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The Link Between Restaurant Turnover and Workplace Harassment

Harassment & Discrimination

The Link Between Restaurant Turnover and Workplace Harassment

Since the pandemic, the restaurant industry has come back bigger and better than ever. For many consumers, their appetite for dining out remains insatiable. In 2022, Americans splurged $1.34 trillion on dining away from home, and 59% of restaurant operators indicated an increase in same-store sales from July 2022 to July 2023. Food away from home purchases comprised a dominant 56% share of the total food spending in 2022.

However, the industry faces a persistent challenge — high turnover rates that can have profound implications for both businesses and employees. It’s essential for employers to understand the impact that workplace harassment can have on employee turnover and the many benefits of building a safe and positive work culture for all.

The Economic Landscape of the Restaurant Industry

Over the recent years, inflation has affected everyone, and the restaurant industry is no exception. The impact of inflation on the restaurant sector is evident, with rising costs across essentials like labor, overhead expenses, and ingredients. The pressure is palpable, with 9 out of 10 restaurant operators expressing concern about the escalating costs of food and inflation.

This worrisome economic landscape plays a pivotal role in shaping turnover rates within the restaurant industry. For employees, the strain on their cost of living may drive them to seek better compensation and working conditions elsewhere. On the flip side, businesses facing financial strain may resort to involuntary turnover measures, such as layoffs or reduced hours, contributing to instability within the workforce.

Causes of Turnover and its Current State in Restaurants

According to a recent survey, over 60% of establishments indicated being understaffed. Despite the escalating consumer demand for restaurants, the imbalance is evident – for every two job openings in the food service sector, only one unemployed individual is able to potentially bridge the staffing gap. Although the turnover rate has improved since the disruption of the pandemic, it is still high — measuring at 74.7% in 2023.

There are many potential causes of turnover, including a hostile workplace environment, harassment, or favoritism, that can act as a major driving force to push employees away. Another influential factor is poor management practices — a lack of support and insufficient communication can substantially elevate turnover rates, as employees often cite leaving due to dissatisfaction with their managers rather than the job itself.

Inadequate or non-competitive pay poses a significant risk of turnover, especially in the restaurant industry, where maintaining a balance between fair compensation and profitability is crucial given tight profit margins. Workplace restructuring or alterations in job roles also have the potential to induce uncertainty among employees, prompting them to consider leaving. Additionally, limited opportunities for career advancement or skill development may result in turnover as employees actively seek fresh challenges in alternative professional settings.

How Is Harassment a Contributing Factor to Turnover?

Harassment in the restaurant industry is extremely prevalent, with more EEOC sexual harassment reports coming from Accommodation & Food Services than any other industry. A vast majority of restaurant employees report experiencing harassment at work — upwards of 90% of women and 70% of men — and another study from The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United indicated that of the women who experience workplace harassment in restaurants, more than half experience it as often as every week.

This frequent occurrence of harassment in restaurants can become a major cause of turnover when employees choose to leave for the promise of a better job elsewhere rather than deal with harassing behavior or file a complaint about it. Other seasonal employees may plan to work in a restaurant for only a short period of time, so they choose to deal with the harassment until they leave instead of filing a report during their temporary tenure.

This culture of silence can create a workplace where coworkers or customers who harass employees are able to avoid consequences for their actions and simply redirect their harassing behavior toward others. The connection between high employee turnover and harassment becomes apparent when employers begin to understand how this toxic culture perpetuates an environment where harassment remains ignored rather than being prevented.

Tackling Turnover Through Addressing Harassment

Addressing harassment in the workplace is a critical step for employers seeking to mitigate turnover and create a healthier work environment. Restaurant operators can take proactive measures to address harassment by implementing comprehensive anti-harassment policies to promote a culture of open communication and accountability. Regular training sessions can educate employees about acceptable behavior, provide channels for reporting any incidents, and keep restaurants in compliance with all state and federal legislation. Prompt and thorough investigations into reported incidents, along with appropriate disciplinary actions, demonstrate a commitment to a safe workplace.

A harassment-free workplace can directly contribute to improved turnover rates by creating a restaurant environment where employees feel valued, respected, and safe. This positive culture can boost employee morale, job satisfaction, and a sense of trust in their workplace, making them more likely to remain with the company. Lower turnover rates not only reduce the costs associated with hiring and onboarding but also contribute to consistency and quality of service, ultimately enhancing the overall success and reputation of the restaurant.

Embracing Change for a Healthier Workplace

Effectively managing turnover rates through a positive and harassment-free culture is imperative for cultivating a high-quality staff of restaurant workers to become the driving force behind success in the food service industry. By taking steps to eliminate workplace harassment, businesses can create a safer and more stable work environment, ultimately benefiting both employees and the bottom line. By understanding these dynamics and implementing solutions like EasyLlama’s Restaurant Harassment Prevention Training, restaurants can embark on a journey toward a healthier workplace. Check out our free course preview today to learn more.

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