As 2021 continues to unfold, we see quick-service restaurants choosing between a blend of full-time, part-time, and bringing back laid off/furloughed employees from 2020 to meet staffing needs, which will likely grow as we head into spring and summer. This may require different tactics and strategies when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and onboarding. The right program will account for these nuances while allowing you to focus on building a great culture and creating an atmosphere of trust and safety for your employees, customers, and community. Here are some best practices that we recommend to our quick-service restaurant clients:

Safety First

The pandemic has placed an entirely new emphasis on health and safety that quick-service restaurants have not experienced before. Ensuring that you are creating a safe work environment is paramount for your employees, customers, community, as well as your brand. 

It’s important to recognize that mandates and regulations can, and oftentimes do, vary from state to state or even city to city. Take the time to review the regulations in the markets you are operating in—and stay current with any changes. There are resources available through sites such as the CDC Federal Covid-19 info section and state sites such as California, where they recently mandated a Covid-19 testing program for employers statewide if a case or tracing is found at a place of employment. 

Keeping up to date on these regulations and, more importantly, training your staff on how to execute operational mandates such as indoor capacities, mask mandates, and distancing guidelines will help preserve trust with your customer base and the integrity of your brand. The general public is becoming increasingly aware of companies who act in a socially responsible manner—knowing that your company stringently follows guidelines and offers access to Covid-19/anti-body testing as well as vaccination information is a sentiment that resonates well with the public and displays that you are not only concerned about the health and well-being of your staff, but also your customers and the public as a whole.


Assess Your Background Checks

In addition to the inherent element of safety that comes with following pandemic rules and regulations, there is also the more traditional, and equally important component of maintaining a safe work environment by conducting background checks on employees. With an extremely competitive labor market, it’s critical that this process moves as quickly and efficiently as possible while remaining thorough and with attention to accuracy and compliance. The longer this process may take, the higher the likelihood that your applicant may find work elsewhere. So, what’s to be done? The Covid-19 pandemic offers us a glimpse of the future, today. It has forced us to assess old ways of doing business, and to recognize that it’s time, perhaps past time, to embrace modern approaches to hiring, onboarding, and employing our most treasured asset, people. It means collaborating with your background check provider and reviewing your program to:

  • Align Services to Positions 

One background screening package does not fit all. Ensuring your screening packages match the positions you are hiring for will help to reduce spend as well as time to hire. Depending on the company and the job position in question, employers can check an applicant’s credit reports, criminal records, or motor vehicle reports. For example, if you are hiring for a driver position, do you have a Motor Vehicle Records search and monitoring included in your program? This search is necessary for applicants of delivery driver jobs or for employees whose job positions may include driving at one point or another on behalf of the company.

Given the turnover rate in certain quick-service restaurant positions and in addition to the impact of pandemic, leveraging technology is a critical strategy to enable the key areas (Time to Hire, Mobile Candidate Experience), which drive healthy candidate pools. According to a survey, the turnover rate in the quick-service industry could be as high as 150%, making the impact of losing an employee in the workforce very high. Some studies predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs six to nine months’ salary on average. For a manager making $60,000 a year, that’s $30,000 to $45,000 in recruiting and training expenses. 

  • Reduce Time to Hire

Speed and accuracy are crucial for reducing your time to hire while performing a background check. It’s important to note that there’s a correlation between speeding up time to hire and providing a positive candidate experience. One thing that recruiters can do is inform candidates about the background screening process. If candidates are better informed, it can reduce anxiety about the process. Organizations can also integrate background screening into their applicant tracking system to improve the hiring and onboarding workflow. Job candidates are apt to move on if they’re left waiting.

  • Provide a Mobile-Responsive Candidate Experience 

Many applicants, especially within the quick-service restaurant pool, rely solely on smart devices as opposed to desktop/laptop computers. Utilizing a platform that is designed for smart devices reduces the time it takes the applicant to complete the necessary compliance forms and provide the pertinent data for a background check to be completed. While candidate experience has been a hot topic for years, many companies still struggle to improve this important component of the hiring process, leaving top talent on the table, no pun intended.

  • Revamp your Strategy

Every organization recruits candidates differently because their efforts are affected by geographical location, industry, company culture, and recruiting teams, as well as by role, time, and level of urgency to fill the open position. Rather than follow a specific approach, companies across the nation are using creative recruitment strategies and technologies to hire top talent. Virtual job fairs and hiring events are a good example. Organizations are leveraging powerful tools to stay aware of their talent pool. Very simply, a smart technology foundation brings a great workforce strategy to life. 

  • Workforce Shaping 

Hiring managers know the importance of and continue to use workforce shaping to assess traditional hiring strategies to meet their business needs. In a survey by KPMG International, two in three HR executives are prioritizing upskilling of the workforce to manage the impact of AI on the workforce, with 77% planning to upskill up to 30% of their workforce in digital capabilities over the next 2–3 years. Shaping the workforce is more than sourcing talent; it goes hand in hand with upskilling, reskilling, learning and development and diversity and inclusion efforts. It’s the new vision for the future of work. 

  • Consistency is Key

Whether applying Covid-19 related mandates or looking to perform background checks on your growing workforce, remaining consistent in your approach across locations and markets is important for several reasons:

  1. Erring on the Side of Caution: In the interest of health and safety, some quick-service restaurants are defaulting to the most conservative market they serve as it relates to applying Covid-19 regulations and extrapolating those mandates across all markets served. In a time of a global crisis, there’s no such thing as being too cautious. Implementing clear and consistent practices mitigates the chances of virus transmission. The consistent approach, regardless of location, also helps reinforce to your customers what to expect when they enter your establishment
  2. Compliance is a Cornerstone: When making hiring decisions and factoring in background checks, it’s important that you are following all the proper consent and authorization guidelines both on a federal and state Level. Many quick-service restaurants utilize a central adjudication or review committee when assessing the results of background checks to encourage that all candidates are measured equally in accordance with company guidelines. 
  3. Corporate vs Franchise Owned: The general public does not differentiate between a corporate owned location vs. a franchise owned one. Both corporate and franchise owners have the same brand to protect. Following the same guidelines will help to foster best practices no matter who technically owns and operates the location. If you are a franchise owner, ask your corporate contacts what resources they have available in the areas of Covid-19 assistance. Similarly, corporate can typically recommend a background check vendor for you to work with if you are not already doing checks. Conversely, if you are working for corporate, reach out to your franchise owners and offer assistance and resources in these areas to drive safety and increase public awareness and trust. 


Food for Thought:

Finding and retaining great employees continues to be a challenge, especially across a mix of full-time, part-time, contingent workers, and bringing back laid off/furloughed employees. In addition, the restaurant industry is well-known for high turnover rates—significantly higher than the annual average.

To improve the quality of candidates and employees, and to reduce turnover rates, employers and hiring managers should be considering a recruitment program that includes technology, analytics, and a great candidate and employee experience. HR leaders will remain laser-focused on creating processes and implementing technologies that make employees’ lives easier and their interactions with HR more memorable across the talent lifecycle, from onboarding to performance management to learning and development.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.

Jeff Walmsley is the Client Success Leader for the Enterprise, Retail, and Franchise business of Sterling, a leading provider of background and identity services. Find him on LinkedIn. For more information, visit Sterling or call 833.342.4571 with any questions you may have.

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