Employee turnover is widespread in the restaurant industry, marked by an average annual rate of 79.6 percent. According to Black Box Intelligence and Snagajob’s post-pandemic research on the restaurant industry, poor hourly pay and a lack of long-term career growth opportunities are two of the primary factors driving turnover among industry workers.
For chain and franchise restaurant owners, tackling these issues can be challenging, as owners don’t always have the capability to easily increase pay. They also face competition for frontline workers from a range of retail employers and other service-oriented businesses. Fortunately, one thing that is well within an owner’s control is the ability to provide staff with a path to career advancement. A flexible workforce education program can start workers on that path.
Meeting the Moment through Workforce Education
The restaurant industry’s low barrier to entry has long fostered a belief that employees are easily replaceable, but a tightening U.S. labor market demands owners rethink this notion. During the pandemic, restaurant worker turnover jumped, as people began switching to other industries that could offer stable employment, higher pay, and more career growth. Even though the restaurant industry has begun to recover, many of these workers have decided not to come back.
So how should restaurant owners approach this competitive landscape? It’s no secret that when employees feel valued and supported in their career growth, they are more likely to stay with a company. Unfortunately, few owners within the restaurant industry have had the tools to easily offer educational benefits and upskilling opportunities to employees.
Thankfully, the workforce education landscape has evolved. Restaurant owners now have options to offer employees workforce education opportunities that benefit them in their current roles and future prospects. That last point is critical. To be successful, an employee education program must be focused on providing a better future for employees, wherever that future may be. This means offering training for a wide range of skills, not just those specific to operating and running a restaurant.
Consider that some restaurant employees might be interested in pursuing management opportunities, while others might take an interest in specializing in culinary arts. An education program should be comprehensive enough to include learning options that allow workers to explore all different kinds of career paths within the business. If employees see that learning can result in tangible benefits and career outcomes, they are likely to stay with their employer for longer.
Additionally, by investing in the future of employees, owners are making a compelling message about what their business values most. People like to work for and patronize businesses that care for their employees. Restaurant owners can expect an education program to both attract a steady stream of eager talent and create a positive brand image. Additionally, by keeping employees on the roster for longer, customer service quality is bound to improve.
Workforce Education Solutions for Franchise Owners
Historically, franchise employees have lacked benefit parity with employees at large corporate-owned chains or major retailers like Amazon and Walmart. This is because franchise owners with small businesses are generally limited to off-the-shelf programs and whatever benefit offerings the corporate parent of the franchisee offers. What’s more, the process of creating an in-house employee education program has traditionally been a daunting and expensive endeavor, with most offerings in the past being limited to broad scholarship programs with traditional tuition reimbursement.
However, with the advent of online learning technologies, those limitations no longer apply. Today, any business can create an effective and economical employee education program that allows for at-home learning, easy progress tracking, and a diverse range of courses to choose from. When paired with direct-bill payment programs, like those implemented by companies such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target, participation rates can surpass those seen with traditional tuition reimbursement.
In-Demand Workforce Education Programs for Restaurant Employees
One challenge that still remains for chain restaurant owners and franchises is to determine which courses employees are most interested in taking. The following are some of the most sought-after educational offerings in a workforce education program for restaurant employees.
IT Skills and Certifications
Due to their applicability across a wide range of industries, IT skills are in high demand. Among restaurant workers, the IT skill courses that we see the most demand for are those in cybersecurity, AI machine learning, and CompTIA certification. Providing your workers with the opportunity to acquire these skills will create a strong internal pipeline of IT talent – which is increasingly valuable in the restaurant sector – and prepare them for entry-level IT positions in industries beyond hospitality.
Many employees are interested in learning additional languages, which can be particularly advantageous in a hospitality setting. While English language proficiency tends to top the list among restaurant workers, employees may also express interest in learning French, Spanish, and Mandarin, all of which can be highly useful for communicating with customers.
Having a bachelor’s degree can significantly increase a worker’s earning potential. As such, many workers may express an interest in attaining a degree, with popular areas of study including food industry management, business administration, organizational leadership, graphic design, and corporate accounting. Having staff members with such specialized knowledge and critical thinking skills can be invaluable.
Embracing an employee education program is not just a practical answer to current retention challenges, but also a strategic investment in the future. By catering to the career aspirations of employees, whether they seek growth within the hospitality sector or aspire to other career paths, restaurant owners are laying the foundation for a committed and skilled workforce.
At the same time, investing in the future of employees communicates a powerful message that a business is not just profit-driven, but people-centric. In a world where employees and customers gravitate toward companies that proudly support their employees, providing education opportunities can set a business apart as a powerful advocate for its workforce.