Web Exclusive | September 2016 | By Alex Dixon

How to Win the 'Labor War'

With high turnover rates rampant in the hospitality industry, Piada Italian Street Food decided to invest in its current workforce.

Piada Italian Street Food
Under this program, managers can potentially earn $100,000 or more through monthly bonuses and lump sum payouts. Piada Italian Street Food

Piada Italian Street Food started a three-tiered leadership development and incentive program, aimed at recruiting and retaining employees from restaurant managers to chefs.

The fast casual brand’s new strategy includes the Executive Partner Program, which financially rewards restaurant general managers through participating, the creation of certified training restaurants, and the launch of Piada University for the company’s chefs.

“Not only in the fast casual environment, but in hospitality in general, we know that there’s a war on talent. Turnover is high; people are kind of transient,” says Diane Neville, vice president of people services at Piada, who was recently hired to lead the company’s human resources initiatives. “We felt that if we focused on development of somebody personally and professionally (while) also rewarding them monetarily, we would see retention behind this.”

Nomination by a regional Piada partner, as well as a minimum of three months in a current position with Piada, is required for participation in the Executive Partner program.

Under this program, managers can potentially earn $100,000 or more through monthly bonuses and lump sum payouts, reaching salary levels that are often reserved for multi-unit responsibility levels, according to Piada.

“I think the most exciting part about that is it gives another opportunity for advancement or development to team members, because most partners feel like their next step is to go multi-unit and that’s not necessarily what they have to do at Piada today,” Neville says. “They can make multi-unit dollars by running one store, which is much easier, so that really changes the landscape for many.”

Piada also formalized its Certified Training Restaurant (CTR) program, which provides financial incentives to managers, supervisors, and chefs when restaurants meet set criteria on more than 180 items including guest comment scores, employee retention, and food safety.

In late June, Piada launched its inaugural Piada University, which brought more than 120 employees through a program led by the company’s executive leadership team on subjects such as hiring practices and company culture.

Piada University will be held quarterly, Neville says, and all new chefs are required to participate upon hire.

Neville, who has held similar human resources roles at PF Chang’s, Pei Wei Asian Diner, and Grimaldi’s, says Piada acted quickly on investing in this program given that the restaurant is a young brand.

“We’re paying well above fast-casual industry dollars to ensure we can attract the best talent,” she says. “We’re just willing to put our toe in the water I think faster than most have … and while Piada is still a growing brand, not a household name yet; this is what we’re going to use to launch that.”

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