[Study] Data-Backed Ways to Engage Employees and Reduce Restaurant Turnover

[Study] Data-Backed Ways to Engage Employees and Reduce Restaurant Turnover
Dew Smith

By Dew Smith

According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant turnover rate is a staggering 73%. Every restaurateur knows all too well how hard engagement and retention is, and all struggle to combat it. In order to improve employee satisfaction and engagement, you have to understand your staff and their needs. But how much do you know about the average member of your staff?

In order to empower restaurants to overcome employee turnover, 7shifts ran a survey with over 1,600 responses from restaurant employees in North America to figure out just who works at our favorite diners, cafes, and fast food joints. This survey provided insights into what exactly restaurant employees are looking for when it comes to being engaged in their jobs.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Average Restaurant Employee

So what exactly does the "average" restaurant employee look like? Let's start with job types. The top most common response we received for job role was servers at over 40%.

Here’s a full breakdown of the top restaurant roles the survey found:

  • Servers: 40%
  • Chefs: 23%
  • Host/hostesses: 9%
  • Bartenders: 7%
  • Dishwashers: 5%
  • Busser: 4%

The remaining employee roles were divided between less common roles like barista, cashier and general team member.

Our survey also concluded that, while the split between genders is fairly even, a slight majority of restaurant employees are female (54%).


How old are restaurant employees?

Most restaurant employees are between 16 and 25 years old, with 62% falling within this range.

The age ranges found in restaurant employees are as follows:

  • 16-20: 31%
  • 21 - 25: 31%
  • 26 - 30: 17%
  • 31 - 40: 15%
  • 41+: 7%

It’s clear that the restaurant employee demographic is relatively young, and likely the higher age ranges have more managerial and owner positions.

This data differs from larger studies such as the one presented on Statista as the 7shifts survey excluded restaurant managers and leadership positions, instead focusing on the individual contributors.

How educated are restaurant employees?

Many restaurant employees have completed high school and obtained some level college or university education.

Our survey found that the highest education obtained by restaurant employees is as follows:

  • Some university/college: 37%
  • Graduated high school: 25%
  • Some high school: 14%
  • Bachelor’s degree: 14%

The average age of restaurant employees is fairly young, which means that many employees are still in high school. This likely skews the restaurant employee turnover rate to be higher, as many employees may move on to different careers after they’ve completed their schooling. Interestingly, 2% of restaurant employees have obtained a Master’s degree or higher.


Very loosely, all of these survey results mean that the “average” restaurant employee is a 20-year-old woman in college working as a server.

So now that you know who restaurant staff are, how do you keep them retained?

Restaurant Employee Satisfaction

Understanding your employees is about more than demographic information—you must understand what they like and dislike about their jobs, and ultimately uncover their met and unmet needs.

Staff will leave their job the moment they realize it is not helping them meet their needs–whether the job helps them meet their need for connection, autonomy, security or other factors. Through the responses we’ve collected, we can uncover the met and unmet needs and suggest data-backed strategies to get both employee and employer’s business needs met so everybody wins.

Let’s cover and emphasize the positives, minimize the negatives, and improve your restaurant’s employee retention overall.

What do restaurant employees love about their jobs?

76% of respondents say one of the best parts about working in the restaurant industry is their team members. This indicates that restaurant employees’ need for connection, community and teamwork are largely being fulfilled in their work environment.

64% of restaurant staff say schedule flexibility is another one of the best parts of their job. This indicates that they have the positive work-life balance and job flexibility they desire in their career.

The final need being met indicated by restaurant employees is the compensation tied to their role, though this comes in at only 35%, which means there are a fair amount of restaurant employees who feel differently.

Another perk employees find about the restaurant industry listed by employees is the skills learned and experience gained in their position. And, of course, a love of food and cooking never hurts when you’re part of the industry!

What do restaurant employees dislike about their jobs?

Almost half of restaurant employees dislike dealing with customers (43%), with many of them citing rude or unreasonable customers as the culprit. This could represent the front of house (FOH) workers’ unmet need for appreciation and respect with their guest interactions. Encourage your servers and other FOH workers to seek management assistant if guests are becoming unruly, and consider implementing a behavioral policy at the business reminding people to act respectfully.

The second-most disliked aspect of restaurant work is the issue of low pay (42%), which means that employees do not feel they are receiving fair compensation for the work they put in, or that it’s difficult or unclear in how to earn a raise or promotion. This may indicate an unmet need for recognition and support in the workplace. Learn about some strategies for meeting your staff’s need for fair compensation and career growth below.

Employee's third least-favorite part of the job is struggling with poor workplace technology (28%). Your employees need the right technology to help them work productively and efficiently and to not be bogged down by slow or clunky systems—they have an unmet need for competence, organization and support with the workplace technology provided.

