Three ways to improve restaurant retention


In the restaurant industry, turnover is treated as a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be.

The turnover rate for employees in the restaurants and accommodations sector is nearly 20% higher than the private sector overall according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover report.

There are three reasons for such high turnover:

1. Restaurants primarily employ a young workforce, with a large portion of employees being seasonal.

2. Poor communication, which leads to disengaged employees.

3. Lack of career growth.

Turnover doesn’t have to be a fact of life though. If a genuine, conscious effort is made, turnover could be significantly reduced. Here are three ways to mitigate restaurant turnover.

Issue 1: Young workforce

Restaurants primarily employ a young workforce, with a large portion of employees being seasonal. When compared to the total US labor force, restaurant employees are twice as likely to be enrolled in school. Students are often only employed for a summer, or a short season, and they are also quick to leave the restaurant industry for a job or internship that is closer to their career path.

Solution: Engage a younger workforce by “meeting them where they are.” College students need flexibility in their work schedules. By understanding that school is a priority and working with students to ensure that work schedules do not interfere with classes/assignments, managers can provide a better work environment for students and decrease turnover.

Additionally, this younger workforce wants to engage technology in new ways. Most restaurant workers are social and mobile – make an effort to provide your employees with digital tools that help them do their jobs better. People live on their phones, and that is why restaurants are moving away from restaurant pager systems to mobile messaging systems. As the customer facing technology evolves, the technology used to communicate with employees needs to be updated too.


Issue 2: Poor communication

Another factor that contributes to the restaurant industry’s notoriously high turnover rate is poor communication, which leads to disengaged employees. Many employees in the restaurant industry do not feel connected to or valued by their company. As a result, many unhappy employees leave for new opportunities.

Solution: Good communication starts with leadership. Managers should establish clear channels of communication for employees through a mix of face-to-face meetings, paper memos, and digital messaging. Connecting with your employees through digital communications often represents the greatest potential for improvement. By employing the right digital tools, you can empower your employees to communicate with co-workers and managers securely, efficiently, and privately. Connected employees are more empowered, informed, and engaged on all levels.


Issue 3: Lack of career growth

A third factor is lack of career growth. Many restaurants do not make an effort to develop and invest in current employees. As a result, employees are quick to switch jobs for a restaurant that will offer them better options for growth and more perceived opportunity.

Solution: Create clear paths for employees by outlining steps and requirements for career advancement within the company. Employees are more likely to stay with an organization where they can see the potential for future growth. Communicate these opportunities clearly and often to remind employees that their hard work in current roles could help them land a more advanced role.


The biggest mistake made by restaurant leadership is treating turnover like an unavoidable reality. Training and hiring new employees requires time and money, which means that high turnover rates have a profound impact on the bottom line. Companies like Starbucks, Chipotle, and Panera Bread have invested in retention and are industry leaders in low turnover. Leaders at these companies know that turnover is manageable and higher retention rates help increase productivity and profitability across the organization.

Want to learn more about how to keep turnover from cutting into your restaurants profits? Read the Staples Research Center blog post for more tips from Red e App CEO Jonathan Erwin and DZ Restaurants VP of Operations Nancy Bambara.

Hannah Beasley
Client Development


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