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Was it something I said?

Spending your valuable time in the kitchen because you're always short one line cook? Frustrated that you spend more time interviewing and training employees than running your restaurant? Scratching your head because your servers keep leaving to work for the competition? Most importantly, do you know why?

Stop scratching your head and start finding answers. Here are two tools to help you understand why your restaurant staff is leaving, and what you need to do about it -- the Exit Interview and the Alumni Survey.

An Exit Interview is conducted during normal termination procedures, while the final paycheck is being issued. A pre-printed questionnaire with a few simple and straightforward questions works best. Most employees want to leave on good terms, and will give you honest feedback.

A line cook who's leaving, for example, might tell you that he didn't like the working conditions in the restaurant -- improperly maintained equipment, a small work space, or a lack of tools to perform his job well. Make note of this feedback and correct any problems you can. Chances are you have other line cooks who feel the same way, and you don't want them walking out the door.

The Alumni Survey is another great way to find out why your employees are leaving. Employees who have been gone at least 90 days tend to be more candid, and offer valuable insights about your workplace. Create a simple employee database to store a former employee's last known address, position held, and date of termination. About every six months send out the Alumni Surveys with a letter of explanation. Don't ask questions with yes or no answers. Try and learn as much detail as possible. A response rate of 50% is realistic if you send the Survey with a self-addressed, stamped envelope and, offer a $10 gift certificate for filling it out.

Use these effective tools diligently to find out why your employees are leaving. It's the first step in keeping good employees and keeping them happy. Get started today by downloading a sample Exit Interview and Alumni Survey .

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