Why Restaurant Managers Leave

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Turnover is a fact of life in the restaurant industry, but when managers leave, the cost of that turnover packs more of a punch to the bottom line.

In adding up separation, replacement and training costs, the turnover for the average back of house or front of house employee costs around $2,809 or $2,171, respectively, according to the TDn2K 2017 Recruiting and Turnover Report. That number skyrockets for management, with an average turnover cost of $15,271 per employee.

The report also states that 71% of the managers who were terminated in 2016 did so voluntarily, and from that group, 16% were top performers.


The average turnover cost for restaurant managers.

– TDn2K, 2017 Recruiting & Turnover Report

Why top restaurant managers quit

If you guessed that the first reason involved more dollar signs elsewhere, you may be wrong.

“One of the primary reasons that a lot of managers quit is that they were not properly prepared for the position,” says Donald Burns, who runs The Restaurant Coach blog. “Most people get into management positions due to the classic ‘battlefield promotion.’ The person above them either gets fired or quits, and they get thrown into a management role without a lot of training. Some succeed; however, most end up stressed out, overworked and disillusioned. Some try to go back to their old positions. However, for many, it is just easier to quit and start over at another restaurant.

“It’s actually been stated that 87% of managers wish they had received more training when they first became a manager,” Burns adds. “That is a scary statistic.”

Can you stop the revolving manager turnover door?

Manager turnover is also a self-perpetuating problem. If a manager quits because they haven’t been properly trained and then no proper training is implemented for their replacement, turnover can become a vicious cycle, damaging the restaurant brand in the process.

“It’s very common for some of the staff to follow managers when they quit,” Burns says. “This can wreak havoc to consistency with food and service. Restaurants would do better to properly vet and screen people for management roles. Just because someone will do the job does not mean they can do the job. Having a comprehensive training program includes continuing education and perhaps even mentorship or coaching. This means investing in your people long-term. Restaurants need to switch from being a training culture to becoming a learning culture. Restaurants truly get better when the people in the become better.”

Where does work-life balance fit in?

Lack of managerial training can easily turn into the problem that keeps on giving. Without the tools necessary to handle time management, communication and team building, managers fall into a trap of working too many hours, which leads to a poor work-life balance.

“Making sure managers get time off to recharge is imperative to avoiding burnout,” Burns says.

Scott Vasko, Chief Operating Officer at NXNW/Red’s Porch, believes a productive, engaged manager works between 45-50 hours a week.

“Stressed, unbalanced managers lose perspective,” he says. “They become less tolerant and develop a sour outlook. Burnt out managers are more likely to drive turnover, so we take that unusual measure to keep ours in a healthy state of mind.”

“Working a manager 70 to 80 hours a week might be good for your bottom line; however, it’s not good for retention,” adds Burns. “The biggest problem is that we think working lots of hours is a solution. There’s a difference between being busy and being effective. With proper training and coaching, managers can learn to be more effective and results driven.”

“Stressed, unbalanced managers lose perspective,” he says. “They become less tolerant and develop a sour outlook. Burnt out managers are more likely to drive turnover, so we take that unusual measure to keep ours in a healthy state of mind.”

– Scott Vasko, Chief Operating Officer at NXNW/Red’s Porch

Compensate Restaurant Managers for the Right Activities

While a job offer with higher compensation can certainly lure top performing managers to leave for what they perceive to be greener pastures, money can also cause managers to quit if they feel that earning it is tied up with too much pressure from upper management.

“When you make a manager’s bonus purely on food cost and labor cost, some will cut corners in order to make the bonus-especially if the restaurant is not paying a fair salary for the manager and the only way they can really make it is by ensuring they reach the bonus,” Burns says. “Proper incentive programs should be a reward for exceeding expectations on multiple levels beyond what can be recorded on a P&L. Things like online reviews, increasing sales, turnover rate and employee satisfaction should be thrown into the mix.”

Each of these reasons ultimately leads to disengagement, which is the death knell for turnover. The TDn2K study reveals that, of the restaurants that conduct employee engagement studies, engagement correlates to turnover at a rate of 95%.

Restaurant Manager Retention Recap – Top 5 Takeaways

Avoid “Battlefield Promotions”

Hiring or replacing managers out of desperation – because someone quits – isn’t a strategy. Though it may work out in the end, it’s generally a better practice to identify and groom upcoming employees for management positions.

Take the Time to Train

Nearly 90% of managers say they wish they had received more training opportunities. Translation: you must have a training program for your managers in place! (Need some ideas? Check out these tips for creating an online training program in your restaurant.)

Create Development & Coaching Opportunities

There’s a difference between training and development and coaching. Training is the transferring of knowledge. Coaching is helping someone learn how to think. When you teach someone how to think, they are better equipped to make decisions without micromanaging them – something no millennial or gen-z restaurant manager wants.

Fine-Tune Work-Life Balance

Working 70-80 hours a week, every week is a recipe for burnout. We know that. There may be a few long weeks during peak volume periods of the year – but it’s important to help your passionate managers strike a healthy balance between the hard work and time away from the front-lines.

Incentivize the Right Activities

Most restaurants have a bonus, commission or incentive plan in place. Just make sure it’s incentivizing the right behaviors – the ones that drive productivity, quality, and results.

Wanna share your tips? Or restaurant manager horror stories?

Hit us up. We wanna hear what works and what doesn’t. Send us a message at our HotSchedules LinkedIn or HotSchedules Facebook Page.

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