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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Hiring Struggles? Engage These Age Groups

Hiring Struggles? Engage These Age Groups

by David Klemt

Chef plating greens on plates

Staff turnover rates are still above pre-pandemic levels and there’s no silver bullet solution. However, two companies have some helpful advice.

Both Service Management Group and Technomic shared their tips during Restaurant Leadership Conference. Interestingly, each company has a different approach to the current hospitality industry labor problem.

In short, both SMG and Technomic advise operators to engage with vastly different age groups. However, they each have information that supports their recommendations.

Service Management Group

Jennifer Grimes, senior vice president of client services for Service Management Group, co-presented a session with Jim Thompson, COO of Chicken Salad Chick.

SMG is a software-with-a-service platform that seeks to the employee, customer, and brand experience. One crucial element of the company’s mission is the reduction of staff turnover.

During the RLC session, Grimes shared several years of hospitality turnover rates:

  • 2017: 72%
  • 2018: 75%
  • 2019: 79%
  • 2020: 130%
  • 2021: 86%

First, some context. The general consensus is that the industry’s average turnover rate has been between 70 and 80 percent for close to a decade. However, in comparison to other industries—10 to 15 percent—that’s stratospherically high.

Secondly, the turnover rate has been on rise since before the pandemic. Per some sources, the rate jumped from 66 percent in 2014 to 72 percent in 2015, a trend that continues to this day.

For SMG, the age group operators should seek to engage—generally speaking, of course—is 25 to 34 years old. Per the SWaS platform, this group was the most engaged pre-pandemic.

One reason for SMG’s suggestion is that Boomers appear to opting out of the workforce.

During the presentation by Grimes and Thompson, the latter shared that Chicken Salad Chick predicts the 2022 turnover rate to be just slightly above the 2019 rate.

Technomic

Unsurprisingly, Technomic had some numbers to share during RLC 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Per data provided by Joe Pawlak and Richard Shank, 70 percent of operators are still struggling with labor. Recruiting, hiring, and retaining staff doesn’t appear to be getting any easier four months into 2022.

Technomic also pointed out that the US saw the lowest population growth in its history last year: 0.1 percent.

Additionally, almost 17 percent of the country’s population is now at least 65 years old. In 2019, 48 percent of people 55 or older retired. That number is now just over 50 percent for the same age group.

Nearly seven million American consumers turn 60 each year, while four million turn 70 or older.

Logically, one may assume that Technomic is saying a significant portion of the US population is leaving the workforce. So, it’s best to focus on the same age group as SMG recommends.

However, Technomic is recommending a different strategy. Per Pawlak and Shank, retirees (mostly ages 55 and up) tend to have valuable managerial skills and experience.

Obviously, those skills and all that experience can be of great benefit to operators and our industry.

Certainly, all groups should be engaged by operators seeking to recruit, hire, and develop their teams. So, as KRG Hospitality sees recruitment, operators should craft targeted, authentic messaging that appeals to each age group.

Image: Sebastian Coman Photography from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Leadership Facepalm, Part Two

Leadership Facepalm, Part Two

by David Klemt

Airplane email icon set against white brick wall

In a stunning example of tone-deafness and callousness, a franchisee executive sent an email that led to severe consequences.

And no, I’m not talking about the termination of the offending exec. That, in my opinion, was well deserved.

In this instance, the email has led to mass resignations and damage to a global restaurant chain’s reputation. What’s more, the negative impact to the brand’s reputation comes from consumers and employees.

Of course, I’m talking about the now-infamous Applebee’s “gas prices” email.

The Email: Labor

Let’s just jump right into the email, because…wow.

“Most of our employee base and potential employee base lives paycheck to paycheck,” writes the executive. “Any increase gas prices cuts into their disposable income.”

This could have been an excellent example of awareness and perhaps even empathy. In the context of this email, it’s appalling.

Why? Mainly because this executive appears to be celebrating the fact that Applebee’s employees, at least those who work for this franchisee, are barely earning a living wage.

