Why Restaurant Managers Quit and How to Lower Turnover

Ed Crofton

Ed Crofton, Gecko Hospitality

Turnover doesn’t have one easy explanation or a simple solution. People leave jobs for all kinds of reasons. While it’s easy to claim money is the reason people leave restaurants, that’s only true some of the time. For example, a new Restaurant Manager started working in a popular Waikiki restaurant on a Tuesday. He was replacing a Manager who started only two weeks ago. The original Manager quit her first break, she walked outside to get some air and never came back. Surely that was not about money as she wasn’t there long enough to collect her first paycheck. In fact, she never cared enough to come back for her paycheck!

Reducing turnover is about figuring out which of the following is the primary cause of your turnover. In the workplace, employees typically don’t perform the way we want them to for these reasons: Either they don’t have the ability to do the work; they aren’t motivated to do the work; or something in the environment is stopping them from doing the work.

Lack of Ability can be influenced by doing a better job of recruiting, selecting, and training new employees. In order to obtain quality Restaurant Managers, the initial interview should last close to one hour, not fifteen minutes and should not be seen as a chore. The person conducting the interview should play close attention to the prospective Manager’s skillsets and disposition. The ideal Restaurant Manager will have a great balance of the capabilities needed to take care of business while having fun along the way.

When you have a good team, make sure new hires fit. Once a new Restaurant Manager is hired, much attention must be given to the “On-Boarding” process. The new Manager deserves to feel welcomed and excited for his/her new career venture! Early training holds the key to the new Manager’s success and is too important to delegate to someone not qualified or competent just to save time or labor dollars. Remember, the first days on a new job will put even the most confident people on edge. If you care for your people in these early days, the memory of your effort will imprint on their loyalty gene.

Motivation is affected by how we compensate and reward, measure and manage performance, and what kind of culture we have. Compensation and Rewards do not just involve money; other things like advancement and development opportunities, job security, and benefits all affect how the Restaurant Manager views his/her job. Rewards can be a powerful force. Restaurant Managers, just like other professionals, like to be rewarded for a job well done and appreciate receiving feedback.

Social Relationships are also extremely important in the Hospitality Industry. While it is not advised to become best friends with the staff, a good Restaurant Manager knows the most important thing they can do is to build positive relationships with their team. By doing this, the lines of communication open and the Manager will know what motivates each employee.

Managing Performance is an art form. The majority of today’s Restaurant Managers grew up with video games and competition, so to them winning matters. This can be used as an advantage. Post metrics for the top performing restaurants in the area, and challenge your Management Team to come up with ways of beating them. Establish an environment where feedback about ways to improve is not only OK, but is welcomed and expected.

Another factor within motivation is Culture. Many behavior experts think culture would win a cage fight against compensation and performance management. Culture involves the informal rules and rewards that build up over time in a store and have a significant impact on how members of management and staff behave. If there is anything that will drive a quality Manager away, it would be the lack of culture in the Restaurant. Look in the mirror, if you are not happy with the way the Restaurant runs when you are not watching, then you are lacking in culture. Everyone is motivated by something different and knowing this information is essential in building a relationship within the restaurant and keeping turnover low. Figure out which of the above factors – or lack thereof – could be the causes of your employee turnover. If Managers leave because the pay isn’t good, that is one thing, but if they leave because of things you can control and don’t do effectively, that’s a different story.

Ed Crofton has been a Restaurant and Hotel Executive Recruiter with Gecko Hospitality here in Hawaii since 2011. His 40-year restaurant career and passion for the industry has made him successful in matching talented people with great companies.  Ed can be reached at ed@geckohospitality.com or 808-895-1860.


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