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How to Handle High Turnover in the Hospitality Industry

Coral Drake | July 5, 2023 |

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How to Handle High Turnover in the Hospitality Industry

Turnover in the hospitality industry is historically high. However, there are very real things you can do to stand out in the industry to boost employee job satisfaction and lower turnover. 

Here’s what you need to know about how effective onboarding, instilling good company values, and employee engagement can improve job satisfaction and reduce turnover at your establishment. 

How High is Hospitality Turnover?

Really high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found a whopping 130.7% turnover in 2020. Pre-pandemic it was just under 80%, so while the industry has always struggled with turnover, presently the rate is reaching unprecedented levels. 

This means that, on average, around 80% of the workforce in hospitality establishments may change over the course of a year. Why is turnover so high in hospitality?

  • Seasonal nature of the industry
  • Long working hours
  • Low wages for many positions
  • Limited career advancement opportunities

While you may not be able to change some of the reasons for high turnover in hospitality, there are some things you can do to keep your best workers longer. 

Hire With Care

When you’re already struggling with high turnover, it can be hard to turn away anyone willing to work for you. However, hiring whoever is willing to work may actually increase your overall turnover and mean fewer bodies at work. 

Clearly define the responsibilities and expectations of a specific role and stick to those guidelines. If you doubt that a candidate will be able to fill the role, don’t hire them. Ensure that the candidate not only possesses the skills and qualifications needed for the job, but also aligns with the overall values and culture of the organization. If they don’t, they won’t last.

Here are some tips to determine whether a candidate is the right fit during the interview process. 

  • Ask questions that delve into the candidate's past experiences and behavior. These questions provide insights into how the candidate typically responds and behaves; firsthand evidence of their suitability for the role. 
  • Find out if the candidate aligns with your company's values, mission, and work environment. For example, ask “How do you think your personal values align with those of our organization?”
  • Observe how well the candidate articulates their thoughts, listens actively, and engages in effective dialogue. These are important skills for interacting with coworkers and the public in a hospitality setting.
  • Present hypothetical scenarios or real-life challenges relevant to the role. Then, assess how the candidate approaches problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Ask about the candidate's experience working in teams, their preferred work style, and how they handle conflicts or challenges within a group setting. This is particularly important if you’re already short-staffed and overwhelmed employees will need to work closely together. 

When employees are appropriately matched to their roles and share company values, they are more likely to perform well and feel a sense of fulfillment, leading to increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover rates. 

Onboard Well

Effective onboarding significantly impacts employee engagement and effectiveness across industries. However, it is particularly crucial in the hospitality industry, where high turnover rates are so problematic.  

When new hires are seamlessly integrated into the company culture through a well-designed recruitment and onboarding process, they are far less likely to choose to leave. Furthermore, you’ll be more likely to notice problems early if you’re attentive to the onboarding process. 

Equip new employees with all necessary guidelines, policies, and paperwork in advance. Give them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the rules and expectations before they start.

Create a welcoming environment by involving all team members in greeting the new hire. When they walk in on their first day, it is important for people to already know their name and position. Have someone responsible for initial training and shadowing and make sure they’re available and prepared. 

A relaxed atmosphere is fine overall, but for this first introduction, conduct a structured orientation program. This is a good opportunity to see if the new employee has taken the chance to learn your policies and company values from the paperwork you gave them. Effective onboarding requires not only information output from you, but also communication from the new hire. 

Make sure to cover everything the employee needs to know about logging inventory and finances, where things are kept, and what to do if they run into any hiccups. 

From the outset, emphasize the importance of communication. Keep channels open for new hires to ask questions, seek clarification, and express their thoughts. Don’t just tell them they can talk to you, actually tell them how. 

Can they approach you in your office whenever the door is open? Do you have preferred hours for personnel one-on-ones? Make sure they know how to express their job satisfaction to you. 

Don’t be Afraid to Let Employees Go

Regardless of how carefully you interview, you’re bound to still have employees who don't align well with their team. This mismatch can stem from issues related to capability, attitude, or personality. 

