Alongside paying a competitive wage, here are some ways to increase employee engagement and success in your restaurants.

For restaurant owners, hiring and retaining employees has always been a key focal point. Over the last few years, that challenge has intensified with an unprecedented competition for talent. During the Great Resignation of 2021, more than 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs. One-fourth of those were in the hospitality industry. And, as of early 2022, the US Bureau of Labor was reporting 11.5 million open jobs, with no signs of competition for labor slowing down. So how can restaurants mitigate the challenges and increase retention and employee satisfaction?

There’s good news. While these challenges are complex, there’s a wide variety of tactics for restaurateurs to use. Alongside paying a competitive wage, here are some ways to increase employee engagement and success in your restaurants.

Cultivate respect

According to research done by Pew Research, the primary reason workers left their positions during the Great Resignation of 2021, was due to feeling disrespected at work. Employees who feel disrespected may not always leave, but they likely won’t perform as well.

Sixty-nine percent of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being better recognized. Cultivate a work culture where individuals can see the direct impact their work has on your organization. Make sure you are giving positive feedback and are open to hearing feedback from your employees as well. A great work culture starts with a safe work environment.

Resolve inner-team conflicts

Conflicts between employees happen. Handling conflicts can be one of the most demanding challenges restaurant managers and owners face. Assuming the role of a team leader that can help coordinate communication will alleviate long-term pent-up frustrations stemming from employee conflicts. Aligned with creating a culture of respect and open communication, creating a space where conflicts can be resolved will help ensure employees feel valued, heard, and understood.

Offer advancement opportunities and new career growth

In addition to a healthy work environment, consider new ways to offer advancement opportunities and career growth. A recent LinkedIn study shows that 94 percent of employees would stay with their current employer longer if they invested in their career development. Give your employees opportunities to learn new skills, get on-the-job training, take advantage of online courses, and provide them with a clear career progression path.

Consider giving employees a chance to take on new roles by shadowing, mentoring, or sharing knowledge in other ways. Empowered employees are more fulfilled and often relish the opportunity to take on new responsibilities.

Use and embrace the right technology and tools

You may have been at a restaurant and seen an employee apologizing over a slow card reader, or a printer that notoriously gets the paper stuck when printing receipts. By making sure your technology, tools, and systems are up to date, you can limit day-to-day work stressors. Check with your staff to see if there are any systems, tools, or processes that are sticky and fix any minute issues to ensure employees can effectively manage daily operations.

While you can’t get rid of tedious chores like health inspections, or nightly cleaning protocols, you can simplify these processes. Today’s innovative tech solutions streamline tasks and processes, so your employees can spend more time focusing on guests, and less time on administrative tasks.

Additionally, digital scheduling systems will eliminate the need for paper schedules, sticky notes, texts, or email-based scheduling. Many restaurant workers listed leaving their positions due to burn-out or not getting enough hours. With a digital scheduling system, you can let your employees enter in hours they are available and can assign and view shifts all through one platform.

This way, you can ensure your employees are getting enough hours, your restaurant is staffed appropriately at all times for demand and prevent burnout. Embracing technological innovation can help your employees, as well as your business, operate and run more effectively.

Incentives and benefits

Many restaurateurs are looking to increase benefits to entice and retain employees. Healthcare and 401ks are top of the list for brands that can afford it. For those who can’t, there are still opportunities to get creative around PTO, bonuses, flexible scheduling, company-provided devices and more.

Don’t forget to say thank you

It’s easy to forget the power of small gifts of gratitude. Say thank you to your employees for a job well done. Show them that you care. A card on their birthday, or a hand-written thank you note goes a long way. By celebrating your staff during one-to-one conversations, meetings, or even on social media, small tokens of appreciation help make employees grateful to show up to work and do their best.

Industry evolution and competition are at an all-time high. However, this also means, that the opportunity to stand above the competition and develop a workplace that promotes teamwork, safety, innovation, and personal development is at an all-time high. There are many ways for restaurateurs to get creative with what aligns best for their restaurants.

What tactics have your restaurants used to boost morale and retention? Let us know in the comments!

Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-house restaurant management platform. Greg focuses on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of intelligent, integrated back-of-house technology. For more information or to discuss SynergySuite’s solutions, please contact Greg at

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees