Take Nick Sarillo, owner of three Nick’s Pizza & Pub restaurants in Chicago, which employ 260 staff in total. When he opened Nick’s 23 years, he made employee retention a cornerstone of his eateries. Indeed he runs intensive training session and posts his values on its website. For years, he maintained an 80 percent retention rate, and based on the restaurant’s strong reputation, he could rely on a stack of resumes when a staffer left.
But those applications are thinning out, and his retention rate has dipped to 70 percent. Last week, an experienced manager informed him that he had been offered a 35 percent increase in salary, which he couldn’t decline.
When Sarillo met recently with his leadership team, they brainstormed innovative solutions. The restaurants have always had a sign posted outside that said: “We’re Always Hiring Great Team Members.” Now it’s printing a note and handing it out with each check at the end of each mail to reinforce that theme.
In addition, he’s offering a $100 referral fee to current employees who recommend someone that is hired, and for the first time he’s attending a job fair.
Ultimately, retaining staff is about “taking care of employees, putting them first, and customers second,” Sarillo says.
Nonetheless, negative stories about toiling at many eateries abound. In fact, many restaurant managers aren’t helping their cause, says consultant Camillo. When wait staff and kitchen staff “find every day stressful and chaotic, every day is a new drama or conflict du jour, and they don’t know exactly what it takes to do a good job,” the restaurant is going to face a hard time hiring, and, most of all, retaining staff.
Providing a “living wage,” so wait staff aren’t living in the throes of poverty is one way to attract new staff, Camillo says.
Being a waiter is difficult and tough and involves delivering constantly superior customer service. Many wait staff have to relinquish holidays, work irregular schedules, and deal with demanding customers.