Leslie Park Lynn is a 15 year restaurant industry veteran.
How can employee loyalty impact profitability? Think about it this way: One of the key elements of a restaurant’s financial success is managing its labor costs. It’s a push-pull proposition that often rides the thin line between having enough staff to deliver a great experience and blowing labor targets and compromising profitability. By building loyalty among it’s team members restaurant operators can more easily control labor by increasing productivity, lowering training costs and drastically reducing turnover. It’s often an overlooked component and generally not on the radar screen of most restaurant operators. But worst of all, the concept of inspiring employee loyalty is often missing from the core values of the brand because many fail to recognize that loyalty is a two-way street.
Building brand loyalty among your employees must start with a healthy culture in your restaurant. Many operators believe that loyalty should come automatically to anyone receiving a paycheck in their restaurant. Nothing could be further from the truth. The paycheck an employee receives is simply the business fulfilling its end of the employment contract with the employee. Loyalty cannot be bought. It can only be inspired.
Building Loyalty Begins With Your Culture
Restaurant owners must understand that the culture in their establishment is the underlying determinant of success in almost every important element of their restaurant’s operation. The culture of a restaurant is not something that happens by accident and it is not created by lots of rules and regulations. The culture in your restaurant is a direct reflection of how valued employees feel and how well they are treated.
There are some relatively simple ways to build a healthy culture in your restaurant. Establishing clear values and setting standards helps employees understand what is expected of them. Showing fairness and consistency in applying these standards helps employees understand that you have brand standards that you are not willing to compromise. From this, respect for the brand and its management grows as does compliance. Recognizing good performance reinforces this and encourages others to participate. It is a building process but one that puts an organization on the path to excellence and employee loyalty.
Hire the Right People
It is important that restaurant owners and managers spend the proper amount of time on the hiring process and actively recruit employees that are a good fit for the brand and the organization. As the old saying goes, there is a lid for every pot and that is equally applicable to hiring. Some people are just not right for some positions and vice versa. Putting someone in a position where they lack the skill set or personality to succeed is demoralizing for the employee and damaging and costly to the restaurant. Excellent managers know how to place people in their organization where they are operating at their highest and best potential. Someone who is quiet and thoughtful may not be the best choice for a front of the house position but may be excellent working behind the scenes. Choosing the best person for the job takes patience and discipline on the part of the hiring manager.
Give Them a Grand Welcome
Indoctrinating a new employee into your organization properly is an important first step in creating a loyal, productive employee. Create a process to help them feel welcome and part of the team on day one. Use your best employees as brand ambassadors to help them transition in and train your new employees well for the job they have been hired to do. As a manager, dedicate the time needed to get them off to a pleasant and confident start and make sure you spend a few minutes at the end of the day to give them encouragement and feedback. An employee’s mindset at the end of their first day on the job is a large determinant of how it will be moving forward.
Reach Past The Workday
Smart operators know that taking a personal interest in their employees, their interests outside of work and their home life helps make employees feel important to the organization and valued. This includes being mindful of the work/life balance and prioritizing the well being of employees both on and off the job. An employee that is well supported at home brings an extra dimension and level of energy to the job so make an effort to know what’s going on at home and do what is necessary to support their lives there. Doing this shows your employees that you genuinely care about them as a person and that you value them as an employee. Whatever it costs the organization to be supportive in this way to their employees will be paid back in spades over the long run.
Recognize, Recognize, Recognize!
Employee recognition is not a new concept but one that is, quite honestly, poorly executed in most restaurant organizations. This is because there is no defined set of standards to measure against and the process is haphazard at best. It’s ok to be spontaneous in your recognition of an employee if you witness over the top excellence but the foundation of any good employee recognition and reward program is a structured set of expectations and standards and a means to realizing when they have been exceeded. Healthy competition in the workplace is a driver of enhanced performance so a robust reward system is important. Keep your standards high to make your recognition meaningful to both the employee and the rest of the team. Employees that are “bought in” will work hard for the recognition. Ones that are not a good fit will self terminate and move on.
You Get What You Give
Being a generous employer is not alway easy as the demands of the business and the pressure to produce a profit can be a heavy weight but generosity towards your employees can be accomplished in a number of simple ways. From crew meals served family style prior to shift to a good benefit package there are a myriad of ways to give to your employees. What may seem to be a costly idea on paper could actually be a cost saver in the long run in terms of productivity and employee retention. Generosity isn’t always monetary. Generosity can come in the form of your time or in accommodating a special circumstance in the employee’s life. When you give generously you establish a relationship that fosters an environment that makes your restaurant employees want to give back to the organization, stay in their jobs and talk positively about who they work for.
The Bottom Line
So what does this all mean to your bottom line and how can it help in keeping your labor in line?
Loyal and inspired employees are more productive and efficient at their jobs. They feel a personal connection to the brand they work for and to those that manage them and are willing to work harder and go above and beyond. Moreover, the retention rate of these employees is astronomically higher resulting in lower overall training costs for the restaurant and, even more importantly, higher customer service and satisfaction. Having loyal, engaged, satisfied employee’s translates directly to increased sales, lower operating costs and better profits. Take the time to carefully craft your company culture and get your employees engaged in your business and your brand because loyal, inspired employees are instrumental in taking a restaurant’s success to new heights.