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7 Ways to Improve Culture and Increase Staff Retention

7 Ways to Improve Culture and Increase Staff Retention

Picture of Nikol Moen

Nikol Moen

One way to avoid labor shortages: increase employee retention. Use these key tips to create a supportive culture in your restaurant and boost staff retention.

As a restaurant owner, you understand that your team is the heart and soul of your establishment. Their dedication, passion, and expertise are what create memorable experiences for your customers. Yet, it can be challenging to keep talented employees in a competitive job market.

So how do you make your restaurant a place those star employees want to stay? If you find you’ve got a revolving door of new hires, it might be that your culture isn’t quite what you meant it to be. Let’s take a look at nine key ways to create a strong and supportive culture that keeps employees engaged.


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1. Create a sense of belonging.

A welcoming and inclusive work environment helps your team feel like they belong.  Encourage camaraderie and teamwork by organizing team-building activities or social events. Celebrate birthdays and milestones to show that you value your employees as individuals. By making everyone feel like they’re part of a supportive work family, you’ll encourage staff to be more loyal and committed to the team.

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2. Provide opportunities for growth.

When team members challenge themselves by learning new skills, they’re innately more engaged with their role, making them les likely to leave. Provide ongoing training programs for restaurant employees to help staff polish their skills and increase their value. Try to establish clear career paths, so they can see your commitment to their long-term success. After all, when employees see a future within your organization, they are more likely to remain motivated and dedicated.

Here are a few ways you can provide opportunities for team members to grow their skills: 

  • Implement cross-training programs. Allow employees to learn and perform multiple roles within the restaurant. This not only increases their skill set but also makes them more versatile and valuable to the team.
  • Offer management training. Provide a restaurant manager training program aimed at developing leadership skills among interested employees. This can prepare them for future managerial roles within your restaurant, demonstrating a clear path for career advancement.
  • Support continued education. Partner with culinary schools or offer subsidies for courses related to hospitality, management, or culinary arts. Encouraging further education shows your investment in their personal and professional growth.
  • Develop mentorship programs. Pair less experienced staff with seasoned employees or managers who can provide guidance, share their knowledge, and offer career advice. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and support. 
  • Prioritize internal promotions. Promoting from within whenever possible. Clearly communicate available opportunities and the criteria for advancement, making it evident that you value and nurture your existing talent.

3. Strike a work-life balance.

Recognize how important it is for your team to have a good balance between work and personal life, and make it a priority. Yes, the restaurant industry can require long hours, but try to create schedules that allow for flexibility and downtime. Consider implementing shift rotation or offering flexible time off. And make sure the cutoff for seating is firm so you don’t burn out staff during work hours. By promoting work-life balance, you show staff that you value their personal lives, and you’ll create a happier and more loyal workforce.

4. Recognize and appreciate achievements.

Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated. When you show your staff you appreciate their hard work, they’ll be happier and a lot more likely to stay. Even a simple “thank you” or a team-wide shoutout for an exceptional performance can make a big difference in making your staff feel valued. When you celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small, you’ll create a positive culture of recognition that motivates your team to keep doing their best.

5. Promote open communication.

Creating a supportive work environment requires good communication. Encourage your employees to talk openly and listen actively. Give them chances to share their thoughts, worries, and ideas. Meet with them one-on-one regularly to get feedback and solve any problems quickly. When employees feel listened to and appreciated, they will be more committed to the restaurant’s success.

6. Lead by example.

As a restaurant owner, your attitude and actions set the tone for your entire team. Lead by example, demonstrating the values and work ethic you expect from your employees. Show a genuine passion for your work and a willingness to roll up your sleeves alongside your staff.  When you show your team the behavior and dedication that you want, it motivates them to do the same. This makes their connection to the restaurant stronger and they become more committed to its success.

7. Provide incentives and perks.

Offering appealing rewards and bonuses can help keep employees on board. While fair pay is important, consider giving extra benefits to show your gratitude. These could include bonuses based on performance, programs that recognize achievements, discounts on meals or services, or special partnerships with local businesses. These perks make your team feel valued and devoted to your restaurant, increasing the chances they’ll stay with you for the long haul.

8. Seek feedback and continuous improvement.

Regularly seeking feedback from your team is vital for maintaining a positive work culture. The best way to know if they’re feeling comfortable and supported is to give them ways to tell you. Make sure to set up a way to collect anonymous feedback, so your employees are comfortable sharing their opinions. But most importantly, actively address their concerns and put changes in place based on their feedback. When you involve your team in the decision making process, they’ll see you’re dedicated to making the workplace better too.  And that gives staff a sense of ownership and loyalty to the restaurant.

9. Maintain a safe and respectful environment.

Creating a safe, inclusive, and respectful workplace is the most important element of a solid culture. Promote diversity and make sure all employees get treated with respect and fairness. Put in place policies that prevent discrimination and harassment. Hold regular diversity and inclusion training to reinforce understanding and acceptance. Train managers on how to handle disrespectful customers so your staff knows you’ve got their backs. When you focus on creating a helpful and kind atmosphere, you create a inclusive vibe that motivates your team to stick around and succeed.

It’s never to late to start shifting culture.

As you review this list of ways to create a culture of retention at your organization, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with where to start. Our recommendation? Start with getting feedback. You’ll find out whether or not your team feels like they belong, have a chance to grow, and feel valued. Chances are, there are some small changes that can go a long way towards strengthening your culture. 

A strong team doesn’t just mean happier employees, it can lead to better guest experiences. Take the time to invest in your team’s happiness and see your restaurant thrive with a staff that is hard-working, engaged, and proud to be part of your brand!

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