Enhancing Restaurant Staffing and Retention: Best Practices

Jul 25, 2023

By Amanda Stokes – Operations & Training Consultant

The restaurant industry has always been a dynamic and fast-paced environment, but the year 2023 has brought forth unprecedented challenges for restaurant owners and managers in staffing their establishments. A combination of factors, including changes in labor markets, evolving employee expectations, and the aftermath of the global pandemic, have created significant hurdles. However, despite these challenges, there are strategies that can help restaurant owners navigate this difficult landscape and ensure the smooth operation of their restaurants.

The aftermath of the pandemic has seen shifts in the labor market. Many individuals have reconsidered their career choices, leading to increased turnover in the hospitality sector. As a restaurant owner, adapting to these changes is essential, including reevaluating compensation packages, offering competitive wages, and providing enticing benefits. Moreover, creating a positive work environment that prioritizes employee well-being can be crucial in attracting and retaining talent in 2023.

The good news is that despite of the recruiting challenges that the industry is facing, some are figuring out how to staff their restaurants with qualified employees. Here are some best practices when it comes to recruiting top talent:


  • Employee Referrals

Employee Referrals can be a great tool to attract talented employees to your restaurant. Good employees want to work with other good employees, so they generally recommend others that will be a good fit for your restaurant. Your existing employees will be well suited to share why working at your restaurant is desirable, and what they can expect working there. They will also go out of their way to ensure that their referrals assimilate well into the culture and are welcomed by the team.


  • Collaborate with Hospitality Schools and Programs

Building strong relationships with hospitality schools and vocational programs can effectively tap into a fresh talent pool. Partnering with these institutions for internships, mentorship programs, or recruitment drives can provide you with access to aspiring professionals eager to make their mark in the industry. Also, the National Restaurant Association has created a program called ProStart as a workforce development program for high school students. This program allows students to gain practical work experience before they graduate. You can contact your local restaurant association and see if any local high schools near you offer this program. Many restaurants that partner with ProStart offer internships that lead to full-time employment once they graduate. This opens up an entirely new stream of talent eager to work and gain industry experience.


  • Pull Good Employees From Outside of Your Area

This may sound harder than it actually is. Job posting boards, including Indeed, LinkedIn, and Zip Recruiter, work well to recruit within your area. However, Culinary Agents allows you to post jobs and search for candidates across multiple cities. There could be someone looking to relocate to your city, especially if you present your restaurant as a great city to work and live in.

job postings

  • Have a Solid Hiring Plan

Great restaurant operators are always hiring and looking to upgrade talent before it becomes a 911. Focusing on building a strong team is key in avoiding “Panic Hiring,” which can lead to bringing on the wrong candidates that will ultimately not work out. A proactive approach can make recruiting less stressful and more productive.


  • Know When It’s Time to Go Pro

Sometimes hiring can be a daunting process for restaurant owners and managers that can take precious time away from the day-to-day business demands. Leveraging the help of a recruiting professional to attract and screen qualified candidates can be a great way to streamline the process. Although this may be more costly than doing it yourself, being short-staffed is also costly and can lead your good employees to burn-out and eventually leave you.

So now that you have a roadmap to hire exceptional talent, it is critical that you keep them happy and engaged. Retaining restaurant workers in 2023 requires a multifaceted approach that considers employee well-being, growth opportunities, and adapting to changing workforce expectations. Restaurant owners and managers can increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover rates by offering competitive compensation, creating a positive work environment, and embracing technology. In an increasingly competitive labor market, prioritizing employee retention will be vital to building a successful and thriving restaurant.


  • Create a Positive Work Environment

A positive work culture can make a significant difference in retaining restaurant workers. Employees are looking to their employers to care about their well-being, work-life balance, and mental health. Encourage open communication, feedback, and recognition for a job well done. Organize team-building activities and create a sense of camaraderie amongst the team to improve job satisfaction and decrease turnover.


  • Leveraging Training and Upskilling Programs

In a challenging labor market, it is essential for restaurant owners to invest in training and upskilling programs for their existing team. By empowering employees with new skills and opportunities for growth, you can improve job satisfaction, increase loyalty, and reduce turnover. Encouraging internal promotions and recognizing achievements can help retain talented staff, fostering a sense of loyalty to your restaurant.


  • Opportunities for Growth and Advancement

One of the top reasons employees leave their jobs is the need for growth opportunities. In 2023, restaurant owners should focus on providing a clear career path for their team. Establishing a system for promoting from within can help your team to clearly see their potential growth within your company.


  • Competitive Compensation and Benefits

Offering competitive wages and benefits is foundational in attracting and retaining restaurant workers. As the labor market becomes more competitive, keeping pace with industry standards is essential. Consider conducting regular reviews and offering performance-based incentives to reward employees who go above and beyond their duties. Additionally, comprehensive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and meal discounts can significantly enhance employee loyalty.


  • Embrace Technology

Integrating technology into restaurant operations can enhance employee engagement and retention as the world becomes more tech oriented. Consider adopting digital solutions for managing schedules, training materials, and performance assessments. Additionally, invest in modern POS systems and kitchen equipment to streamline workflows, making employees’ jobs more efficient and rewarding. Eliminating obstacles and pain points for your team not only makes them more efficient but also makes them happier.


  • Flexibility in Scheduling

Work-life balance has become increasingly important for employees in 2023. To retain restaurant workers, consider implementing flexible scheduling options. Provide employees with the ability to swap shifts, request time off or adopt alternative work arrangements when possible. Accommodating personal commitments can lead to a more engaged team.

staff scheduling

  • Listen to Employee Feedback

Actively seek feedback from restaurant workers to understand their concerns and ideas for improvement. Conduct regular surveys or hold one-on-one meetings to address their needs and preferences. When employees see their feedback valued and acted upon, they are more likely to feel invested in the success of the restaurant and less inclined to leave for other opportunities.


Restaurant staffing challenges in 2023 are undeniable, but owners and managers can overcome these obstacles with the right strategies and a proactive approach. By adapting to the evolving labor market, investing in training, embracing technology, and fostering a positive work environment, restaurants can secure a dedicated and talented team that will contribute to their success even amidst the most challenging times.