Tips to unlocking retention skills of your managers and staff


We’ve all heard that 80 per cent of your results come from 20 per cent of your effort, but that’s not the challenge addressed in this article. There’s currently a much larger problem at play in the foodservice industry — the labour crisis, and its impact is being felt on everyone — from restaurant staff and operators, to vendors and distributors. So much attention is being placed on how we attract and retain staff — as there should be — but there is a short-term challenge impacting leaders in the foodservice industry today. 

Research shows the average restaurant is short 20 per cent of its staff daily. That means two leaders are missing at a minimum every time a restaurant opens its doors. What I would like to re-frame in this article as an opportunity is simply this: most operations are still building their plans, service strategies and management deliverables expecting full leadership, management and staffing levels in place. This really hit home for me when my phone rang daily with calls from top-performing groups experiencing dramatic leadership turnover. 

“I lost four managers last week.”

“Both my GM and chef walked out.”

“My managers are leaving; they say it’s for personal or mental-wellness reasons… but is it?”

Using the 80/20 concept to improve retention 
Be honest, be vulnerable and be real: If your restaurant is short-staffed, how can you have a real conversation with your team? You know it, your staff knows it, but if we’re not talking about the reality your restaurant is facing, how can the team can come together to solve it? Our industry is resilient, scrappy and finds a way, but it takes trust and teamwork to make it through. Showing vulnerability and co-creating your strategy for managing the critical months ahead is the first step.

Make your people feel seen valued and heard: I’ve interacted with more than 2,500 leaders through my workshops this year alone. I’ve looked many people in the eyes and said, “I see you, I hear you, and I value you.” Whether they were entrepreneurs, leaders, managers or staff, many of them are visibly emotional about what those words mean to them. I know you care about your people; I know you value them, but I want you to make sure that they know. This is the gap we can all close between connection (retention) and disconnection (turnover). 

Stop building plans that expect your staff levels to be at 100 per cent: This is simple, this is logical, but I’m not seeing it being done. If you experience consistent management and staff turnover, be sure to plan your guest experience, management expectations and leadership goals based on the reality of your team’s capacity. I’m not asking you to pull back on your goals; just plan based on capacity. The benefit of this can be trust, engagement and an improved sense of teamwork. The risk if you don’t is potential quiet quitting at all levels of the operation or company, burnout and turnover. 

In order to change our results, we need to change the way we communicate. 

By Matt Rolfe – For more support, tools, and processes to help engagement, retention and attraction email [email protected] or follow him on LinkedIn @MattRolfe.

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