The Key to Attracting and Retaining Restaurant Employees: Flexibility

The Key to Attracting and Retaining Restaurant Employees: Flexibility
D. J. Costantino

By D. J. Costantino

This post is adapted from our “What Restaurant Employees Want” report. Visit our report page to download the full report, which features insights from 1500 active restaurant employees and industry experts.

In the rapidly evolving hospitality industry, flexibility has emerged as a critical factor in attracting and retaining employees. According to the 2024 report from 7shifts, a striking 56% of restaurant employees value flexible scheduling. This flexibility is not just a perk; it significantly contributes to job satisfaction and retention.

Flexible hours allow workers to balance their personal and professional lives, enhancing their overall job satisfaction. The report highlights that "flexible scheduling" and "work-life balance" are among the top reasons employees stay in their roles, contributing to 56% and 39% of job satisfaction, respectively. This is particularly important in an industry that attracts a diverse workforce, including students, parents, and individuals seeking secondary income.

Survey of restaurant employees that asks 'What are the top three factors that contribute to your work satisfaction?' with 56% of employees choosing flexible scheduling

Erika Lebo, a Restaurant Operations Consultant with US Foods, emphasizes the importance of accommodating diverse lifestyles in the hospitality sector. She notes, “The significance placed on work-life balance underscores the diverse demographics of the industry, where many employees are students, parents, or rely on restaurant work as a secondary source of income.”

This sentiment is echoed by Ryan Whyte-Buck, another Restaurant Operations Consultant with US Foods, who states, “Providing quality of life to oneself is something many restaurant workers cannot live without. Finding time outside the restaurant for one’s own pursuits, whether family, personal growth, or hobbies, has been an incredibly effective way to keep morale high and avoid burnout.”

Mike Bausch, owner of Andolini’s in Tulsa, OK, calls this idea “scheduling with empathy.” He encourages his managers not to take a hard-line approach to scheduling and recognizes that employees have lives outside of the restaurant's four walls.

“I think it's extremely undervalued how directly connected a schedule is to staff morale, attrition, and retention,” says Bausch.

Take Action

Restaurant operators can take several actionable steps to enhance flexibility and improve employee satisfaction:

  1. Advance Scheduling: Provide employees with their schedules as far in advance as possible. This allows them to plan their personal lives better and reduces last-minute stress. For example, the team at Andolini’s requires managers to post schedules two weeks in advance.
  2. Encourage Availability Submission: Encourage employees to submit their availability early. This helps in creating a schedule that aligns with their personal commitments.
  3. Eliminate Clopens: Avoid scheduling back-to-back closing and opening shifts, known as "clopens." Prioritize giving employees consecutive days off to ensure they have adequate rest and personal time.

Flexibility is a crucial advantage in the hospitality industry, directly impacting employee satisfaction and retention. Restaurant operators can create a more supportive and satisfying work environment by prioritizing flexible scheduling. This not only helps in retaining current employees but also attracts new talent to the industry.

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D. J. Costantino
D. J. Costantino

Hi! I'm D.J., 7shifts' resident Content Writer. I come from a family of chefs and have a background in food journalism. I'm always looking for ways to help make the restaurant industry better!