The unemployment rate in the U.S. stands just above 4 percent. While this near historic low rate is good news for employees, it can present a challenge for employers. In fact, many companies, restaurants included, are finding it challenging to hire and retain quality workers.

What’s the answer to the employee crunch then? For Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes, the answer is “The Pam Program” (person activating marketing), or PAM for short. Based in Texas, 10-year-old Mooyah is a franchise with more than 100 restaurants spread throughout 17–18 states and multiple countries. Like others in the fast casual medium, Mooyah has been trying to figure out how to get quality employees and help franchisees grow its business.

However, for Mooyah, finding quality employees was especially challenging. The franchise has a key tenant; each Mooyah should be part of the hometown team. Michael Mabry, president and chief operating officer of Mooyah, explains further. “When you open up a Mooyah, we want the local community to adopt that restaurant and vice versa. This should be done by supporting schools, churches, and local businesses.” Entry-level team members look like and are part of the community, and guest specialists (cashiers) are to be the face of the community. This tenant is another job requirement and insisting employees fulfill this requirement increases the challenges related to hiring.

Eight and a half years ago, Pam Parham needed a job. She was a career woman, in the field of marketing, but scaled back to focus on her family. With her children grown, Parham was looking for a role that would get her back into the workforce while still allowing the part-time flexibility to be a mom.

In response, Parham wrote a Facebook post about her interest in returning to the workforce. The original Mooyah franchisee saw the posting. He was looking for some marketing and community building help, and responded to the post with a job offer. Today, Parham is a local store marketing specialist and serves as part of the corporate team at Mooyah.

[image source_ID=”97996″]What exactly did Parham do in her return to work? A little of everything, actually, including: public relations, sales, marketing, production, community relations, and catering. Specifically, Parham contacted schools, reached out to PTA’s, visited local organizations, etc. to establish relations between Parham and the other entity. “I interacted with the schools and PTA’s while raising my children. I spoke the language and understood their needs and demands,” Parham says. She was the point person when one of these entities needed something from the restaurant, and she organized fundraisers with them.

When the events between the entities and the restaurant would occur, Parham was involved in every step of the process. She says, “I assisted with the deliveries, helped prep the food with the employees, and also went to the delivery.” In addition, Parham helped with sponsorship, program ads, setting up the dinners, and with the donations. Parham’s community outreach led to increased sales and helped Mooyah live up its tenant.

Other franchisees also wanted to live up to the tenant. They strove to do so but expressed concern about having the time for their staff to do effective local community marketing, since they’re having enough trouble in staffing the register and flipping the burgers. Mabry says, “We were scratching our heads and asking how can we do this? Then we thought of Pam and realized sometimes the best answer is right in front of you.” This aha moment has led Mooyah to strive to duplicate Parham’s success by creating that role through PAM.

Mabry is excited about the program, which will create opportunity for people in a situation similar to Parham’s at the time she came on board, and allow franchisees to enhance their local store marketing tactics. “Many great people have poured all their work into raising children for years. Eventually, they are looking for a segue back into working life.” Every business is starving for great people. He believes any business that can crack the code to get people back into the workforce will be a winner.

However, it’s not just anyone that Mooyah is looking for to be part of the program. Parham lists the traits Mooyah is searching for in employees who are joining PAM: connected, savvy, responsive, believe in the brand, customer of the store, love our food, friendly, pleasant, and outgoing. She believes there are plenty of potential employees out there. “There are many lost parents who don’t know how to get back into the workforce. I know because I was one of them,” says Parham. To find such people, Pam suggests contacting schools or PTA’s for their assistance.

The Mooyah franchisees told corporate they need help to spur business from local communities and meet the deeply held tenant. And Mabry, Parham and the rest of the Mooyah team are confident they have come up with a solution that is repeatable and can make a difference. While the unemployment rate remains low, many sit on the sidelines and are not sure how to get back into the working life. Mooyah has come up with an answer.

Employee Management, Fast Casual, Franchising, Restaurant Operations, Web Exclusives, Mooyah