The past few years have been particularly challenging for the restaurant industry. In the midst of initial lockdowns, extended periods of mask mandates, and other pandemic-related restrictions, restaurants were forced to rapidly adapt their operations in order to remain in compliance with a slew of regulations, while also struggling to accommodate the rapidly-evolving expectations of their customers.
Quick-service restaurants were no exception, and in fact have faced an additional set of challenges unique to their specific industry. While many traditional dine-in establishments had no choice but to shutter their doors at the onset of the pandemic, quick-service restaurants and delivery-based businesses often prospered, albeit at a certain cost. The unavoidable lack of preparation (coupled with the sudden spike in demand) often resulted in operational dysfunction, employee dissatisfaction, and ultimately an ongoing exodus of workers from the quick-service space.
In late 2021, Business Insider reported that the foodservice industry as a whole was suffering from the highest quit rate in two decades at 5.7 percent, with quick-service restaurants experiencing a staggering 144 percent monthly turnover rate. In other words, the number of quick-service employees leaving their positions each month has been significantly higher than the number of existing employees on staff.
We've all seen the symptoms of this far-reaching problem in our own communities. Restaurants are opening late and closing early; dual-branded franchises can only serve items from one brand’s menu on a given day because they don’t have the staff to run two kitchens; massive “now hiring” banners have now eclipsed traditional storefront signage and logos.
So how can quick-service restaurants strike the right balance between meeting increased demand while also hiring safely and confidently? And perhaps more importantly, how can storefront retailers in the quick-service space meet their staffing needs while helping to ensure trust and safety in the workplace?
First, it’s essential to hire the right people.
The Value of a Fast and Reliable Background Screening Process
To turn briefly to a more positive development, the quick-service industry is currently welcoming a number of new franchise owners, many of whom chose to leave their corporate or retail jobs to pursue entrepreneurship during the pandemic. In addition to taking advantage of increased demand, these new owners are now in a unique position to craft an effective hiring process from scratch. Ideally this process will be specifically designed to address issues like employee turnover, while also creating a workplace environment that cultivates and prioritizes employee safety, satisfaction, and retention.
Now, when most HR professionals consider what an optimal hiring process should look like, background screening is probably not the first element that comes to mind. On the contrary, employers are much more likely to focus on onboarding and optimizing the candidate experience. It's good to create improvements in these areas; however, many may be underestimating the direct contribution of an efficient and reliable background screening process to the overall candidate experience.
Consider this testimonial from one restaurant manager regarding the unique role of their background screening provider in the hiring process:
"So much of our reputation as a fine dining and hospitality brand relies on our ability to hire dependable and trustworthy employees. [The company] understands the current competitive employment landscape and the importance of a positive candidate experience. They have helped us create a process that is simultaneously efficient and effective at identifying quality team members for our restaurants.”
For this employer, accuracy and efficiency go hand-in-hand when it comes to conducting background checks. There are a number of reasons why this should be the case, particularly in the current restaurant environment.
First, efficiency benefits the employer’s ability to both speed up the hiring process and to enhance the candidate's experience and perception of the business in an increasingly competitive job market. Moreover, producing accurate information and quickly identifying the perfect candidate can also be products of an exceptionally efficient screening process, particularly when sophisticated modern technology is involved.
New quick-service franchise owners have another opportunity to reimagine the hiring process. By utilizing technology-enabled tools to conduct background checks, not only does the task become less time-consuming, but employers also gain the ability to customize the screening process, automatically zeroing in on individual qualities and requirements that are unique to their operation. Thanks to significant advancements in technology, even the most seemingly tedious processes continue to be reshaped in innovative and profitable ways.
Certainly, the various challenges facing quick-service restaurants won’t be solved overnight, and employers attempting to hire in such a competitive market—while also battling historically high turnover rates—will need to reconsider traditional approaches to achieve desired outcomes in the near-term. By reimagining the overlooked contribution of a background screening process to the greater candidate experience, in addition to leveraging sophisticated technology to boost efficiency wherever possible, employers in the quick-service space may be able to more easily create a productive, satisfied, and sustainable workforce.
Vincenza Caruso-Valente is the General Manager of Sterling’s Staffing, Retail, and Franchise group, holding P&L accountability of the business lines. She previously held SVP roles leading teams that supported Sterling’s largest clients in Staffing, Retail, Gig, and Tech. She also played integral roles in Sterling’s M&A growth strategy. Her teams are dedicated to consulting clients on building best-in-class programs, optimizing the candidate experience, managing scale in growth eras, reducing time-to-hire, and driving profitability. Her team efforts have driven a 98% client retention rate. Prior to Sterling, Vincenza spent over 11 years in leadership roles in sales, business development, and finance at Dun & Bradstreet, AT&T, and EDS. Vincenza holds a BA degree in Economics and Italian from Rutgers University.