Last year, the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry fed hundreds of millions of people around the world. At the same time, however, they churned through tens of thousands of employees. For an industry expected to reach $410B in the U.S. alone by 2030, the stakes of market share and revenue growth could not be higher, and employee retention is right at the heart of it. As a result, QSR companies of all sizes are seeking new and innovative ways to improve their approach to employee recognition in an effort to increase engagement and keep more of their high performers.
It’s no surprise that the QSR industry has such a high turnover rate. It’s hard, sweaty work, long hours that start early and run late, limited validation from customers, and low pay. And consider the mindset of many people who apply for QSR jobs in the first place; many of them, especially teenagers and young adults, see the business as a temporary stop or necessary evil – a steppingstone to something better. Given those factors, a high turnover rate seems almost built into the industry.
But there is a flip side.
For people who discover they enjoy the work and are built for the demands, the QSR industry offers tremendous opportunity for growth: store positions in management, territorial responsibility, positions on the corporate side, or even ownership of their own franchises. It behooves restaurants to identify those people early and often, find ways to keep them engaged with the success of the business, and consider how to help all employees feel appreciated and like they’re part of the wins. That way, even if they don’t make their careers there, employees contribute more and get more out of it while they are.
Consider the recent story of a Burger King employee named Kevin Ford. You might have heard how he worked at Burger King for 27 years without missing a single day of work or so much as leaving a shift early, except for the funerals of his parents. In all that time, he had never been recognized by Burger King for an employment milestone, a professional achievement, or even a birthday. What kept him satisfied in his job for all those years was pretty simple, actually – he valued the health insurance coverage for his family.
Kevin ultimately posted a Tiktok after his co-workers had made their own efforts to acknowledge his longevity and performance with small goodie bags full of gift cards, candy, and a few other things bought from other vendors in the airport. Small gestures, but Kevin appreciated them. It was when he talked about the things he’d been given that the story blew up. People around the world couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and they started a GoFundMe in Kevin’s name. That fund has eclipsed $400K, and it’s still growing.
The other thing consumers did was use the video as a platform to call out Burger King for their lack of attention to employee recognition, especially for an industry unicorn like Kevin. They’ve taken something of a beating for it, yet they’ve remained silent on the matter. As the story and the contributions gained momentum, eventually taking Kevin all the way to the set of the Today show, Burger King’s silence was deafening.
So, what should forward-thinking QSR organizations take away from this?
The reality is you can put a numeric value on employee engagement and satisfaction, and that’s exactly what more companies should do. When they see in black and white what the value of engaged employees and lower turnover is to the company, they will then see the importance of a focused employee recognition strategy. When the time comes to identify a partner and implement a platform, here are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Think expansively
- Employee recognition can raise engagement across all levels of the organization and should be strategized as such. Also, don’t forget to find a platform that can include your workers, no matter where they work.
- Make it easy
- It shouldn’t be hard to give someone the recognition they deserve. Find a platform that encourages participation from all corners of the organization so the program rides its own momentum.
- Make it valuable
- Shout-outs are great, and they’re definitely the place to begin. Everyone loved to be highlighted for making a significant contribution. But it’s neither hard nor expensive to integrate a points redemption system for even greater participation and appreciation.
- Add philanthropy
- Today’s workforce is globally minded and passionate about their chosen causes. It’s worth the comparatively low cost and effort to seek out a platform like Abundantly, which can integrate a charitable giving feature with company and employee matches.
- Make it newsworthy
- Share the wins and the recognition! News like this buoys entire organizations and motivates people to be more productive and aligned with company goals. Besides, who doesn’t like seeing their name in print?
- Leaders have to lead
- Whether it’s a shift leader, a regional manager, or the CEO, recognition works better when an organization’s leaders are on the front line modeling the behavior. The great thing about employee recognition is that is has a ripple effect, especially when it starts from the top.
Unicorns like Kevin Ford exist, but they’re hard to find, and even harder to keep. For QSR companies looking to retain more employees and develop them into company leaders, a hopeful approach to unicorn hunting is not a great strategy. A dedicated employee recognition strategy, however, enables QSR organizations to improve productivity, raise employee morale, and develop their own unicorns from within.