Restaurants Make Hiring a Party

To retain current employees, franchise owners are improving training and benefits.

May 22, 2019

IRVINE, Calif.—In April, Taco Bell threw 600 parties around the United States specifically to court potential workers. Those parties generated a 41% bump in company store applicants over the previous year, CNBC reports.

“We wanted to do something to help us stand out among the competition—it’s extremely competitive for great talent,” said Bjorn Erland, Taco Bell’s vice president of people and experience. “It really builds the employment brand for people that we may not hire today. … It’s an opportunity to bring people into the brand and talk about the opportunities at the brand.”

Other restaurants are going beyond job fairs to find new ways to recruit. For example, McDonald’s is pairing up with AARP to find workers for 250,000 summer positions this year. Shake Shack has a pilot program of four-day workweeks for managers. “Our managers in our Shacks have shifted their hours across four work days instead of five. They are paid the same and retain all the same benefits,” said Kristyn Clark, director of communications. “It’s still very early—we’re doing a lot of listening.”

For current employees, restaurants are focusing on in-house promotions and better training to boost retention. At Chipotle, which offers tuition assistance and quarterly bonuses, 83% of its current general managers came from within its ranks. Starbucks also offers tuition payments for bachelor’s degrees.

Franchise owners, such as the Wolak Group, which operates dozens of Dunkin’ locations, also work hard to attract and keep employees. Wolak has a training facility that offers personalized orientation. “When you look at turnover within the industry, traditionally it’s well over 100% and we were not satisfied with that as an organization—so we took a very broad and strategic look at what things we could do to improve our training and workplace culture,” said Colleen Fogarty, executive director of human resources at the Wolak Group. “I think it helps with retention. We’ve spent a lot of time developing training to enhance our current managers’ skill sets as well and they’re very appreciative of that.”