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UAE’s F&B industry has its work cut out to ensure staff retention

Staff turnover can be constant niggle cramping F&B industry’s fortunes

Working in a part of the world where we employ from a very transient workforce – and typically recruit from countries where there is not necessarily a similar mature hospitality culture – brings with it a multitude of challenges.

Add into that a workforce that is highly financially motivated, where employees will move companies for a couple of hundred dirhams per month, as this can be sent home to pay bills or support extended family, and the challenge of retaining our team members becomes very real.

However, with the cost of training and the impact of consistency to the businesses significantly enhancing our guest experience, the well-trained team member’s longevity is one of the biggest goals in our outlets.

Full-scale induction

The issue with retention starts way before our team even join us, with creative advertising campaigns being used to attract the right personality to become one of our local ‘heroes’. Once we have identified the right candidates that fit in with our service culture, we embark on our induction and basic training programs. These involve the passing of as much job knowledge as possible culminating in written tests and role plays before our new recruits are let loose on our guests.

Our team are encouraged to share ideas and to engage as one team in each and every one of our outlets, we strive to cultivate a family feeling throughout – from daily family meals where our teams eat together through to our annual staff party, which celebrates individual and team achievements and sees all our outlets closed early so that we can all celebrate together as one.

Intent is to retain

In an industry where the average service period for a team member is less than a year, we are fiercely proud that 27 per cent of our team have been with the company for longer than three years, 16 per cent for more than five years and 8 per cent for more than seven. In Reform alone we have retained eight members of the opening team from nine years ago, many of whom have seen promotions over this period.

Our biggest shift this year through all outlets is the introduction of team incentives and team KPIs, these are based on achievement of pre-determined business goals. This has significantly improved the buy-in from team members, and now all – from management through to the line staff – benefit directly from achieving our goals.


As the Dubai labour markets mature and we see changes in visa regulations, we are looking forward to embracing a new aspect of the workforce and looking to recruit part-time employees from different industries throughout all our outlets. This will give us a more flexible workforce and offer support to our core teams through peak periods when we need all hands-on deck.

This in itself will make our teams more efficient and help to remove stress from busy periods whilst improving our guest’s experience. Throughout every team member’s journey with us, we offer comprehensive training and development through both on the job and with external courses. This has seen many of our team progressing their careers with us and beyond.

All the above initiatives are coupled with some ‘old-fashioned’ values, our team are treated with respect and expected to extend the same to one another, something that is often overlooked, and especially when working in high stress environments such as restaurant kitchens. We are true believers that a team who plays together.

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