Leverage Incentives Programs to Overcome the Hiring Crisis

As a multi-unit franchisee with 45 restaurants across seven brands, the uncertainty of the past year could have been unbearable. Each day, I read news stories about the restaurant industry hiring crisis, with talent demanding higher wages, and many offering competitive signing bonuses in order to attract employees. 

Across my restaurants, we had to come up with new strategies to recruit and retain employees. We have implemented an incentives program which has allowed us to incentivize employees to drive sales, which includes higher performance and makes their work more engaging and rewarding. In some ways, it’s like profit sharing — our employees make more money when the restaurant performs better — so our full teams are motivated to do their best work, focus on upsells, and even take on the less desirable shifts in the interest of taking home a higher wage. 

We were fortunate to already have a great system in place when the pandemic struck, which has positioned us well to weather the hiring crisis. However, it’s never too late to implement an incentives program. 

If you’re interested in incentive programs for your own restaurants, but not sure what to start, here are the most important five things you should know:

Automate with the Right Tools

Without the right tools, implementing any sort of incentives program is a nightmare. With 45 locations and more than 350 employees, I needed a tool that would allow me a quick and easy way to view real-time performance metrics. I use a tool called zignyl, which was invented by a fellow franchisee who was tired of running incentives on spreadsheets. 

Having one platform that keeps my Häagen-Dazs, Nestlé, Auntie Anne’s, Planet Smoothie, Cinnabon, Jamba, and Carvel stores under one roof — despite being different concepts with different operations, teams, and goals — is priceless because it empowers me to very easily implement automated incentives programs across all stores, without needing to manually track in spreadsheets. 

Increase Transparency

Our staff have access to an iPad in each restaurant where they can easily track progress toward team and individual incentives. This creates a natural team dynamic and stronger camaraderie, with staff members coaching each other on upselling, and all working together to maximize results.

Identify the Right Triggers for Incentives

Since all our systems are merged, it’s very easy for us to incentivize based on several factors. Weekends can be notoriously difficult to staff, so we often offer an extra incentive, such as an extra dollar per hour, for staff to work the weekend shifts. We’ve also focused on increasing net sales per transaction and found that our staff has become excellent at upselling as a result. Not only that, but we can also do more with less staff. Since we implemented zignyl, we’ve increased our sales per labor hour by $16 per person.

Promote Incentives in Job Postings

We include the incentives program as part of our job postings. As a result, we’ve found we attract employees with a strong work ethic that are focused on maximizing their pay. 

Ensure Your Staff Wins When You Win

By tying incentives to store performance, there is a great camaraderie for workers at all levels. Our teams see how close we are to unlocking a sales goal, and there is a mutual commitment to reaching that goal to unlock bonuses or hourly rate incentives. For example, if the goal is to hit 10 percent above forecasted sales, employees may earn a $1/hour raise; if the goal is 30 percent, they may earn an additional $3/hour.

As the industry marches toward $15/hour or more, it is important that we’re motivating our staff to do their best work to ensure revenues cover the higher wages.