Five Ways you can Support (and keep) your Hospo Staff

Former hospitality worker and long-time industry commentator Emma Castle looks into what keeps staff happy and engaged. 

Working in the hospitality industry can be a lot of fun. It’s social, it’s dynamic and it’s populated with friendly, hardworking people. There’s a lot to love, but when it comes to attracting and keeping staff, there are some things that smart employers can do to boost morale and build loyalty.  

Why bother with morale and loyalty? Well, the pool of available staff has shrunk since international staff have either returned home or been restricted from travelling.  

This means that hospitality operators are left with local staff who now have a lot more options when it comes to work. 

It’s an employees’ market, with many business owners complaining that they can’t find or keep staff.  

Millennials and Gen Z-aged staff are much more aware of their rights and are subsequently much less likely to stick around if things aren’t going well.  

So how can employers keep up? What can they do to stop their staff (and training budget) walking out the door?  

Here are five things that can make a big difference to your employees’ satisfaction.

Understand the impacts of shift work on relationships 

Shift workers often find it hard to maintain social connections outside of work.  

Assistant manager Jamie says, “I hardly ever see my girlfriend now. We live together but she is studying at uni and working part-time. My shifts just don’t line up with her schedule. We’re lucky to see each other one day a week.  

“The other problem is that I am often sleeping when she’s free. I finish work at midnight so by the time I get to sleep, it’ll be 1.30am – 2am, meaning I get up late” says Jamie.  

Is this just the reality of hospitality work?  

It doesn’t have to be. If you can give your staff regular days off, they can make plans in advance to do things with family and friends. Giving staff a weekend off every month and letting them take special days like birthdays and anniversaries off may be inconvenient in the short-term but it will pay off in employee happiness because it gives them a chance to regularly connect with loved ones.


Provide or support healthy eating on-site

Irregular mealtimes are a reality of hospitality work. There’s no getting around that.  

But sometimes in an environment that is overflowing with food, staff ended up choosing unhealthy options, or not eating at all.  

Over the long-term, eating fast food or high calorie meals is a recipe for disaster. 

While employers can’t control what their staff choose to eat, they can make it easier to make healthy choices. Low-cost options to offer in the break room include fruit, nuts, wholemeal toast with a range of spreads, breakfast cereals and yoghurt.  

Another option is a daily employee meal that staff can take home. It can be a soup or a curry in winter or a pre-packed salad in summer, depending on what’s available in the kitchen. Either way, if it’s healthy and it’s free, most staff will go for it. 

Healthy people perform better, feel better and have less sick days. It may cost in the short-term but it will be worth it in the long-term.

Minimise vaping and smoking at work

Hospitality workers are notorious for smoking and vaping. After all, ducking outside for a smoke is a quick way to have a break, shake off some stress and get some fresh air.  

Jamie says, “When I got promoted, I started vaping more. I do eight hours on my feet, plus unpaid time at the end of shifts ordering and cashing out tills. At 11pm at night, I don’t want to drink coffee and I don’t feel like eating but I do need a break, so I vape.” 

While it’s impossible to stop staff from smoking, some employers are implementing incentive schemes to encourage staff to quit or cut down, while others are banning smoking and vaping on-site altogether. 

Why should employers get involved in this?  

Once again, it’s about creating an environment that supports staff health in the long-term. 

Provide consistency and routine with shifts 

Managers know that there are ebbs and flows in business and the roster needs to reflect that. But, from an employee’s point of view, there needs to be some consistency in the amount of work they can expect to receive so they can pay their bills.  

Nothing will make people quit faster than having their shifts cut down to something that is not sustainable for them, regardless of what is happening with the business. 

Many students are happy to cut back around exam time but want to ramp up over summer, while working parents want to have school holidays off with their kids. 

This might seem like an obvious point, but chef and business owner Ben Stark says saving money on hours now could come at a cost later.  

“During COVID-19, I had to cut back on shifts for all my staff as we just weren’t busy. A lot of my staff quit as a result of that.  

“Now that I’m busy again – and I really need them – the only people who I can get to work for me are mums with school-aged kids. They’re great, but they come with a range of restrictions. I need to get that balance.  

“Looking back, I wish I’d kept a couple of my top staff – even if it meant paying them to stand around for a couple of months.”


Provide a sense of progress and job security

Hospitality work can feel very insecure – easy come, easy go, right? 

But if you want to keep your top performers, the best way to do that is offer them upskilling opportunities and map out a path for progression. 

In a small business, that can be hard to do. After all, you’re hiring someone for that specific role – you may not want them to move up in the ranks. But even if it’s as simple as offering to teach your staff members something new and talking to them about what their goals are, it plants the idea that you’re thinking about their future in your business.  

Sometimes it can be as simple as letting your staff attend a conference or industry expo.  

Chef Paul Rifkin explains, “I often hear club managers tell their staff that the benefit from such events is limited. Subsequently they don’t approve worktime to visit the event.  

“In the current climate of staff shortages, I believe that anything that can grow your knowledge is critical. Encouraging your staff to attend events like these sends a positive message of trust.  

“This is the key to staff retention; setting goals, delegating responsibility and trusting them to use it correctly.”