Keeping Restaurant Employees On-Board Even When the Going Gets Tough

Jul 27, 2021

Those in the foodservice industry know it’s no picnic at times. The grueling hours, the unpredictable pay, the rude customers—these things can sometimes add up and cause restaurant workers to rethink their career paths. However, at its best, a restaurant job is exciting, fast-paced, and social. A restaurant team can feel as warm and supportive as family. Those with a passion for food would have difficulty finding a career as rewarding as creating the perfect dining experience again and again.


The shutdown and reopening of the world since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused restaurant workers to resign at record rates.


A survey conducted by UC Berkeley found that the top driving factors that could prevent these folks from leaving the industry included better pay, paid sick leave/health insurance, a better work environment, and safer COVID practices. Here’s a closer look at each reason, along with some practical tips to keep restaurant workers on board in even the most challenging situations.


A Livable Wage

The most commonly cited reason for leaving restaurant work was low pay. Restaurant workers often make a base rate below minimum wage (often $2.13 an hour) and then work for tips, which can vary greatly depending on the shift. Implementing fair practices and procedures surrounding access to the most lucrative shifts can go a long way in helping restaurant workers feel they are getting a fair deal. Beyond that, some restaurants are trying out a radical new concept called a Fair Wage Fee, which eliminates or reduces the power of tipping and charges a set fee to ensure workers make a livable wage.


fair wage
Many foodservice employees rely heavily on tips


Restaurant Sick Leave and Health Insurance

A report conducted by ToastTab found that 31 percent of restaurants surveyed offered health insurance. A mere 12 percent offered parental leave. Leading the way in the industry is Sweetgreen, a salad chain now offering 5 months parental leave to new mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents. This may seem radical in an industry with high turnover; however, restaurants like Sweetgreen might be putting these policies in place to prevent turnover and create a more cohesive company culture.


It may not be possible to grant these expensive benefits, especially when a new restaurant is just getting its footing. But other benefits like sick leave or a flexible schedule can attract new workers who are choosing which restaurant to work for. Insurance and parental leave packages can be long-term growth goals for newer establishments.


Leaving Hostility Off the Table

Many leave the restaurant industry due to a hostile work environment. Reports show that sexual harassment can be pervasive in the industry. Implementing a formal sexual harassment training program can help prevent situations before they start. Beyond harassment, some first-person accounts show a culture where staying silent about toxic coworkers can become the norm. Consider creating a formal process to file and address complaints. While this may seem like you are asking for trouble, you are more likely making your workers feel empowered, which can be rare in the restaurant industry. This support—feeling like an employer has their back—can help retain your employees for a more extended period.

restaurant watiers
Keep your employees safe

Safety During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented concern for safety in the restaurant industry that was difficult to ignore. Many employees felt powerless when their restaurants’ mask-wearing, cleaning, or social distancing protocols did not align with CDC guidelines. Keeping up to date with the current guidelines is imperative to creating a safe space for employees. Continued training surrounding the evolving safety procedures can help remind restaurant workers that their safety is valued.


For all of these reasons and more, it’s crucial to have access to a restaurant training program. Programs like these help create a solid foundation to ensure restaurant workers feel valued even through the most challenging times. Adequate training (should this link to the new website instead of the regular Synergy one?) can help secure the future of the entire industry.