Why replace when you can retain?


Why replace when you can retain?


Many operators invest in their guest experience, but some still have a long way to go to improving the experience of their employees – it’s something not to be overlooked. After all, an engaged and happy team will ensure guests have a good time and encourage them to spend more. We look at how much it costs to replace team members, why people leave the industry and tips for retaining staff to help reduce replacements.


According to Deputy data, the hospitality sector has an employee turnover rate of 30% – double that of the UK average. And in a study funded by Oxford Economics, it found that the average cost to replace a team member is £30,000. With only 44% of hospitality jobs being a main occupation and the rest being part time jobs or a second source of income, the industry must work to change these figures.

Why do people leave the hospitality industry?

In a survey Deputy commissioned with YouGov to over 1000 hospitality employees, 69% said that they leave due to unsociable working hours, 63% said low pay and benefits, and 35% answered lack of career prospects. Just 3% said that they choose to work in hospitality for the career prospects it offers.

The main issue is that people clearly don’t see the industry as a career and up until very recently, it’s only been viewed as a stopgap for young people, despite the fact that unsociable hours can actually work well around family life. According to Caterer.com, in a survey to 21,000 hospitality employees last year, 59% of hospitality workers plan to leave their job in the next 6 months. For 1 in 3, this is due to lack of career progression.

Historically, this negative perception of the industry has primarily been due to the fact that it boasts low pay and long hours, with schools and parents discouraging children from considering the industry as a potential career path. The sector is now taking responsibility, and last year we saw a real shift to make the industry a serious option for young people, with the launch of the first ever Hospitality Apprenticeship Week.

Our clients Peach Pubs are committed to developing talent and run training programmes for their teams, ‘Peach Teach’ and ‘The Masters’, training heavily on product knowledge, service and table management, with a significant emphasis on knowing and understanding guests on a personal level. Peach have won The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies for 3 years running due to their initiatives and commitment to their employees.

Keeping staff happy

It’s not just about progression though, there are many factors which can encourage an employee to stay with you.

In our latest survey, we asked our panel of guests what makes them feel most engaged and motivated at work. The top scoring categories were work/life balance at 70% and feeling valued at 69%. A negative work culture makes 72% of employees disengaged.

When we asked our guests to compare how an engaged and disengaged server at a pub or restaurant impacts their guest experience, 55% said that an engaged server makes them enjoy their experience more. When it comes to disengaged employees, 27% of guests wouldn’t actually return to the restaurant and for 19%, it would completely ruin their experience.

According to Oxford Economics, employees want to undertake work that is ‘meaningful', making full use of their skills, abilities and potential. This not only involves keeping work interesting but by investing in individuals’ personal development through training opportunities, you show them that you care, encouraging them to continue to invest in you as well, by staying with you.

This might involve keeping work interesting and varied whilst also providing training opportunities so that employees feel they are developing and improving. Not forgetting rewarding them when they deserve it, making them feel valued.

In order to work out what you need to do to retain your employees, you need to find out what makes them happy and what can be improved. Employee engagement surveys are a great way to capture this data throughout key stages of employment, and with surveys being anonymous, your team can be assured that their feedback will be received in confidence.

Employee surveys

If your employees are engaged with your brand and their role, this will have a positive effect on the guests they interact with. So, it’s important to consider firstly how motivated they are, whether they know what is required of them and if they feel trusted to fulfil their role. Secondly, whether they can deliver this in such a way that reflects your desired guest experience through your steps of service.

Employee surveys can measure your team’s motivation as well as the understanding they have of their role and how they believe it impacts your business. Survey results provide an opportunity for you to pinpoint any areas for improvement such as opportunities for training or recognition.

Industry results

To get a feel for how the hospitality industry is performing right now across various sectors and categories, we’ve pulled data from our clients’ employee engagement surveys. We’ve looked at the best and worst performing areas.

In terms of confidence and knowledge in your business and in their role, 98% of employees answered this positively. This indicates that team training on the whole is very good. 91% also say they know what is expected of them in their role and 90% of guests feel that communication with their Manager is good.

Stress levels, skills not being used, progression, recognition and performance reviews were only answered positively for 53-58% of guests. 48% of employees say they are exhausted.


It’s a two-way partnership between employers and employees and this really needs to be nurtured and invested in, particularly in the hospitality industry as it continues to try and change perceptions. Our research shows that 90% of guests would spend up to 20% more time at your venue during a positive experience provided by an engaged server. What’s more, 55% of guests always share those positive experiences with family and friends and 73% would write a positive review about you online.

Employee engagement is clearly very important and not something to be sniffed at. Not only do engaged employees save time and recruitment costs, but they actually have a significantly positive impact on your guest experience, encouraging both your employees and your guests to stay loyal to you.

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