Upping the Ante: This Week in Restaurant Staffing

As part of its effort to hire 20,000 new team members, Chipotle is increasing restaurant wages resulting in a $15 average hourly wage by the end of June. 

McDonald’s will be raising hourly wages for more than 36,500 at McDonald’s-owned restaurants by an average of 10 percent. They are looking to hire 10,000 new employees over the next three months.

It doesn't end there. 

Chipotle's crew members can advance to a Restaurateur, the highest General Manager position, in as little as three and a half years, with average compensation of $100,000. 

"Chipotle is committed to providing industry-leading benefits and accelerated growth opportunities, and we hope to attract even more talent by showcasing the potential income that can be achieved in a few short years," said Marissa Andrada, Chief Diversity, Inclusion and People Officer at Chipotle. "We're looking for people who are authentic, passionate and want to help cultivate a better world through real food and real personal development." 

Chipotle became the first brand to launch a virtual career fair on Discord on May 13. It featured recruitment content and live sessions with Chipotle employees highlighting its benefits, career paths, cooking demos, and more. Career fair participants had the opportunity to chat with real Chipotle employees and gain valuable insight into what it's like to work in a Chipotle restaurant. 

Other benefits include the Crew Bonus, education assistance, health and wellness resources, 401(k) and free food. 

“Our first value is taking care of our people, and today we are rewarding our hardworking employees in McDonald-owned restaurants for serving our communities,” said Joe Erlinger, President McDonald’s USA. “These actions further our commitment to offering one of the leading pay and benefits packages in the industry.”

The benefits package already offered to eligible employees in McDonald’s-owned restaurants include: Archways to Opportunity, its further education program, counseling, 401(k), rewards programs, discounts and a free meal per shift. 

Applebees is also hoping the lure of free food will be a draw for potential employees. On Monday, May 17, Applebee’s will host a National Hiring Day event at franchise and company-operated restaurants nationwide. During the event, every candidate 18 years or older who receives an interview will receive a voucher for a free appetizer as part of Applebee’s “Apps for Apps” program. Through this hiring initiative, Applebee’s and its franchise partners aim to welcome 10,000 new team members. 

With the goal to hire at least 2,500 new associates ranging from delivery drivers and hourly associates to managers, Donatos will begin holding Dinnerviews on Wednesdays from 2-5 p.m. in all of its local restaurants starting on May 19.

The Donatos Dinnerviews are designed to make landing a job as simple as possible while at the same time allowing applicants to enjoy a large one-topping pizza covered Edge to Edge® with their favorite topping. The Dinnerviews will consist of walk-in interviews with no appointment necessary. After meeting with a member of the Donatos team that could land the prospective associate a job on the spot, applicants will receive a certificate for a free large one-topping pizza.

"Just like we've worked hard over the history of our brand to keep our operation processes simple and consistent, we want to make the process of landing a new job easy," said Donatos CEO Tom Krouse. "We also want to make it fun and rewarding, and we know that our pizza is always a great way to bring people together."

Upping the ante is not just for the more well-known brands. 

Vivili Hospitality Group in Prescott Arizona is partnering with Yavapai College to offer employees free college tuition in an effort to incentivize new and existing employees.

Vivili is turning to college students to recruit staff for its five Prescott restaurants including The County Seat, La Planchada, The Barley Hound, Rosa’s Pizzeria and Taco Don’s by committing to pay for their college tuition. 

“Attracting and retaining the best talent is a top priority for Vivili and creating this program with Yavapai College allows us to do just that, while also contributing to the community by funding the education of people looking to get ahead in their careers,” said Skyler Reeves, proprietor of Vivili. “With this being a challenging hiring time for the service sector all over the country, our vision for this program is to find a creative way to alleviate this industry-wide issue.” 

The Vivili College Program is available at Yavapai College with registration for the fall semester currently open. All Vivili employees are eligible for tuition benefits after 90 days of employment and working an average of 32 hours per week. 

Greg Staley, CEO of SynergySuite said labor shortage is an issue for virtually all of his clients. 

“Some are closing for part of the day, or more days in the week, because they don't have enough people to staff for their full hours. They have the demand from customers, but not enough employees. Many are not expecting labor to normalize until unemployment insurance also returns to normal.”

In the meantime, he thinks there are still a number of ways restaurants can mitigate this shortage.

“Because many restaurants are offering interview bonuses, hiring bonuses, and/or higher wages to attract and retain employees, it's more important than ever to not overschedule,” Staley said. “Technology isn't necessarily going to help you find an untapped labor market. However, if you're offering 1.5x your previous wage to attract talent, technology can help you schedule more efficiently so you're only allocating as many people as needed and keeping labor costs as low as possible.”

He is also seeing burnout as a serious problem industry wide.

“It was an issue pre-COVID that has only accelerated due to the stress of the pandemic,” Staley said. “One thing you can do to help retain employees is use the tools at your disposal to improve the quality of employee experiences. Give employees tools that make their jobs quicker and easier. Streamlining tasks like inventory, opening and closing checklists, supplier deliveries and more takes some of the stress of your employees and gives them more time to spend with customers.”

Krystle Mobayeni, CEO and co-founder of BentoBox, believes technology plays a key role in providing operational efficiencies that will help staff. 

“Restaurants can rethink the role of contactless technology, like tabletop QR codes, to facilitate each step of the dining experience, from retrieving the menu to ordering and payment processing,” she explained. “Operationally, this on-demand technology helps increase speed and accuracy of orders while enabling staff to prioritize quality service over administrative processes.”

In the back of house, to alleviate staffing limitations, Mobayeni suggests restaurants consider pre-set menus or family-style meals to meet the kitchen’s convenience needs and make for faster ticket times, without sacrificing creativity.

And there is technology targeted at helping alleviate labor shortages. Harri will release Chat & Apply, a conversational AI platform that enables teams to acquire more candidates, offer unbiased interactions, hire faster and give managers time back on the Carri platform.

“The path to recovery in the wake of COVID-19 hinges on the ability to hire, manage, and develop teams in a manner that drives an unparalleled employee experience,” said Luke Fryer, CEO and Founder of Harri. “We noted from the onset of COVID-related shutdowns that conversational AI could be a very powerful tool in connecting with displaced employees. We’re taking those learnings and directly applying them to empower business leaders to strategically improve hiring, retention, and employee engagement.”