The restaurant sector is not known for strong employee engagement. Many people view these jobs as being part-time or stepping-stone positions until they can find a more prestigious job elsewhere. As such, it should come as no surprise that many of these organizations struggle immensely to connect with their workers in meaningful ways. Citing data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and Compensation Force website, AZCentral noted the hospitality sector, which includes restaurants among other business types, actually has the highest voluntary and involuntary turnover rates.
However, some restaurant brands have been trying to remedy this issue by rethinking their employee engagement efforts. It should come as no surprise that there is a strong correlation between employee retention and engagement - engaged employees are less likely to leave a company than disengaged workers. By making employer-employee bonds a priority, eateries may be able to bolster retention and productivity simultaneously.
Popeyes leads by example
At the recent CL King Best Ideas Conference, Popeyes CEO Cheryl Bachelder explained that employee engagement is one of the top priorities at the quick-serve restaurant. While other similar companies have not placed a great emphasis on this aspect, simply because it is difficult to track and assess, Popeyes has made employee engagement one of its "four pillars" of operations.
Clearly the approach is working. QSRWeb reported that Popeyes has sustained 17 consecutive quarters of same-store sale increases, which is a significant accomplishment given the competitive nature of the market. While the first priority of Popeyes is development abroad and domestically, the second is people, which includes both employees and guests.
"Human capital - some call it fuzzy. I call it a hard, compelling, profit-driving strategy. When employee engagement statistics are high, there is high employee retention and high productivity and high guest satisfaction," Bachelder said. "When guest satisfaction is high, they come back and they spend more money."
For Bachelder, food quality is not a problem - the organization feels it has that part of the equation on lockdown, particularly as the chain expands into new food offerings. Elevating guest and employee experiences, however, has proven to be effective means for the company to bolster sales.
Learn how Matchbox Food Group used TemboStatus to improve the guest experience across their restaurants.
"Brands that invest in their people have the highest [average unit volumes] in our sector. That is what you can look forward to in the future (from Popeyes)," Bachelder said, as the news source reported.
Following in the footsteps of Popeyes
As Popeyes has found, even in industries where employee retention and engagement have long been core challenges, it is possible to bolster these factors through effective employee engagement programs. So, what can restaurants and other hospitality industry businesses do to prioritize engagement?
As Restaurant Hospitality noted, true employee engagement does not need to be expensive or difficult to implement.
"Over the years, I've found that simple things like gratitude, respect and autonomy make people far more happy than, say, big salaries and corner offices," Todd Patkin, author of "Finding Happiness: One Man's Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and - Finally - Let the Sunshine In," told the news source. "Best of all, these things are free and usually easy to provide."
- Provide more recognition: The restaurant industry is busy, with some businesses serving hundreds of customers per day. Amid all the hustle and bustle, it is often difficult to even find a minute to have conversations with workers. This often leads to situations where the only interactions people have with their bosses or managers are when they are doing something wrong. If people never get any praise when they perform well, and are only scolded when they do something wrong, it can damage their motivation and the relationship between employers and employees.
- Empower employees: Another detriment of the fast-paced restaurant business is executing decisions quickly and effectively. If employees need managers' approval before making decisions, it can lead to backups and sluggish operations. Companies may want to consider killing two birds with one stone by giving their employees more independence and autonomy. Allow them to do what they think is best, within some limitations of course. This shows that their employers trust workers' decision-making abilities and expertise, which can make workers feel like valued assets within the organization.
- Provide avenues for growth: Whether it is through promotions or additional training, helping employees grow can bolster engagement significantly.
"Ultimately, the success or failure of your business depends on the people who show up each day to do the work," reminds Patkin. "So place a strong emphasis on developing them."
Engagement is pivotal to the success of any business. Although the restaurant business has traditionally struggled with this, there are small things eateries can do to bolster this.
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