More Upkeep, Less Turnover

by Katie Lee

The most surprising reason for staff turnover….is facility management.

By Shawn Rouse

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. hospitality and restaurant industry saw a 72.1% employee turnover/separation rate in 2015, up significantly from the previous year. This is a serious concern for restaurant owners and operators, as it has a tremendous effect on the bottom line. Finding and training new employees is expensive and time-consuming. In fact, Investopedia reports that the cost for the entire hiring process can run as high as $3,500 per hourly employee.

For quite some time, restaurant turnover has been on the upswing, and industry experts continue to scratch their heads at this phenomenon. Potential causes range from poor oversight by ineffective managers, to less-than-stellar benefits, to the availability of many other jobs in the industry.

However, there is a pivotal reason that has rarely been mentioned — and one I’d argue is having a significant impact on restaurant employees’ decisions to leave their jobs. Across the country, poor facility management is taking a toll on the morale and efficiency of FOH and BOH staff. Outdated, unsafe, inefficient and low-quality equipment, combined with poor site upkeep, is a major contributor to the loss of talented team members. When restaurant employees don’t have the equipment they need to do their jobs, and their environment is neither well-kept nor aesthetically pleasing, a destructive domino effect is set into motion. Employees become frustrated and take less pride in their workspaces, jobs and day-to-day tasks. Eventually, they look elsewhere for employment.

The importance of a clean, safe, efficient and aesthetically pleasing workspace is well-documented. Employees in all industries consistently report higher levels of productivity and morale when they are working in positive, well-kept spaces. A study by the American Society of Interior Designers showed that employees who like their work environments were 31% more likely to be satisfied in their jobs.

While this study focused primarily on office workers, the findings are also useful to hospitality leaders facing high turnover among their hourly staff. The basic fact is that workers across all industries and job types require and appreciate a well-kept work environment. In the restaurant business, it’s critically important to maintain a clean, organized, efficient and attractive site — both in the front of house, and in the back.

Unfortunately, too many restaurant owners and managers are neglecting their site maintenance and upkeep. While they may be prioritizing front of house aesthetics for the sake of the customers, they’re investing little time, energy or money into the equipment that keeps the restaurant running efficiently. In the back of the house, the situation is often far worse. Equipment breaks down or operates inefficiently, and isn’t replaced right away. Cleanliness standards and regular maintenance checkups are disregarded — either due to costs, staff shortages or because of other emergent issues.

Now, no one is denying the day-to-day challenges faced by restaurant operators. Running a profitable establishment, keeping customers happy and adhering to food quality and safety standards is a constant struggle. The nature of the restaurant and hospitality business is such that crises caused by customers, employees, equipment or other issues are bound to regularly arise. Owners and managers must contend with all of this and more, while keeping the business running as smoothly as possible. It’s easy and understandable to let site maintenance fall farther and farther down the ever-expanding list of priorities. But after years of teaming up with restaurateurs and business owners across the U.S., I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of devoting serious time, energy and resources to site upkeep. When this is done successfully, everyone wins — especially the employees.

How can your restaurants begin to improve the morale of your employees by improving your facility management? Get started by looking at the critical equipment your employees rely on every day, and work to establish a solid asset management strategy. I’ve got three pointers to get you started:

  1. Find Ways to Utilize Technology

Facility maintenance is hands-on work, but the management of tasks, timelines, processes, vendors and costs shouldn’t be. Technology exists to make our jobs and lives easier, and we should be welcoming these tools into our businesses — not sticking with the same methods we used generations ago. Whether you choose to use a simple spreadsheet for tracking, or invest in a sophisticated cloud-based platform that can manage the needs of dozens or hundreds of facilities, your team can benefit from using technology to apply some real structure and rigor to monitoring and optimizing your site upkeep. The bottom line is that you’ll secure better organized and more accurate data with the help of technology than without.

  1. Analyze Your Data

Through better use of technology and record keeping, your team will have access to transparent data on your restaurants and their facility upkeep. Periodically, your leaders should take the time to examine this data. Regular analysis will help you to identify opportunities for streamlining outdated processes, improving efficiencies, and saving on costs. For example, you may notice that you’re spending an exorbitant amount of money to repair a certain piece of kitchen equipment and see a trend across multiple restaurant sites. Perhaps you’ll decide that the cumulative cost of repairs is so high that it would be smarter to upgrade to a higher-quality equipment model that is less likely to break down.

  1. Explore New Vendors

Finally, as you look at your equipment and assets, it may also be worthwhile to take a closer look at the vendors you use. When was the last time you went comparison-shopping for equipment repair companies and facility maintenance vendors? If you’re like most restaurant owners and managers, you’ve counted on the same local folks for years. However, perhaps you could be utilizing those same vendors in a new way, or transitioning to new vendors entirely. Task a manager with the job of looking closely at vendors that service your area, then compare costs, average repair or service times, customer reviews and reach. You may find that a new vendor has a better service offering, more competitive pricing or other benefits worth consideration.

When you choose to prioritize the efficient operations, cleanliness, safety and aesthetics of your restaurants, you reap enormous rewards. Perhaps the best among them? Happier, more loyal employees.


— Shawn Rouse is vice president, operations at SMS Assist, a Chicago-based technology client providing cloud-based multisite property management to more than 140,000 service locations across the country, including thousands of restaurants. Email the author at [email protected].

You may also like