Another frequent comment received was a lack of scheduling efficiency—where the business is either overstaffed or understaffed compared to the number of guests. The other common complaint? Foot pain! Make sure you advise your employees to wear comfortable shoes and potentially invest in cushy insoles!

How to Improve Employee Satisfaction and Reduce Turnover In Your Restaurant

Based on the results of our restaurant employee survey, there are a few actions you can take to emphasize the positive and minimize the negative aspects of working in the industry.

1. Emphasize team communication

With 76% of restaurant employees listing their co-workers as the best thing about their jobs, it’s clear that a strong team environment is ideal for employee satisfaction. This means that team bonding is an important thing for your restaurant to focus on, so make sure you have solid channels for team communication where you can encourage team members to connect and communicate.

Additionally, consider hosting staff meals or work events to improve the relationships between the team. The happier the team is to work together, the more productive and positive they’ll be at work.

2. Introduce smart restaurant technology

Poor workplace technology is listed as one of the worst parts of being in the restaurant industry, cited by 28% of employees. To keep restaurant staff happy, it’s critical that your restaurant provide smart technology to assist in their employees’ day-to-day tasks.

Not only does clunky technology not help your employees, but it can actually slow down your restaurant operations and hinder your productivity. Implementing technology like cloud-based POS systems and restaurant scheduling apps can help improve the workplace experience for employees.

There is even technology that is built specifically for restaurant employee satisfaction, like 7shifts’ Shift Feedback feature. Shift Feedback can be used to collect ongoing feedback about shifts to monitor employee satisfaction over time. Shift Feedback allows employees to feel heard and empowered and allows restaurant managers to take immediate action to reduce turnover.

3. Provide ongoing training

To emphasize the learning opportunities available in a restaurant career, offer not only onboarding training but also ongoing skills training. The more experience and value an employee can get out of their job, the longer they will stay.

Using online hospitality learning platforms like typsy can not only improve your employee’s performance but also help you keep them retained through their career.

“One thing I love about working in the restaurant industry is the amount of knowledge you have the opportunity to gain.”

  • A survey respondent

4. Keep schedules flexible

As many restaurant employees are in school, a flexible schedule is important to help them balance their work/life balance. This becomes even more evident when you see that nearly 64% of restaurant employees agree that a flexible schedule is the second best thing about working in the restaurant industry. By implementing smart scheduling software, restaurant owners and operators can improve employee satisfaction by empowering their staff to handle their own schedules with availability, time-off requests, and shift trading available through tools like 7shifts.

5. Make compensation transparent

Low pay was cited as one of the worst things about working in the industry (42%), yet those paid fairly listed it as one of the best things about the industry (35%). Keeping pay clear and consistent across your employees is important for building trust and employee satisfaction. This is why 7shifts includes a summary of hours worked and estimated pay in our free employee mobile app.

Another part of compensation transparency is to also have a clear path for promotion and career growth. By being transparent about the way an employee could earn a raise or a promotion, employees will see longer tenure at your business. We’ll cover this more below.

“One of the worst things about working in the restaurant industry is the inconsistent pay.”
— A survey respondent

6. Provide opportunities for advancement

Ultimately, most restaurant employees want to grow their career outside of the restaurant industry (55%). However, nearly 25% of employees want to get a promotion and move up in the restaurant industry, which means that providing paths for career growth to your employees will keep them retained to your restaurant in that growth.

Hiring and promoting from within can be a great way to incentivize employees to perform, and will show that you value their loyalty. This ties in nicely to the concept of providing ongoing training, as your employees will constantly be improving their skills.

“One of the worst things about the restaurant industry is the lack of career paths.”

  • A survey respondent

Fun Restaurant Employee Statistics

Ultimately, keeping your employees engaged and retained comes down to having a great work culture, schedule flexibility, and clear communication channels sprinkled with the chance for career advancement. The more improvements you can make to workplace technology, communication and processes, the better your employee retention will be.

As a wrap-up, here are some fun restaurant statistics we uncovered from surveying employees:

  • 34% of restaurant employees use online job boards to find work, with 31% relying on word-of-mouth
  • 52% of employees want to grow their career outside of the restaurant industry, as nearly 37% of them are currently in college/university
  • Only 7% of restaurant employees think that their team is one of the worst parts of their job
  • 14% of restaurant employees think their managers are one of the best parts of working in the industry ✅

What’s your favorite way to keep employees engaged and retained?

Schedule smarter, retain longer

Keep employees engaged, scheduled and retained with the other 250,000+ restaurant pros choosing 7shifts for labor management.

Try 7shifts for free.

Dew Smith
Dew Smith

Hey! I'm Dew, the former Brand Strategist. I cultivated 7shifts' social and content garden, and I looked for ways to grow our network of restaurateurs, local talent, and tech companies.