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The Shift: 5 Ways ‘QSR Guy’ Continually Invests in His 500+ Employees

The Shift is an industry-focused blog series from contributors who share their inside perspectives on life working in foodservice and restaurants.

In the restaurant industry, your team is everything.

With countless opinions constantly circulating about what it takes to run a successful restaurant, many are left to wonder what actually works.

As a multi-brand franchisee operating in 25 different cities, I have seen firsthand what makes a restaurant thrive: a solid team. 

In just a few years, I’ve scaled my QSR franchises to over 30 locations with 500+ employees. I have found that there is one crucial thing that helps with retention, performance, culture, and growth: investing in my people.

Here are five ways we invest in our employees each and every shift:  

1. Training and development programs

Training and development programs are standard in restaurants and chains but not always given the attention they deserve. A thoughtful training program should include employee onboarding, initial training, and ongoing support. Onboarding is one of the first interactions a new employee has with the brand, so the onboarding process should provide new employees with an idea of what to expect, from the brand’s ideals to what a day in the life would look like for someone in their role. 

Once through onboarding, team members should be enrolled in training programs focused on their position and responsibilities. Training should be suitable for various learning styles to help ensure that each employee has an opportunity to learn the material. Meanwhile, training should expand past the basics of the job; providing leadership development training can help your team members grow, and your restaurants be successful. In my stores, we also bring in external advisors every few months to refresh employees on operations and leadership. 

Training does not stop after the initial few months. It is important to continue to train and develop your people on an ongoing basis. It pays dividends.

2. Recognition and rewards

Bonuses are a huge part of my team’s compensation. 

Earlier this year, I took over where a previous owner didn't have any bonus plan, and hadn't issued a bonus in years (and didn’t pay well enough to make up for it). One small change to that gave me a ton of loyalty and upside.  

Especially in an environment where people have many options to choose from when deciding where to work, it is essential to show recognition and appreciation to team members across each level of your organization. It is no secret that monetary compensation motivates employees, which is why many organizations provide bonus opportunities for management teams if they achieve specific criteria (like profitability benchmarks or good customer satisfaction ratings).

Outside of the traditional bonuses for managers, at my restaurants, we also give out bonuses to the ‘employee of the month’ and ‘cashier of the month’ at each location, meaning that each individual in the store can work towards a bonus, and the hard work of the top-performing individuals is getting acknowledged.

3. Career advancement opportunities

When team members know they can grow into leadership roles with their current company, they are more likely to a) work hard and b) stick around for the long run. 

At my restaurants, we are very vocal about promoting from within. As a brand, we must be willing to develop our people so that they can step into new roles with different skill requirements. We pay for certification courses or allocate time for team members to shadow positions of interest. While this can add cost, we find it invaluable as it means that our leadership teams are stacked with individuals who understand what it is like to be a cashier or line cook, meaning that they are better able to empathize with team members and problem-solve compared to outside hires. 

One important thing to remember is that ‘A’ players will pay for themselves. If you find one, do what you can to secure them. The rest will fall into place.

4. Benefits packages 

Employee benefits are no longer reserved for office jobs, and employees in the restaurant industry will choose to work with (and stay with) brands that provide the most comprehensive benefits. Below are some benefits that will entice quality candidates to apply for a job at your restaurant. 

  • Health, dental, vision, and life insurance
  • 401(k) with match
  • Vacation pay
  • Maternity leave 
  • Life coaching 

Often, you will find that candidates will lean towards a company with a comprehensive benefits package instead of one with higher pay yet little-to-no benefits, especially employees with growing families. One way to determine which benefits your team members are interested in is to conduct anonymous surveys where they can let you know their preferences. That data can then be used to build benefits packages that employees will most appreciate.

5. Going above and beyond

One often-forgotten key to keeping team members excited about where they work is providing them with opportunities and experiences they can’t get anywhere else, essentially going above and beyond for your team. From offsite retreats (which we pay for) to places they have never been, to company parties with games and giveaways, we try to ensure that our team members feel appreciated and invested in. These experiences also help promote a positive and more-connected company culture which reflects in how our employees treat each other and our guests.

There are countless ways to show appreciation to employees, like cultivating a great work environment, giving gifts for lifetime achievements, and providing benefits that help them reach their life goals. Any experience that employees will remember and look back on fondly will help ensure a positive employee experience and reduce turnover. 

As an operator in the industry, one thing becomes crystal clear: when you take care of your employees, they will take care of you and your guests in return. That is why the secret to successful restaurant operations lies in happy employees who feel supported both at work during every shift, and in their personal lives. 

The other day, one of my managers was extremely stressed out. This tends to happen from time to time. I found out about this and quickly purchased a massage gift certificate for them. An action very small on my end, but completely made their day. Small acts that show you are listening and care about your people go a long way. 

Hiring and retaining great employees was very difficult over the past few years. Although it has improved significantly, the overall landscape has changed. Employees understand their importance more than ever. Treat them accordingly and all of your shifts will be much easier.

About the author

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