Stop the Turnover Bleeding

Bandaged thumbs up
Follow this advice and everything will be fine. Image: Csaba Deli / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Got turnover? Of course you do. All restaurants and bars do. The real question is, how much turnover do you have?

If you don’t know your turnover rate you need to figure it out because there’s great profit potential hidden in your turnover numbers.

Taking into account that the average restaurant in the United States has a turnover rate of 73%—and adding $5,864, the average cost to replace a front line employee according to The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell—that can add up to a lot of money being tossed to feed the turnover beast lurking around your restaurant or bar. Yeah, turnover is like karma: it’s a bitch.

Turnover is something we don’t want to think or even talk about, but it’s time we do. You see that big, hairy monster standing in the middle of the room? Let’s talk about that beast that’s slowly eating away at your precious profits.

Be warned: This talk will most likely wipe the smile off your face, and fast.

Turnover is Your Own Damn Fault

That revelation tends to cause the excuses to start flowing like Hurricanes at Mardi Gras:

“Wait! Wait! You don’t understand—my market is different! It’s hard to find good people! These kids today just don’t want to work!” Blah, blah, blah.

Read this: Train Your Way to a Hospitality Empire

What the real issue here is victim thinking. You don’t get the results you want so you start pointing the finger at everything except the real problem. (Oh, that would be you, by the way.) You’re the problem causing a good portion of your turnover headaches, and you’re also the solution to reducing its impact on your bottom line.

Select Better Players

Taking anyone with a pulse to work in your restaurant or bar is never a good idea. The selection process is your first and most effective way to stop the turnover bleeding. Write these words down: Who you allow on your team is one of your most critical duties you as an owner (or leader). If you have no expectations for hiring then don’t get pissed off when they meet those standards.

Have some better interview questions besides the boring standards. (“Tell me what you liked about your last job?” Snooze.) The quality of your interview questions will determine the quality of people who get selected to join your team.

Read this: Stop Whining About Hiring

Just like you need a wide variety of pitches you can throw in baseball to keep a batter from hitting a homer every at bat, you need to avoid asking the same interview questions everyone else asks. People seeking jobs know what you want to hear. If they’ve clever, they will have practiced the right answers. Some people interview very well and it’s not until you select them for your team that you realize they were a bad hire.

Train Them or Trade Them

You second duty is to train your team constantly. Here’s the common mistake: most train their team until they get it right, then stop. You must, instead, train until they can’t get it wrong.

Habits are only created by constant and consistent repetition. Do you think Michael Jordan shot 1,000 free throws and said, “Yeah, I got that down now—I can stop.”? Don’t kid yourself, professions are always sharpening their edges with consistent practice. School is never out for the pro.

Now, if someone isn’t a good team fit after you’ve put in some effort to train them and instill productive habits, it’s also your duty to trade them to another restaurant where they might flourish. Holding onto poor performers because you might run “short staffed” is a lazy person’s excuse and it wreaks havoc on your team. The A players hate when you won’t get rid of a C player. They have to work twice as hard to make up for the lack of results from the their ill-fitting teammate. Dump them.

Your Culture is the Kool-Aid

If you’re still bleeding out from turnover troubles even with a killer selection and training process, then it comes down to your culture. You might think you have an epic culture. You may be shocked that people don’t want to work at your restaurant or bar. Have a seat because this one is a hard pill to swallow:

Read this: Why You Struggle with Hiring

You culture kinda sucks and people don’t want to work for you. Okay, it’s out there—let’s deal with it.

Culture is More than Money

Your culture is more than a paycheck. It’s more than a free meal. It’s more than a flexible schedule. It’s how your team feels about your brand. Yes, it’s the emotional connection people have when they think of you.

Money is nice.

Appreciation and gratitude are better.

Training is nice.

Coaching people to become leaders is better.

A free meal is nice.

Having the entire team share in the tip pool is better.

Culture is the energy and emotions behind your brand. It can’t be faked. It can’t be forced. It has to be nurtured every single day by a leader who cares about their team. Culture starts with you as the owner or leader in your restaurant.

You have to step up and drink the Kool-Aid of what you’re preaching yourself before you’ll see your team take a sip.

Look at the Map

If you are ever lost in the woods the first thing to do is find out where the hell you are. You must have a sense of orientation for the terrain around you. After you find your location on the map (you are here), you must know where you want to go.

Stopping the turnover bleeding is a very similar process. Find out what your turnover rate truly is currently. Then plan to reduce it by 10 to 20 percent.

If your culture is dynamic, your recruiting consistent, your selection process a challenge, your onboarding solid, and your training teaches your team the skills required to excel at their jobs instead of just getting by, you will see a drop in your turnover. You might even find a few more zeros on your monthly P&L as well. Now that will surely put a smile on your face!

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