really busy restaurant with tons of servers

Restaurant staff and loyal customers follow similar rules of thumb. New ones equal more time. When it comes to restaurant employees, it takes more time and energy to hire and train new staff than to solve problems with existing staff.

Common reasons for restaurant staff turnover vary, but often, it’s a case of burnout. All too often the high paced nature of the restaurant industry means that a restaurateur misses the signs of employee burnout, and only hears there was a problem when the employee resigns.

restaurant employees working in a kitchen

How can you spot employee burnout?

Look for burnout symptoms in one of these categories:

  • Physical: May include employees being perpetually tired or calling out sick more often than usual.
  • Mental: May include sudden pessimism or being unpleasant to be around.
  • Behavioral: May include being apathetic and not productive.

If you notice symptoms regularly in an employee, it may be time to check in with that employee and see if there is an issue that needs attention.

You can also try to institute policies in your restaurant to help avoid employee burnout in the first place.

1. Enforce mandatory breaks.
Employee burnout can happen fast if people are overworked and don’t take breaks. The restaurant industry is fast paced and demanding, and without an occasional moment of rest, people can get overwhelmed quickly. Schedule breaks around known busy times and be sure to enforce them. Encourage people to sit, get some fresh air, or eat a snack. A few minutes of quiet time can go far in refocusing staff for a busy shift.

2. Set realistic goals and expectations.
If shift after shift people aren’t hitting the goals you established, there’s a good chance that your goals are the problem, not your entire staff. Goals should be something to shoot for, but also something that happens on a regular basis so that your team is motivated and encouraged. If they’re completely unrealistic, why would anyone bother trying? No employee wants to feel like a constant disappointment.

3. Create a culture of growth and support.
Your restaurant should be a place where anyone on your staff can come forward with a problem or concern, and feel like they are listened to and respected. Problems left to fester only become bigger problems. Staff should also be well trained with all the tools needed to do their job well, and see opportunities for growth within your restaurant. An environment that feels like life on a hamster wheel eventually leads to staff looking elsewhere for advancement.

Avoiding employee burnout before it happens keeps the entire staff productive and avoids disruptions that can cost you good employees and revenue.

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.