The Top Reasons Restaurant Managers Quit & How to Prevent It

// By Kyle Thacker // , Apr 30, 2019

Topics: Restaurant Management

In 2016, the restaurant industry saw a turnover rate of 72.9% for restaurant employees. This marked a nearly 7% increase in turnover rate from 2014. This is a big problem for restaurants. How big of a problem it is is underscored by the total U.S. private sector turnover rate of 46.1%. That means restaurant managers spend way more time and resources replacing employees than managers in other industries. 


But it's not just staff that restaurants lose. Increased management turnover means that more restaurants are losing their leadership. 


Is there a solution? Of course!


There are many ways to slow down management turnover at your restaurant. It starts with understanding the problems that cause restaurant managers to leave, and adjusting your business to eliminate these problems.


The Reasons Managers Leave Restaurants


Managers are the captains and first mates who are supposed to steer the ship. Not only steer it, but make sure it follows the proper course, and that every job is getting done. A ship without a captain is bound to take on water, and ultimately sink.


Analyzing your restaurant's flaws is key to slowing down the rate at which management leaves your restaurants. You've got to identify and analyze the problems that push managers to abandon ship. So what are the main reasons management leaves?


  • Pay
  • Treatment by superiors
  • Long hours and overworked
  • Poor and unfocused training
  • Lack of personal commitment

These are the headline issues that cause most management to leave. These issues were identified in a study published by Cornell University way back in 1985.


But they are the same problems that still exist today.


We will break down these problems and over different ways to address them.


Restaurant Manager Pay


Not being paid well is the obvious reason most workers cite for leaving a job. But it must be noted that when employees claim pay as the deciding factor, it's not as simple as their earnings being too low.


It might actually mean that their level of job satisfaction is too low. Not making enough money on its own wasn't the problem, but they weren't making enough money to ignore the fact that they didn't like their job.


This is important because it means that raising pay without addressing other issues won't be enough to keep managers employed. Here are some ways that pay can be increased for managers based on performance.

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A bonus is a great way for an employee to earn more while also incentivizing performance. How a bonus is earned must be clearly defined, and be triggered by hitting specific goals.


A bonus may be built on increasing sales of specific areas of the restaurant, hitting desired cost percentages, or increasing traffic.


However you choose to build your bonus program, make sure the criteria is laid out clear and can be properly measured and attributed to specific methods.

Percentage of private events


If a manager helps book large parties and private events, they should be compensated for their efforts.


Private events that offer specific drink packages, or special food items, requires additional planning, ordering, and organization.


These are great ways for restaurants to generate revenue, and giving management percentage points on these packages will incentivize them to book more.

Performance based raise


Giving employees a clear path to increasing their salary is a great way to orientate them when they first start.


This system should be outlined and negotiated in the initial job offer, and like a bonus, goals and procedure should be clearly defined from the start.


Treatment by Superiors


This issue is less tangible than dollars. But it comes down to attitude and providing clear expectations. There is also this truth: some restaurant owners and principal operators are just plain bad at managing people*. It's important that top tier management is properly trained on how to work with and lead others.


*If superiors are abusive in anyway, then employees have every reason to leave. Issues with anger, harassment, or disrespect, should not be tolerated.


Defined expectations


When hiring new managers or working with current management, it's important to define the goals and expectations you have for your management. This helps define responsibilities and will give a better rubric for assessing performance.

Open Door Policy


All staff need to feel comfortable voicing concerns, issues, or suggesting new ideas. Keep an open door that allows for conversation without pressure or fear of being punished.



Managing a restaurant is often a thankless job. It combines long hours with a lot of stress.


There is also the experience that managers across all industries face: your employees problems become yours. It's important to respect and empathize with overworked managers.


Give them a day off. Institute a no phone policy for days off in which staff and other managers are not responsible for communicating with the restaurant. Of course, emergencies take exception.

Conduct exit interviews


Exit interviews are important for understanding why employees are leaving. It gives an employee to let you know what went wrong, and what had gone right.


They will provide valuable information for you as you look for ways to retain staff.


Clocking Long Hours


This is where management really gets burned out. Work can seem never ending. Days off are prized possessions when you work 6-days a week with 10-12 hour shifts.


Consistent Schedule


A routine can be comforting. Having a consistent schedule means that employees can plan their lives. From running errands to having a social life, a consistent schedule allows managers to retain a sense of a personal life.


Back-to-Back Days Off


This is a rarity in the restaurant management world. Sometimes getting a day off is tricky enough. 2 days off is even better. But by scheduling shifts to allow managers two days off in a row, like you know, a normal weekend, it will keep them fresh and give them the rest that is needed.


It might take some maneuvering, but it will be worth it in the long run. If this isn't possible on a weekly basis, you can rotate managers schedules to allow this double day off once or twice a month.


Poor Training


Training is key for staff retention. It is a process that many restaurants get wrong. Proper training comes down to two main points: consistency and providing training that expands employees skill sets.


Training by the book


Build a training program and put it in writing. Have a schedule and timeline for training. Keep this consistent. Tweak things as you learn more about what you should focus on. Train every manager with the same commitment.


Train for leadership


You should train your managers on how to be leaders and manage people. It's not just about training them on operations and the preferred way to execute menial tasks. That is all necessary, yes. But it's important to provide new skills to managers, especially new ones. Leadership training is important here.


Lack of Personal Commitment


Having commitment to your workplace is important for good performance. When people care about where they work and the fate of the company, they will work harder and perform better. It's important to foster an environment that breeds committed employees.


Promote from within


Promoting employees into management roles has a lot of benefits. Personal commitment is one of them. Employees who are able to grow within a company show higher levels of commitment.

Create a rewarding workplace


Most of the points in this post hint at creating a rewarding workplace. By giving benefits to employees, offering a chance to grow, providing new skill sets, and having respect and empathy for your employees, you will build a company culture that employees will buy into.


Key Points


  • Find the problems in your restaurant that are contributing to turnover
  • Seek out ways to address these
  • Enact policies and leadership that recognize and reward strong performance
  • Create a rewarding workplace that wants is satisfying managers.
Kyle Thacker

About the author, Kyle Thacker

Kyle is the Marketing Director for Backbar. Before helping Backbar connect with the restaurant industry, he managed multiple bars in Chicago, with a love of whiskey and cocktails.

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