“As inflation continues to climb and gas prices continue to go up, that means more hours employees will need to work to maintain their current level of living,” continues the author.

In this exec’s view, this franchisee is “no longer competing with the government when it comes to hiring.” He cites stimulus payments and boosted unemployment support have run out. Therefore, he reasons that people will be forced to return to the workforce.

The author further points to competitors increasing wages to recruit and retain employees. This, he figures, is untenable and some will have to close their doors. So, the labor pool will fill up and this franchisee will benefit.

The Email: Wages

Some of what I’ve laid out above is accurate. According to some estimates, about two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Additionally, it’s accurate to state that some employees will seek more hours to combat the effects of rising costs. Further, yes, the labor market is turbulent and challenging.

And, unfortunately, some independent operators are facing incredibly difficult decisions. To recruit and retain, they’ll need to be competitive and raise their wages. To pay for that, they’ll need to raise prices, passing on rising costs to customers. In some instances, for some operators, that will prove unsustainable.

However, an executive in this industry shouldn’t be delighted about any of this. And they certainly shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to potentially pay employees even less.

You see, the author of this email suggests that the franchisee can bring in new workers “at a lower wage to decrease our labor (when able).”

He then recommends monitoring employee morale to ensure that the Applebee’s operated by this franchisee is their “employer of choice.”

For me, however, the most eyeroll-inducing line is this: “Most importantly, have the culture and environment that will attract people.”

Images of printouts of the email reveal that at least a handful of recipients agreed. “Great message Sir! [sic]” reads one response. Another paints the email as “Words of wisdom.”

Clearly, the culture and environment are unhealthy.

The Consequences

Before I proceed, know this: I’m not going to name the author. It’s not remotely difficult to find the author’s name if you feel the need.

However, I will name the franchisee that finally fired him. American Franchise Capital reportedly owns more than 120 Applebee’s and Taco Bell locations in nine states.

So, to be clear, this executive didn’t work for Applebee’s directly. In fact, Applebee’s has disavowed the former executive and the email.

In the interest of clarity, it’s possible the author worked for Apple Central LLC, owned by American Franchise Capital.

As far as fallout, it was swift. According to reports, consequences were realized immediately. A Kansas franchise manager was shown the emails, printed them out for staff to discover, and comped the meals of everyone at the location. Then, he quit and the staff walked out.

Per reporting, four other Applebee’s managers quit, as did several employees. The location remained closed for at least the following day.

If reports are accurate, Applebee’s lost five managers, nearly a dozen employees, and sales from a location for at least two days. That’s just the localized fallout.

Applebee’s, of course, is distancing the company from the former executive. However, that’s not going to stanch the reputational bleeding and turnover.

As we know, a significant percentage of consumers want to know their dollars and support are going to companies that align with their values. The same is true of employees; they want to work for companies with values they can get behind.

A Final Thought

This now-infamous email was sent March 9. Just two weeks later, it was circulated and went viral. The author, gleeful about being able to hire employees “at a lower wage,” was fired before the end of March.

I’ve seen several takes on this situation, and I’ve read some accompanying leadership advice. One in particular caught my attention.

Unfortunately, it’s not because I thought it was great advice: Be cautious about what you send via blast emails.

I’m not saying one shouldn’t be careful about what they send out in emails—that’s good advice. However, that’s not the lesson I’ve learned from this situation.

Personally, I see this as a lesson in emotional intelligence, relationship intelligence, brand culture, and work environment.

At least two companies, one with annual sales in the billions of dollars, another in the hundreds of millions, have had their reputations tarnished. The fault may not lie with Applebee’s but they’ll be dealing with the consequences regardless.

If an operator is going to learn anything about being cautious, it’s this: Be cautious when hiring those in leadership positions. Be cautious about those with whom you enter into partnerships. And be careful about how you view those who work for you.

If you aren’t seeing those who choose to work for you as people worthy of your respect, as human beings, your brand’s culture is poisoned.