Although terminating an employee might appear counterintuitive as a step to reduce turnover, occasionally it is necessary. If you waver, you’ll experience a greater loss of employees down the road. 

Avoid having quality employees quit because they’re picking up another worker’s slack or dealing with a bad attitude by removing an employee who doesn’t match company values from the equation.

It’s much better to retain a larger number of employees by promptly parting ways with one unsuitable individual. You may not even realize how that person was negatively affecting the job satisfaction of other employees and the functionality of the work environment until they’re gone. 

Letting go of a poor worker also boosts employee engagement and productivity in the remaining staff, who feel that their superior work is valued appropriately. 

Don’t Skimp on Benefits and Compensation

The bottom line is that no matter what you do to increase employee engagement and instill company values, job satisfaction also hinges on pay and benefits. Consistently update and maintain competitive offerings to prevent your staff from being enticed away by the competition. 

In the current extremely competitive labor market, your offerings need to be as good or better than the hotel or restaurant down the street. If the only staff you can attract are the ones turned away by your competitors, you’re unlikely to have a thriving business. 

Research the wages and benefits offered by establishments similar to yours in your area and budget so you can match them. It’s better to run short-staffed with properly compensated staff with good job satisfaction than deal with high turnover and lower quality staff. 

Consider using tools like a flexible point of sale system that integrates with kitchen management and self-service kiosks to enable your business to run more smoothly on fewer staff. 

Keeping benefits and compensation up to date demonstrates a genuine appreciation for your employees. The resulting increased productivity and employee engagement result in improved customer service and satisfaction and better earnings for your establishment. 

The bottom line is that reducing turnover in the hospitality industry is worth the cost of good benefits and compensation. Your business will make more in the end. 

Acknowledge Hard Work

During intense periods when staff members work tirelessly to meet the demands of busy lunch or dinner rushes, it’s natural to question the reasons behind their hard work… and think about jumping ship. 

Regardless of how effective onboarding is, employees may struggle to keep going when facing the reality of the job. You probably can’t do anything about lunch rushes, but you can make your employees feel valued for handling those rushes well. 

Foster a culture of recognition and appreciation. Regularly praising employees not only increases their job satisfaction, but also instills a sense of loyalty and commitment to your company.

Public acknowledgments during team meetings, personalized messages of appreciation, and small rewards and incentives for exceptional performance make employees feel valued. However, what’s most important is to take time to be present with your employees, notice when they do well, and tell them so. 

By consistently highlighting and celebrating employee achievements as a core part of company values, managers create an environment that encourages employees to go above and beyond, and importantly, to stick around. 

Provide Space for Growth

There is a prevalent misconception that opportunities for development and growth are scarce within the hospitality industry. The truth is that managers who look for ways for their employees to grow are difficult to find. Turnover in the hospitality industry is, all too often, a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

If you take time to recognize the unique qualities and potential within your staff and use that knowledge to foster their growth, you can keep the best employees in your organization for longer. Don’t assume that your business is destined for high turnover as employees “age out.” Instead, look for places they can grow:


  • Provide access to relevant training programs, workshops, or courses that can enhance employees’ existing skills or develop new ones. 
  • Create an environment that promotes continuous learning, like cross-training in different departments or encouraging participation in industry events or conferences.
  • Pair up-and-coming employees with experienced mentors or supervisors who can provide guidance, support, and opportunities for skill development. 
  • Sit down with employees to discuss not only current job satisfaction, but their long-term career goals and aspirations. Together, create a plan that outlines specific milestones, skills to be acquired, and opportunities for growth.
  • Celebrate and acknowledge when milestones are met to encourage continued growth and dedication.

Extremely High Turnover in the Hospitality Industry Isn’t Necessary

Despite the seasonal nature of the industry, long working hours, low wages, and limited career advancement opportunities, high turnover doesn’t have to be assumed at your establishment. 

The tips listed here can help you to retain talented employees and create a more stable workforce. While it may take an initial investment in wages, benefits, and time for training and employee engagement, effectively reducing turnover will do wonders for your establishment’s performance and bottom line.