Does Improved Employee Morale Reduce Turnover in Restaurants?

Posted on June 14, 2017 by Michelle Locke

Turnover is a constant concern of restaurant owners and managers everywhere. As we’ve written before, turnover in restaurants is expensive: the cost to advertise a job, interview, and hire a new employee, plus the on-boarding training… A 2012 study for the Center for American Progress showed that it costs one-fifth of an employee’s pay to replace that employee if they quit. It’s exhausting just to think about.

Turnover is directly related to employee morale. We’ve seen this point argued elsewhere, that sometimes in restaurants, morale and culture don’t matter when it comes to turnover. But we here at Waitrainer+ just don’t believe that’s true. The facts are too black and white to be interpreted otherwise.

How, exactly, does restaurant culture and employee morale contribute to turnover? Here are a few points to consider.

Poor morale & culture gives employees an excuse to leave.


They have a job. They know how to do their job well. They enjoy being a server, or prep cook. But they don’t love where they work: they don’t like the management, they see employees being treated poorly, they don’t feel they’re encouraged to support their coworkers and they definitely don’t feel like they can confide their concerns to their manager.

So while they have a job they love, they look to leave. Why? Because the bad environment gives them an excuse to look elsewhere. Once something is bad enough they can use it as an excuse (the management is bad and doesn’t lead by example; no one listens to their concerns; everyone is walking on eggshells, terrified to make mistakes), they find other reasons they need to get another job.

They quit. You hire someone else. And soon enough, your other rockstar employee is turning in their notice too…

Another huge contributor to low employee morale, and high turnover, is the inability to grow at a job. If employees don’t see opportunities for growth, they aren’t going to be committed to a job. No one wants to be a busser for their entire career; they’ll eventually want to be a host, a server, a prep cook, perhaps a manager.

If a restaurant never hires from within and never promotes workers, those employees aren’t going to stay. They’ll look for opportunities elsewhere so that they can grow into better positions with higher pay and more benefits.

What can you do to improve morale?


We believe that improving morale is the secret to reducing your restaurant’s turnover rate. Want some tips? We really love this article and this one about how employee morale impacts turnover. To summarize, here are a few ideas for improving morale:

  • Trust your employees. Ask for honest feedback—and don’t get mad when they tell you something needs to change, even if it’s close to your heart. A recipe you love that just isn’t working? A chef that’s doing a bad job? A relative you’ve hired that doesn’t pull their weight? Listen to them.
  • Offer opportunities for advancement and increased pay. It’s fine to start an employee at minimum wage, but once they’ve worked their way up, their pay needs to increase accordingly.
  • Ensure your managers are being fair.
  • Acknowledge burnout. Your employees are human and even the best, most dedicated employees can’t do the same tedious tasks over and over without getting exhausted.
  • Employ team building activities in pre-shift meetings.