Image: Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Why Communication and Empowerment Matter

Why Communication and Empowerment Matter

by David Klemt

Employees at front desk in hotel lobby

To truly embody the spirit of hospitality, internal communication and empowering staff must be part of your operation’s culture.

A situation KRG Hospitality president Doug Radkey found himself in recently could have been resolved quickly and smoothly.

However, it’s clear the staff lacked communication from the top. Nor did they have the ability to solve problems as they arose.

Let’s dive in.

Guest Experience

First, I’m not going to reveal where this incident took place. In fact, I’m not even going to provide the location.

Second, the problem arose at the front desk of a hotel. A well-staffed front desk—there were four team members working.

The issue was fairly minor but impacted the guest experience.

So, Doug and Jennifer Radkey booked a hotel over the weekend. They made their decision in part because of an available package. Among the perks of the package was a $50 gift card for a nearby restaurant.

Stopping by the desk on the way up to their room, Doug asked for the gift card. The desk clerk he asked had no idea what he was talking about.

In fact, none of the four front desk clerks knew about the promotion. Doug pulled up the hotel’s website and promotion on his phone, and showed the clerks.

Doing so jogged one clerk’s memory. However, details were still mostly unknown. There was no manager on duty and the staff searched through drawers looking for the restaurant gift cards.

After about ten minutes of searching, Doug said he and Jennifer were headed up to their room to get ready for dinner. They’d be down in an hour for the card (hopefully).

A Resolution, Kind Of

True to their word, Doug and Jennifer returned to the front desk for the gift card.

Miraculously, the front desk clerks had found one. (However, Doug thinks one of the team members ran over to the restaurant, bought a card, and brought it back to the hotel.)

One more note: A housekeeping team member had overheard the incident at the front desk as it was unraveling. She chimed in to suggest the front desk just knock $50 off the hotel stay or give Doug and Jennifer $50 cash to take to dinner.

Instead, as I just explained, the front desk clerks got their hands on a gift card.

But let’s look at what wrong here:

  • The guest encountered a service issue and waited more than ten minutes for any sort of resolution.
  • That resolution didn’t come for more than an hour.
  • It’s clear the staff received insufficient notice and details about the promotion.
  • The staff was also most likely not empowered to provide quick resolutions to guest problems.

Doug’s incident could have been resolved quickly and smoothly through communication and staff empowerment.

Communication

Clearly, communication is key for any business to operate smoothly. That’s not limited in any way to hotels or hospitality—all businesses in all industries need to value communication.

In fact, clear communication is a foundational value. Communicating clearly needs to be part of every operator’s core values and ingrained in their brand’s culture.

If there’s a promotion, if there’s a special, if there’s anything “unique” happening at a hotel, restaurant, bar, entertainment venue, etc., the staff needs to know.

Operators should email the details to staff members. Managers should share the details of a promotion or special during shift meetings. Staff should know how to enter promotions into the POS.

It’s doubtful that Doug would’ve encountered this gift card issue if clear communication was an important element of the hotel’s culture.

The front desk clerks would’ve known about it, and likely would’ve handed over the gift card upon check-in. Barring that, they would’ve known where to find the cards quickly and easily so they could’ve handed one out upon request for those guests who booked a room via the promotion.

Empowerment

There’s a second element of this particular guest experience equation: empowerment.

Had the front desk staff been empowered to correct mistakes as quickly as they may arise, it’s possible Doug would never have noticed there was an issue.

As difficult as it may be, operators and managers need to trust their staff. If that’s not happening, there are deeper issues at play that must be addressed and corrected.

If this hotel staff—remember, four clerks deep—were accustomed to adapting and resolving problems on the fly, that would’ve been evident.

This article wouldn’t exist because Doug wouldn’t have had a memorable negative guest experience to share with me.

Up to a reasonable point, guest-facing staff need to be empowered to solve problems quickly. It’s up to individual operators to decide what’s reasonable.

