Crooked Run has done one thing exceedingly well: staff retention. With 20 employees on staff, we’ve added quite a few new members, but in five years of business, we have lost very few employees. I think this is very important to the success of our business for a variety of reasons. Why is staff retention so important, and how do you keep people on? It’s not very complicated, but time and again I’ve seen the effects of neglecting to do a good job keeping people happy, and they can be devastating.
The biggest issue facing restaurants right now is personnel. With Americans dining out more than ever before, restaurants are struggling to remain fully staffed. A similar situation is facing breweries as well, with a shortage of both back of house and front of house staff. For the time being, more breweries continue to open than close. Finding and keeping qualified staff is harder than ever these days.
For taproom staff, the money can be very good, but there’s such a demand for servers and bartenders in our area that you can be fired from a job with very just cause and get rehired the next weekend somewhere else. While a bar may have somewhat of a revolving door for employees, one very important thing to keep in mind is that your individual bartenders have regulars–sometimes friends, sometimes people they meet through the course of their work, but people who come to see them. If your staff leaves, other people may too. One bar in our area fired their entire staff, and, to their surprise, nearly their entire customer base went with them. In addition, many bars and breweries suffer due to often times a single disgruntled employee. I peruse Yelp fairly frequently, and I often see situations where one rude taproom staff seems to ruin the reviews for the place.
For brew side staff, the money is less, which means as an owner you need to find other ways to keep people on. Hours are long, the work is tough, and upward mobility can be limited.
So how do you keep people on and happy? It’s not really complicated. You need to treat them well and pay them well. That sounds obvious, but it definitely is not for a lot of brewery and restaurant owners. You need to be aware of the effects of turnover. If certain key staff leave, the short-term effects can be devastating, and the long-term effects can cost you a lot of time and money. Basically, if someone is important, pay them. Pay them more than the average pay for the position. If your head brewer leaves, you could end up losing thousands per week in the interim.
But pay is only one thing, and can be limited by your revenue. People actually don’t care about money so much as they care about recognition for a job well done, which can take many forms in addition to just extra dollars. Find ways to make people feel better, feel included, and feel like they get something out of their continued hard work.
At Crooked Run, we do a few things to address these items. First, we pay higher than average. Second, we offer insurance and other benefits, and hopefully soon retirement plans. And third, we genuinely care about our employees. We’ll buy lunch for our staff once a week. If someone is on the bar and needs a break to eat, I’ll cover for them. I’ve helped our employees move. I still mop floors. We take our staff on company outings once a quarter to things like laser tag, go-karts, etc. Lee and I still aren’t taking full salary, but all our key employees got substantial raises this year. I tell everyone that as we grow, you can grow with us. If we bring in more revenue, we can pay more.
Do this stuff because number one, it’s the right thing to do, but number two, it will lead to the long-term prosperity of your company. So many areas of the economy are experiencing major disruption right now, and hospitality industries need to either figure out how to pay higher wages, or re-evaluate their businesses.