The pandemic hardly pushed labor to the forefront of operators’ minds. Hiring, retaining, and training workers has been central to the quick-service playbook for as long as restaurants have been in operation. Pre-COVID-19, it was arguably the A1 concern. National unemployment was 3.6 percent in May 2019 and brands raced to amplify benefits, bolster recruitment, and invest in other people-centric initiatives designed to win a “war for talent” that was tightening by the day.
Since, however, terms like “The Great Resignation” and “Staffing Shortage” have become constants in the sector’s recovery. As of August, following a month where restaurants added 74,100 jobs, the field remained more than 600,000 short of February 2020. In June, there were 1.304 million job openings in accommodation and food services and 1.004 million hires to go along with 918,000 separations. Wages, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had climbed at a double-digit rate since April 2021 before retracting to 9 percent in June. Average hourly earnings fell in July for the first time since May 2020 (negative 0.16 percent), yet were still roughly 8 percent above year-over-year levels.
So the view looks something like this: Restaurants are paying more for labor, often have smaller staffs to operate with, and the nationwide unemployment rate, in July, was 3.5 percent.
What it adds up to is a higher stakes game than ever. The ability to identify talent, keep high-performing employees engaged, and create workplaces where people want to join and stick around, and, in turn deliver hospitality to guests, has become a differentiator that can’t be understated. To put it lightly.
In response to the continued importance of labor, QSR magazine, for the first time, put together its list of Best Brands to Work For. We polled restaurant brands and outside experts for submissions and then had a panel of industry pundits make their picks. The result: this group of 25 chains is QSR Best Brand to Work for Certified, and an example worth following for years to come. QSR will release this report annually.