December 22, 2022

Retention Crucial to Restaurants’ Success [Part 1]

Dana Bernardino

Restaurants have been fighting recruitment and retention issues for the past three years. Once you’ve got a great employee, how do you keep him or her? This two-part series offers some retention tips from operators and experts.

Dec. 12, 2022 | by Mandy Wolf Detwiler — Managing Editor, Networld Media Group

This is part one of a two-part series in QSR Web.

During the pandemic, hiring and retention became many restaurants’ biggest headaches. Hiring became difficult, as many workers just didn’t want to risk catching the COVID-19 virus and found other ways to make money. Once an employee was hired, the race was on to retain him or her.

So you’ve hired a great employee. Now what? How do you keep him or her and turn a new employee into a loyal employee? QSRweb talked to several experts in the restaurant field to learn how to retain employees.

Proper Onboarding

First, onboarding the employee the right way is imperative. Most new employees need training when they first start. Few can just walk onto the job with little knowledge of how the job — and the company — works.

“Onboarding is a significantly underdiscussed opportunity when it comes to increasing employee retention rates,” Renee Guilbault, principal at Essayer Food Consulting, said in an email. “Creating a sense of belonging and a warm, energetic welcome can go a long way when employees face challenges.”

Going over the employee handbook in depth, assigning an employee a mentor and checking in frequently with a new employee all helps keep him or her motivated during the first few weeks, when QSR employees are mostly likely to quit.

“Making sure team members have the right support net available along with the right tools in place, and a clear internal owner of their onboarding process will give them a strong foundation in their new role and set them up for long-term success,” Guilbault said.

And onboarding offers a new employee a sense of camaraderie early.

“Giving clear instructions and expectations during onboarding helps set employees up for success, which can translate to fewer mistakes and lower turnover,” Peter Dougherty, general manager of hospitality at Lightspeed Commerce, said in an email.

Offer Adequate Training

Once you’ve got the employee onboarded, don’t let him or her get lost in the day-to-day operations of running a restaurant.

“I think training is absolutely critical for employee retention,” Sam Caucci, CEO of 1Huddle, said in a phone interview. “Today we have five different generations working together for the first time ever. That’s not just in the hospitality food space. It’s across all industries: 55% of all workers today are Millennials and Gen Z workers. These are workers who have grown up with tremendous access to technology but not necessarily the same access to skill development (and) experience opportunities as prior generations. These are young people coming into a service environment where they have to be customer facing, they have to be revenue impacting and because of that there is more strain than ever before on an operation or a business to close the experience gap that exists with workers in order to make sure they have the right skills to be successful.”

And hourly workers aren’t the only ones who need continued training. Managers and franchisees should continue training to remain engaged in the brand.

John Palumbo, senior director of franchise development for legacy brand A&W, said in an email interview that the company’s investment in its franchise partners has been imperative to deliver excellent service. The brand’s training program for franchisees has been key to its continued success.

“Throughout the height of the pandemic, and through the challenges many are facing with labor shortages, one of the ways that A&W continues to be on the forefront of employee retention is through A&W University, our robust training program that equips and empowers our franchisees to build longevity with their teams, providing pathways for them to continue to grow within the A&W family,” Palumbo said. “For our franchisees, A&W University gives them robust training on everything from food and labor cost management to leadership and soft skills toward team member management. A unique feature about A&W University is that we also offer this opportunity to managers at A&W locations, providing them with core training to grow their own leadership skills as they build with A&W.”

Daugherty said the staff turnover rate in hospitality is notoriously high, and this issue has plagued the industry for years. For restaurant staff to perform at the highest level, they need to be properly onboarded and trained for their role.

“Taking the time to create a thorough training program for new employees and refresher sessions for existing staff will not only show new hires that they’re entering into a supportive work environment, but it’s also a great way to ensure your team is up to date with the latest procedures,” Daugherty added. “Creating a positive and supportive work environment will empower staff to give their all, remain motivated, and be less likely to leave. A happy workforce is often more efficient, and their positive energy will spill over to customers.”

Foster an Encouraging Workplace Culture

Many restaurants will say they have culture built into their operations, but do they really? Can employees identify what that culture entails and are they able to tell how it affects an restaurant?

“Many times, you have to ask yourself why did you leave your last job — that would be almost the same reason your employees will leave you,” Salar Sheik, principal and founder of Savory Hospitality Consulting, said in an email interview. “Keep a healthy morale number one, (and) keep them goal-oriented with bonuses. Offer paid days off. Make sure their work-life balance is in check.”

A positive workplace is important for Florida-based Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, which has more than 90 units.

“Jeremiah’s Italian Ice works to retain employees by fostering an environment where professional and personal development are top priority, while working in a vibrant and genuine atmosphere among peers,” Julianna Voyles, director of operations for Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, said in an email interview. “Jeremiah’s is transparent with goals to build sales and labor goals, and in turn, recognizing those employees who consistently reach and surpass these objectives. These methods are intended to instill ownership and promote empowerment among all team members, and often times, Jeremiah’s often sees employees rise through the ranks to the support center or even become (a) franchise owner.”

Providing Regular Feedback

Once the employee has been onboarded, it’s critical that he or she is not forgotten in the day-to-day routine of the restaurant. Providing for regular feedback gives the employee some insight into his or her performance.

“As I studied what would make the employee happier and more productive, I spent time reviewing a key portion of the assessment that focuses on making the employee more successful,” Izzy Kharasch, a Chicago-based restaurant consultant with Hospitality Works, said in an email interview. “This is a great long-term lesson for the employee because it will make them better at their job and therefore more valuable in the job market. In this example, the employee learned that they were not being challenged enough and they were having difficulty expressing their feelings to management.

“A frustrated employee is one who will leave sooner rather than later. This really opened the lines of communication for both the employee and management. Now, the restaurant touches base with the employee every day in a more meaningful way. No raise required.”

About 1Huddle

1Huddle is a coaching and development platform that uses quick-burst mobile games to more quickly and effectively educate, elevate, and energize your workforce — from frontline to full-time.

With a mobile-first approach to preparing the modern worker, a mobile library of 3,000+ quick-burst employee skill games, an on-demand game marketplace that covers 16 unique workforce skill areas, and the option for personalized content, 1Huddle is changing the way organizations think about their training – from a one-time boring onboarding experience to a continuous motivational tool. 

Key clients include Loews Hotels, Novartis, Madison Square Garden, PIMCO, TAO Group, and the United States Air Force. To learn more about 1Huddle and its platform, please visit

Dana Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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