Upset guests don’t like encountering issues, obviously. Do you know what they really don’t like? Having to repeat themselves or watch staff flounder to reach a satisfactory resolution.

An empowered staff can assess a situation, target the problem, and resolve it without involving anyone else. And they can do so quickly and smoothly.

A Better Resolution

How could this issue have been resolved faster, accounting for the poor communication regarding the promotion? A daily or weekly “marketing fund.”

Some operators set aside an amount of cash for bartenders or other front-of-house staff to use at their discretion to solve problems. When that marketing fund is accessed, it’s reported and management can review the who, how much, and why at the end of the night.

In this case, $50 could have been handed over and accounted for with a, “I’m so sorry, we seem to be out of gift cards at the moment, this offer has been so popular,” and Doug would’ve only had a slight inkling of an issue.

Again, there were four front desk clerks present when this happened. Three didn’t know about the promotion. One clerk had a foggy idea about the promotion.

This wasn’t a staffing issue, nor was it a pandemic issue. And 19 months in, as harsh as this may seem, the pandemic can’t be the fallback excuse for every issue that comes up.

The following day, a manager learned of the incident upon Doug and Jennifer checking out the next day. He apologized and knocked $50 off their stay.

That wouldn’t have been necessary had leadership communicated about the promotion clearly. It certainly wouldn’t have been a painful incident had the staff felt empowered to make impactful guest experience decisions.

Today, commit to reviewing your operation’s communication. In all honesty, is it clear? Can it be improved? Have there been issues lately that could’ve been avoided if clear communication was part of your brand’s culture?

Once you’ve reviewed communication, as yourself if your staff feels empowered to solve guest issues quickly and reasonably. If not, that must change as soon as possible.

Image: Rodrigo Salomón Cañas from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Leadership: The Other 10-second Rule

Leadership: The Other 10-second Rule

by David Klemt

Watch face showing seconds and minutes

Those who remember last week’s Friday post will recall that there’s more than one 10-second rule.

Interestingly, this “other” rule also relates to communication.

As we all know, communication is paramount to leading teams and building relationships with others.

Last Week’s Rule

Deceptively simple, last week’s 10-second rule focuses on easing tensions.

If a situation is about to boil over or is already out of control, going silent for 10 seconds can cool things off.

First, shutting up for ten seconds stops the argument cold. Second, it provides time for the person leveraging this tactic to respond rationally.

Third, it humanizes the other person. Rather than seeing an opponent, the person going quiet for ten seconds remembers that this is a team member they’re engaging.

Finally, people who use this rule say going silent tends to snap the other party out of their hostility.

Treating others with respect and dignity, along with encouraging open communication and a free flow of ideas, are hallmarks of a healthy workplace culture.

This Week’s Rule

There are, of course, similarities between this week’s rule and last week’s. Obviously, they both call for a ten-second “timeout” to talking.

Also, they both focus on humanizing the other person in the conversation.

I came across the other 10-second rule on the Accounting Today website. Accountant and author Kyle Walters writes that his rule is also simple: If Walters talks for ten consecutive seconds during a client meeting, he stops to ask an open-ended question. Crucial to the process is that Walters then gives the person answering time to talk.

Now, while Walters applies this to client meetings, it’s useful for conversation in general. As he points out, it breaks the bad habits of dominating conversations; giving off the impression that you’re selfish and don’t care about the others in conversations; and not listening to others.

Anyone who leads a team; needs to develop relationships with suppliers, distributors, contractors, investors, banks, inspectors, etc.; and wants to build relationships with guests knows that listening is crucial.

Sure, ten seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time. However, take the time to actually see how many thoughts you can fire off in ten seconds. You’ll see how much talking for that “small” amount of time can quickly seem domineering if you don’t stop to include others in the conversation.

There’s also the “small” detail that you’re not having a conversation if you’re not listening—you’re just delivering a speech…and it’s probably not a good one.

It takes work to break bad habits. However, the benefit to your personal growth, leadership abilities, and business are worth the effort.

Image: Agê Barros on Unsplash

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