Staff retention

The restaurant industry took a hit during the pandemic that continues today. Through shutdowns, mask mandate enforcement and the labor shortage, many people left the industry. However, some businesses, like ours, maintained a staff turnover rate of 30 percent, compared to the average annual turnover rate for restaurants of 74 percent, according to the National Restaurant Association.

To decrease turnover and retain employees, businesses need to have an employee-centric focus with equitable treatment of staff, including a living wage and sustainable employment opportunities.

Employees need to feel supported when life happens. Those who work more than 25 hours a week should be eligible for the same benefits as full-time team members. This includes medical, dental, vision, PTO, short-term disability, and access to the company 401(k) plans. This contrasts with nationwide numbers; the Society of Human Resource Management notes that less than a third of part-time employees in the U.S. have access to employer-sponsored 401(k), medical and dental plans. All of these can work together to allow for consistent and stable employment for any team.

The employee experience

Great customer service is the backbone of every B2C business. Customers want an engaging atmosphere, with high-quality products. The key to this is great employees.

Investing in employees helps create a sense of security in their careers and encourages pride in what they do each day on the business’s behalf. Treating employees well and offering sustainable growth and work-life opportunities creates mutual respect and trust, giving a business the competitive advantage it needs to be successful. This also helps ensure companies are not spending precious hours training new employees who might work for a short period of time and move on to another job.

Another key initiative to staff retention is being transparent about the focus and vision of the business. Oftentimes employees leave jobs feeling they lack clear direction. Developing a clear vision, mission and values, and supporting those with transparency in the business’s finances, allows leaders to openly discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the business and engage the entire team on working to improve.

Additionally, in developing a strong vision supplemented with values, employees can be better motivated to work as a team toward a common goal. A company that engages in the community and allows for opportunities to support that community can inspire employees. Employees who are proud of the impact their employer has within the community are better engaged and even seek out their own philanthropic passions. By constantly living the company’s vision, supporting initiatives with intentionality and making sure employees take part either through volunteering or nonprofit support, leaders are creating a well-rounded work experience for everyone involved.

And don’t forget to have fun. Celebrating wins and giving opportunities to blow off steam can make a difference. We schedule vents including backyard gatherings, field days and a holiday event that includes a guest. Allowing your team to share the success during good times makes it easier to get through hard times. Seeing the passion employees have for what they do is inspiring, especially after enduring a pandemic.

Build a strong foundation of employees with a focus on what’s important to them. Finding unique and interesting ways to develop a sustainable workforce can help to make a company solid as it faces the next challenge. ●

Bob Szuter is founder and co-owner of Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

Bob Szuter

Founder and co-owner


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