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3 steal-worthy staff retention techniques shared during the National Restaurant Association Show

Here are three ways restaurant operators are retaining employees that can apply to off-site foodservice.
2024 National Restaurant Association Show panel
Laurie Schalow speaks during a panel at the 2024 National Restaurant Association Show. | Photo: Benita Gingerella

Labor continues to be a challenge for both onsite foodservice operators as well as those working in the restaurant industry. During the 2024 National Restaurant Association Show, which took place May 18-22 in Chicago, a panel of restaurant operators shared their strategies and best practices for how they’re retaining employees.

Here are three of those methods to bring to your operation.  

1. Figure out your message  

Employees want to know what the company they work for stands for, says Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs and food safety officer for Chipotle, a fast-casual Mexican restaurant chain.

Operators should take the time to figure out what their brand message and purpose is, and then should find ways to best communicate that to employees.

“I think people want to work for a brand that they can relate to and that they feel proud to work for,” Schalow says.

Not only should operators make it known to employees what they stand for, but they should also illustrate how their role contributes to that message.

“You have to make it really, really clear what their contribution is and how it has value to the greater mission,” says Gregg Majewski, founder and CEO of Craveworthy Brands, a multi-brand platform company.

2. Have a people-first mentality  

At Craveworthy, the company adheres to a strict people-first mentality and makes sure to train all employees at each of the stations at the restaurant.

“Everybody knows how to do everything,” says Majewski. “So, there's no moment where any one person is 'more valuable' in the business.”

This mentality creates a positive work environment, he says, and it makes inclusion a natural part of the company’s culture.

“I think it's negative when you bring [inclusion] up when in the forefront of a company,” he notes. “I think it has to be natural and it has to be based on you actually just doing.”

3. Offer a career path

Providing employees with a career ladder is another essential retention technique, the panelists agree.

At Chipotle, the team focuses on hiring within.  “Ninety percent of our managers today started as hourly employees,” says Schalow.

When employees first start working at the company, they are shown a roadmap that outlines their potential career path and the steps needed to advance. This provides them with guidance on day one.

It’s the same at Craveworthy.

“I don't know if I've hired an outside manager in 15 years. Everybody has to come from within,” says Majewski.

Along with encouraging employees to grow their careers with the company, hiring from within also allows operators to better maintain company culture, since existing employees taking on new roles will already know the company vision, Majewski adds.

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