Treat restaurant workers well, expect better business, study says

Offering restaurant workers good pay, benefits and career mobility might boost short-term costs for owners, but generous management policies help dining establishments save big in the long run, according to new research.

The restaurant industry is a notoriously difficult place to work. Wages tend to be lower than those of any other occupation. Nine of 10 people on staff don't get sick days, paid vacation or health insurance. Advancing up the ladder tends to be a rare occurrence.

The tough conditions are evident in worker productivity and retention, according to the research from Cornell University and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Employees often underperform, doing only what is necessary to keep their jobs until they can find a better position. The quality of the food and the service suffers, preventing the eatery from building a loyal customer base.

Turnover is rampant, usually costing restaurants $4,000 to $14,000 in new recruiting, screening, training and other costs for each departing worker, the research found.

Some establishments said they often have to train four candidates before finding one they are willing to hire.

More investment in workers could end up saving the restaurant industry millions of dollars, according to the study. More interested and productive workers would help draw more revenue to offset the higher initial labor costs, researchers said.

The report is based on studies of 33 restaurants in eight cities, including the Good Girl Dinette and the Chaya chain in Southern California.

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