Attracting Good Restaurant Employees

 In 1. David Scott Peters, Employees, Labor

Attracting good restaurant employees is one of the biggest challenges for an independent restaurant owner. One of the key lessons I’ve learned over my years in the restaurant business is that not everyone works for you just for money. Money is a factor, but people are looking for much more.

So how do you provide the “much more?”

Many years ago now, Fred Langley best articulated what you have to strive for if you want to attract and keep the very best people on your team. He said you have to become the “Employer of Choice.” So what does that mean?

Without going into the whole explanation behind clinical psychologist Frederick Herzberg’s, “Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory,” let’s cover the key factors beyond money that he says motivate people to work and work hard:

  1. Supervision – Make sure you have a management team that coaches employees to success, understands what makes each employee unique and is able to push their buttons to get the best of your people.
  2. Fair compensation – While you don’t have to be at the top of your market’s pay scale, you certainly cannot be at the bottom.
  3. Good working conditions – Make sure you have a clean restaurant, that you have all the right equipment and tools for your employees to do their jobs, and make safety a priority.
  4. Interpersonal relationships – Avoid at all costs having a management team that thinks all of their people are stupid and treats them like crap. Remember, this is a people business and it all starts with your internal customers.
  5. Recognition – Look for people doing things right in your restaurant and give them kudos when you see it. It’s easy to find people doing something wrong. When you focus on the good things, you create a positive work environment where people want to continue to please you vs. just waiting for the scolding.
  6. Responsibility – Sometimes you have great employees who have been with you for many years who NEVER want to be a part of the management team. Yet, they are willing to do more. Look to teach and assign them tasks that make the company better and get more done. Allow them to be a more valued asset on the team and they will be motivated to do more.
  7. Achievement – With responsibility there are often measurable results. When your team sees how what they do has a direct positive impact on the business, they get a real sense of achievement, which makes them want more.
  8. Advancement – Remember money is not the only thing people are looking for when they join your management team. Many want to know that there is a clear path to promotion and advancement in your company. Whether it’s moving up the management ladder, moving into the next better paying line position or gaining the skills that make them more valuable in their career, there needs to be a clear path to advancement that’s based on doing a good job, not who you are sucking up to.
  9. Work itself – I remember my first jobs in the restaurant business were washing dishes, and I hated it. It felt thankless to me, and I was probably not mature enough to want to work that hard as a young teen. Moving up in my career, I’ve always kept that in the back of my mind when managing employees. You need to make sure the job, no matter what level in your organization, is rewarding.

High employee turnover is expensive and disruptive to any business. With training and systems in place, you start with employees who know what their job is and what is expected of them. But to keep them long term, you have to be an “employer of choice.” If you properly address the majority of these factors, you’ll be one!


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