How to Combat Employee ‘Shopping’ in the Restaurant Industry


Thanks largely to the pandemic, the Great Resignation still exists in some industries, notably within foodservice establishments and the restaurant industry. For operators, the struggle to find high-quality restaurant workers is real, forcing many restaurants and fast casual operators to offer bonuses and incentives to attract new hires. While this worked to attract and hire restaurant employees, it hasn’t always helped keep them employed.

Unfortunately, the allure of these bonuses led to a different problem, employee ‘shopping.’ This happens when a worker gets hired, satisfies bonus requirements, then leaves shortly after to the next position. With the restaurant turnover rate already so high, establishments couldn’t afford to keep these bonuses up.

Fortunately, there are ways for companies to attract and retain top-tier restaurant employees with incentives that won’t leave them high and dry. Let’s discuss these methods in detail.

Ways to Combat Employee Shopping:

1) Spread Out the Financial Incentives

During the height of the Great Resignation, many restaurants scrambled to find people. So they offered massive bonuses with little oversight. While that enthusiasm has since cooled down, many restaurant workers know their worth and are still looking for places that offer financial incentives.

One way to bridge the gap and create a win-win situation? For operators to spread these incentives over a longer period. So, instead of getting $1,000 after 90 days, workers may get incremental bonuses after three and six months, with a raise after a year. A longer schedule can, at the very least, extend the restaurant turnover rate, so it’s not quite so disruptive.

2) Invest in Restaurant Employees’ Recognition

Although financial compensation is a driving factor for many restaurant employees, many want to feel valued and rewarded for their efforts. Servers, chefs, and other kitchen staff can bust their butts during peak hours. But if management doesn’t seem to care, why should they?

Employee recognition systems can include a variety of rewards and benefits. Some that are popular are promotions, perks, titles (i.e., an employee of the month), and more. That said, operators need to ensure that workers see value in these items, so the recognition is meaningful, not just a “pat on the back.”

3) Try to Remain Flexible

The foodservice industry is innately adaptable. As trends can shift on a dime, it forces operators to meet new demands all the time. This adaptability also needs to extend to the workers. That includes offering PTO, higher wages for holidays or weekends, and allowing individuals to pick their preferred schedule.

While not all of these options are available everywhere at all times, operators should make an effort to be as flexible as possible. The more effort they put into their staff, the more effort the employees will put into their work.

4) Make Kitchen Jobs Easier

Even with recognition programs and sign-on bonuses, there’s one hard truth for many foodservice establishments – the work can often be demanding and exhausting. Burnout is a real problem, especially for restaurants that are already short-staffed. So, operators can alleviate the workload with high-tech solutions.

Smart fryers, automated cooking equipment, upgraded POS systems – all of these pieces make it easier for restaurant employees to stay productive without getting burnt out. Plus, when operators invest in these devices, they can often improve return on investment and customer service, making the experience better for everyone involved.

What is the real cost of labor? We’ve created a calculator to help you find out.

Try the Middleby Labor Calculator to help determine an accurate estimate of how much you’re spending on restaurant employees’ labor. Enter some simple data, and we’ll tell you the details of your human investment.

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Pew Research

Topics: Foodservice Industry Trends, Restaurants