Out-of-the-Box Retention Ideas for Restaurants

Out-of-the-Box Strategies to Retain Employees

February 11, 2020
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Good employees are hard to hold onto, especially in the restaurant industry where employee turnover is notoriously high. Sure, you can turn to some of the tried-and-true strategies to help retain staff, but why not get creative? Ensure your employees stay on board (and have fun while doing it) with these out-of-the-box retention strategies.  


Host featured-chef events. 

Give up-and-coming chefs a chance to step out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight by letting them play the role of executive chef at special events or pop-up dinners. By offering occasional opportunities like these, you can keep your staff motivated and give them a chance to show off their skills. Meanwhile, it’s a great opportunity to market events at your restaurant. To execute these events successfully, establish a limited menu well in advance. This gives staff time to practice and perfect their menu offerings and allows you enough lead time to promote the event through your various marketing channels. 


Plan after-hours education. 

Investing in after-hours education is a win-win practice for restaurant employers and employees alike. It shows employees you’re invested in their professional growth, and at the same time, you reap the benefits of a more knowledgeable staff. To make sure the education you’re offering is engaging, poll your team to see what kind of classes they’re interested in. Whether it’s global cooking classes, mixology or pastry making, mix it up and nurture their interests (and your business) with fun after-hours classes. 


Hold kitchen cook-offs. 

Encourage your staff to channel their competitive spirit with kitchen cook-offs. Set up a specific challenge for them to cook a crowd-pleasing favorite like pizza. Make sure to lay out all the specifics, such as time, ingredient, and equipment parameters. Also make it a collaborative exercise by dividing the kitchen staff into teams, and letting the front of house staff be the judges. This allows cooks to practice their craft, but as a bonus, it doubles as a team-building exercise. Creating these fun challenges contributes to a positive workplace culture, which is key for employee engagement.  


Make it a game. 

Don’t confine the friendly competition to the kitchen. Incentivize front-of-house staff to sell more with gamification challenges. Whether you assign points for upselling certain items or enrolling customers in loyalty programs, establish a scoring system and create a leaderboard so staff members know where they stand. Designate a set time period for the challenge and have clear-cut goals to motivate staff. Once the competition’s complete, offer awards to the staff members that sell the most. This type of recognition helps with retention and — even sweeter — boosts your profits. 


All-around retention.

Experiment with these creative retention strategies to see what resonates with employees. And while you’re thinking about retention, don’t forget about customers. Keep them coming back by trying out some of these experiential dining tactics.

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