Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Theory on high turnover in the restaurant business

By: Carmen Shaffer

Turnover is an issue for many restaurants.  It is time consuming and stressful to recruit new staff and once they’re hired-expensive to train them ($500+ per person).  Yet, some restaurants seem to maintain the same staff year after year with very little turnover.  What gives?
It begins with the hierarchy.  Owners or managers (whomever is the most ‘hands-on’) have a variety of theories on how to handle staff-we shall refer to the owner/manager as ‘manager’ here on out.  In some cases, the manager has had some life experience in the restaurant business and in some cases, very little.  Either way-the longevity of the person in charge is irrelevant to how they run the business.  Their theories on how to handle internal issues and their level of tolerance are both important factors when dealing with turnover.
Temperament is a key factor in a quality manager.  A manager who is loud can be great for business and moral when they are laughing and joking with the staff and guests, but if they are the type who can switch gears into screaming on a dime-you will notice more turnover.  Quiet managers can be wonderful when handling very stressful situations-keeping their cool and having ‘stealth-like’ capabilities, but quiet managers can also be very underhanded-switching schedules at the last minute and playing mind games with the staff.  This creates an unhealthy dynamic in a staff and can increase turnover.
Scheduling is a key component to high turnover.  Ever meet a server who is always free on the weekends?  Me either, but I know quite a few who are free on Saturdays and not Fridays.  Set-schedules are a wonderful way to create a happy staff.  Too many restaurant managers feel they have the ‘right’ to schedule any server at any time.  Some ignore RO’s (time requested off) and class schedules because they feel they can hold a person’s job as ransom.  In some cases, managers won’t post the schedule until the day prior to decrease the amount of shift exchanges that can occur over a given week-and still may not approve the exchange.  Some of the happiest and more tenured servers/bartenders are those with a set schedule.  They have the opportunity to make plans in advance, join a summer softball league, arrange joint custody.  Sure, from time-to-time the server will need to switch or will pick up a shift, but at least they have that option.  In addition, how great it is for the scheduling manager to know who is going to be around in 3 weeks, have the opportunity to keep his loyal staff happy-not to mention the regulars who come in looking for ‘their’ regular Friday night server?
Which brings me to my next point, bartending schedules is a great way to keep your regulars happy!  Regular guests come in looking for the same fun they had the last time with the same bartender.   And you want the bartender to remember the guest, remember what they drank, what they ate, so the bartender may do his job-which is promote what they feel that particular guest will enjoy!  The term up-selling is an insult to the bartender trained to appease the senses of ‘their’ guest.  I’m not going to recommend the top shelf tequila to my guy who comes in for Miller Lite on draft five times a week.  But I will talk it up to the couple who just got back from Mexico! 
On a side note: if you’re worried about bartenders who are stealing or giving away booze.  The fastest way to catch them in the act is to set their schedule.  Observe their clientele and keep an eye on the running tabs-they don’t take but a shift or two to catch. 
Turnover is an issue for any restaurant and if you’re reading this because you don’t understand why staff won’t stick around-odds are good it is one of these three items listed about.  If not, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is going on in your store-and maybe we can crack it together!

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