guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

Managers Are Part of the Staffing Shortage and Guests Are Noticing

The ongoing staffing shortage isn't limited to hourly workers, as high turnover among managers is also contributing to guest dissatisfaction, underscoring the importance of manager retention and fostering a culture of accountability to improve the overall guest experience and drive innovation.

Challenges in Restaurant Management and Guest Sentiment Trends

The news is ripe with headlines about the staffing shortage and guests are feeling it when there are not enough employees to run restaurants. Hourly workers are at the center of this conversation, but restaurants are also struggling with management turnover.

General managers are leaving and there is even more turnover at the assistant manager level. Consider the impact manager churn can also have on retaining the rest of your staff. If your managers are not consistent, your staff and your service will follow.

Restaurant Manager Turnover Impacts Guest Reviews

The historically high turnover rate in management is apparent in guest reviews. Toward the end of 2020, net sentiment in Guest Intelligence about managers was higher. Guests were more forgiving of the challenges restaurants faced due to the pandemic. This sentiment started to erode in Q2 of 2021 and dropped even more at the beginning of 2022.

Common complaints are about the manager not being present when there is an issue or not hitting the mark with an appropriate resolution. Negative sentiment also plummeted around food prep since the beginning of 2021.

For full-service restaurants, staffing levels dropped the most for assistant and kitchen managers. About 1 in 5 restaurants are down either a kitchen or assistant manager from 2019. In limited-service, manager levels dropped for all types of managers but there was an uptick in the number of shift leaders per location compared to 2019.

While there is a cost savings with shift leaders from a wage perspective, there is also less experience. The unintended consequence of relying on shift leaders may be contributing to some of the erosion in guest sentiment. The average tenure of shift leaders is less than two years. For assistant managers, the average tenure is closer to three years.

Focus On Restaurant Manager Retention

Most manager terminations are voluntary, and several reasons are cited for leaving. Pay is important; 51% of restaurant workers cited higher pay as a top reason for switching industries according to The post-pandemic restaurant employee: Who wants to work and why.

In addition to higher pay, your highest performers are also seeking learning and development opportunities. These may be your existing managers or hourly team members that you can promote to management levels. Having conversations with your team early on about desired training or educational opportunities will not only help you retain your managers but will also help shape them into better leaders.

With assistant and kitchen managers being the hardest positions to keep filled, this is a good opportunity to look at why they are leaving and find ways to make the role more attractive. While keeping your general manager is great overall for your restaurant’s performance, it can leave assistant managers wondering if they will ever get a chance to be promoted. Focusing on their training and development now is a good strategy to keep them from walking out the door. Even if becoming a GM at their current unit is unlikely, giving them training early on can make them great candidates for your new locations.

Give Your Managers Ownership Over Their Work

Help your managers make responsible, thoughtful decisions by trusting them to do the job. This fosters a culture of accountability and managers will be more likely to treat the business as their own. To set them up for success, give them access to tools and data.

Managers will know how their unit is performing, but what happens when they can compare to others in their region or the industry overall? Giving them a benchmark can help them drive success, whether it’s sales and traffic data or guest sentiment.

Providing the right tools to do the job and trusting your management team will help your overall guest experience and, thus your sales and traffic. With the right balance struck, your managers can shift from going through the motions toward being able to drive innovation and growth at your restaurants.

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