How to Attract and Keep Restaurant Kitchen Staff

Turnover in restaurants rose for the fourth straight year in 2014, with an average turnover rate of 66.3 percent. When two-thirds of the people you hire give notice, it can have a major impact on your business. Learn how the industry’s high turnover rate may be harming your business in more ways than one, then get strategies that you can use to recruit and hire good restaurant kitchen staff that are less likely to leave.

How the High Kitchen Staff Turnover Rate Affects Your Business

High turnover costs you in a number of ways, including:

  • Time – Until you fill the vacancy, your existing staff will be stretched to complete the additional prep work.
  • Cost – If you need to train new hires, you are paying them to learn on the job.
  • Low morale – If new people are constantly cycling in and out of your foodservice business, this can result in a low workplace morale that makes it all the more challenging for your staff to stay.
  • Diner experience – If a novice cook sends out a poor quality dish and diners dislike it, you may lose those customers.
  • Stress – Running a restaurant is stressful enough without the added stress of finding a cook…again.

Restaurant kitchen staff are known for turning over at a higher rate, and while you cannot change it, you can take several steps to recruit, hire, and train people that are less likely to leave.

How to Recruit Employees for Restaurants

There is no question that if you hire the right person the first time around, you will reduce the turnover rate in your restaurant.

Start by reviewing your job description. Does it accurately describe the duties of the prep cook, line cook, dishwasher, or other position? If you sometimes have your prep cook clean pots because the dishwasher is swamped, it’s best to put this in your job description. New hires dislike surprises, and may leave if they feel you were dishonest about the role.

Ask your existing staff if they know anyone who needs a job. Hiring on recommendation gives you a trusted worker and reduces your time spent advertising and screening. Hiring a friend or relative of a current employee also reinforces the bond in your kitchen and makes everyone more likely to stay.

When you interview applicants, take the time to get to know their skills and personalities. A shy worker may feel uncomfortable if your kitchen is boisterous and will be likely to leave.

Once you have identified a good candidate, put their skills to the test with a practical exam or stage. Watch them work to gauge whether they are someone you really want to hire.

How to Train Restaurant Staff

All staff will be more likely to stay with you if they feel they are cared for and that their needs are met.

The following strategies will help improve employee satisfaction:

    • Create a training manual – Make it easy for new staff to come onboard by creating a training manual for all roles. During their training period, check in with them to make sure they feel comfortable.
    • Be supportive of staff needs – The more supportive you can be of staff needs, the more comfortable staff will feel. Restaurants are busy workplaces and it can be difficult to take five minutes to sit down with an employee and discuss a pain point. Yet, it is critically important to your employee retention that you find the time to talk to staff whenever they come to you. Staff who feel they are not heard or respected will leave, and complain until they do.
    • Compliment people for doing good work – Too often, in the heat of service chefs and owners forget to praise workers for jobs well done. Praise staff more and morale will increase. When you need to deliver criticism, add in comments on things the employee does well on to reduce the blow.
    • Offer a higher wage – If you want the best talent and you want staff to stay, offer a higher hourly rate than your competitors. It’s a simple and effective solution. If you don’t feel comfortable increasing rates across the board, consider rewarding employees for staying with the organization. Implement a small raise at 3 months, another at 6 months, and so on. This provides staff with a direct incentive to stay.
    • Be fair and flexible – When scheduling workers, be fair. If you routinely schedule someone to close and then open, they may leave. If you are rigid when an employee asks to work nights instead of days to be home with a child, the employee will leave for a job that fits her needs. If tempers flare in your kitchen, staff will leave for a workplace with less drama.
    • Make room for growth – If there is no way for a prep cook to advance to a line cook, he will become discouraged and quit. If you are serious about keeping staff, you need to allow them room to grow and learn new skills. Rotate cooks among prep duties or line stations so your crew learns new skills and staff won’t have to quit to for career development.
    • Reward restaurant kitchen staff – There are many ways to reward staff. Some owners like to arrange “field trips” to suppliers or local farms. Others prefer to have a fun holiday party, or let employees have a shift drink at the end of a night. Whether you prefer to give small rewards daily or large rewards seasonally, don’t be stingy here. This can go a long way toward creating a tight-knit community and keeping workers.

Changing your kitchen culture takes time, so do not become frustrated if you still see high turnover. The more of these strategies you can incorporate, the more motivated your restaurant kitchen staff will be to stay. The peace of mind and increased profit this delivers is well worth the wait.



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