September 2006 Edition
Saving Time and Money with Employee Retention

In the food service industry, keeping your food fresh is sometimes easier than keeping your employees.  Statistics show that half of all restaurant employees leave their jobs within the first 30 days.  Whether you fire the employee or they resign, recruiting and training new personnel, as well as the overtime costs incurred while the position is vacant, can add up. 


Training Essentials

With turnover in the food service industry so high, many restaurant owners don’t bother training their employees thoroughly.  Their reasoning is: what if I take the time to train them and they leave? Training and development experts ask a different question: What if you don’t train them, and they stay?

Training is an investment, and it’s essential to your restaurant’s success.  One director of training and development says if done right, it doesn’t take much —just preparation, presentation, practice and praise.


STEP 1: Preparation

Before you can train, you have to be prepared.  This means you need to know the subject inside and out, and have the skills to explain it in a logical, sequential order.  It’s best to schedule training time during the slow periods so the employee is not distracted or overwhelmed.  Also ensure you have the proper equipment ready.  For example, if you want to teach the employee how to prepare a French fry order, have the oil heated up and the fries ready to go.


STEP 2: Presentation

In some areas of Canada, English is only one of the languages spoken.  Regardless of whether or not your employee’s first language is English, it’s best to not only tell him or her how things work, but show them.  It’s also a good idea to explain why things are done a certain way to ensure the employee doesn’t devise “shortcuts” that could end up being hazardous either for the restaurant or for themselves. 


STEP 3: Practice

After teaching your employee the skills needed, give them the time to practice.  One important thing to remember is not to walk away and leave them on their own.  Be close by in case they have questions.  This not only gives you the peace of mind of knowing the employee is doing what you told them to do, but works as a security blanket for them.  With you around, the employee knows that if something does go wrong, you’ll be there to help them. 


STEP 4: Praise

When your employees do something right, praise them and be specific about what it was they did right —this goes for longtime employees as well.  Too many times, employees only hear when they make a mistake and not when they are doing a good job.  The food service industry is demanding, fast-paced and draining.  Knowing they are appreciated will boost their confidence, keep them happy and ultimately, keep them working for you.


Communication and Motivation Essentials

Once your employees are trained, the secret to keeping them there is through communication and motivation.  A true manager is in touch with his employees and keeps them informed with what’s going on within the organization – and not just with “big picture” items.  Many of your employees are not going to be with you for 20 years, so the big stuff isn’t relevant to them.  What is relevant, are the little things such as scheduling adjustments, payroll changes, a new place to park their cars, etc.  These are the items that affect them on a daily basis. 


Motivating employees is always a challenge, but there are ways to get your staff on-board such as offering benefit packages, the chance for additional training and providing opportunities for growth within the company.  A common problem for inexperienced managers is lack of delegation.  By delegating some of your responsibilities to your staff, you’ll not only have more time to manage, but you give your employees the chance to develop skills that could improve their own career within the food service industry. 


One thing to remember is that most of the food service industry is made up of young workers.  In fact, one popular chain recently announced that 73% of their restaurants were staffed by workers between 16 and 30 years of age.  This makes things difficult, as this workforce could just as easily leave your restaurant to work at your competitors if they aren’t happy.


Getting the Best Employees

In a recent survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, restaurant operators were asked how they found their best employees.  The answer was simple:  referrals.  According to respondents, a referral from a good employee made it more likely that the new worker would fit in well with the rest of the team.


Another secret they revealed was that employees brought in by other workers are more reliable, because they don’t want to reflect poorly on the person who referred them.  So…train your employees well.  Not only will your restaurant prosper, but they’ll enhance your workforce with like-minded individuals.