  3. Invest in the hiring process. If you want employees who will stick around, it starts with finding the right people for the job. Don’t use standard interview questions for all interviewees. Questions should be tailored to the position you’re interviewing for. Pick questions that will highlight an applicant’s personality and accomplishments. You want to make sure new hires will mesh well with the rest of the team. Being transparent with role expectations and career paths will also help narrow down the right candidate.
  4. Take care of your employees. The usual suspects here are salary and benefits, which are definitely important, but there are other ways to show employees that they are appreciated and valued. John Larkin, co-owner of Jake’s, St. Andrews Pub and Beercade in Nebraska, has successfully built a loyal staff. “You treat your employees like family, Larkin says. Something as simple as listening and asking for feedback from staff can go a long way. Implementing a new menu item or contest idea suggested by an employee can build morale and give staff a feeling of ownership. Being flexible with scheduling is another way to retain employees. Make it easier to switch shifts or work around school or family obligations, if possible.”

    From the managers on down, I want them to feel like they’re part of the team. We hang out, we golf, we BBQ. We offer full benefits and health insurance. It means that working at a bar is more than just something to do in college.

  5. Foster community involvement. Building upon the family feeling, try encouraging opportunities to give back to the local community. Employees feel good knowing they are helping neighbors. And by letting employees choose the charity, it makes them feel even more involved and they know that you support causes they care about.

This is simply a sampling of ideas to keep your employees on board. At the end of the day, it’s all about making sure the people working for you feel that their contributions are valued. A happy employee is a loyal employee and one who is less likely to leave.


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