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National Restaurant Association - Tools for tackling turnover

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Tools for tackling turnover

As the industry’s employee-turnover rate inches up, take some time to concentrate on how to retain employees. Below, two operators share their tools for tackling turnover.

A guide to hiring

The first step to boosting employee retention is to hire the right people, says Tom Clark, area partner for FATZ Café, which has 47 locations across the Southeast. When FATZ’s annual turnover rate for hourly employees hovered around125 percent in 2009, the company decided to revamp its hiring process. 

A company taskforce developed interview guides to help managers ask questions that identify whether an applicant is a good fit. “We put a lot of emphasis on finding a certain personality,” Clark says. “We’re looking for someone who is happy, a doer, a natural team player, who is always helping others. The questions are designed to bring out an applicant’s personality and accomplishments.” Previously, managers were on their own to decide what to ask, with no guidance as to what questions would help them find the best applicants.

The taskforce created interview guides for six positions from prep cook to server. Each guide includes questions about skills and knowledge, personal attributes, availability, previous experience and job accomplishments. The guides include space for interviewers to rate each response and make notes, as well as rate personality traits, such as enthusiasm and communication skills. Each guide also comes with a job description so that interviewers can accurately describe the work to applicants. (Click here to see a sample guide.)

FATZ launched a three-interview process when it introduced the interview guides. “Applicants are interviewed by three different managers who get together and compare notes,” Clark says. The improved screening process resulted in better hiring decisions, he says, noting the annual turnover rate for hourly employees has dropped to 90 percent.

Tracking turnover

High turnover can lead to inefficiencies that chip away at profits. “The longer you keep an employee, the more knowledgeable and efficient he or she becomes,” says Tom Boucher, co-owner and CEO of Great New Hampshire Restaurants, which operates T-Bones, Cactus Jack’s and Copper Door restaurants. “That can help you with everything from food costs to food quality to customer service.”

Boucher keeps an eye on the turnover at his eight restaurant locations by tracking the information monthly on a spreadsheet. The turnover rates are broken down by location and then divided into kitchen and dining room staff. The stats are recorded for the past month, three months and six months. The bottom line shows the average turnover rates companywide. The setup lets upper management easily compare the retention rates from one restaurant to another. (Click here to see a sample of this type of spreadsheet.)

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