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The role of DE&I in driving memorable foodservice guest experiences

The role of DE&I in driving memorable foodservice guest experiences

Communities across the country continue to approach something that seems like a return to “normal.” As consumer sentiment around a yearning for experiences mounts, the near-term may present foodservice organizations with tremendous opportunities to increase engagement and customer loyalty through the experience they offer. 

A strong guest experience starts with empowered and engaged foodservice staff. And, according to Sylvain Charlebois, foodservice industry expert and Senior Director of Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, foodservice staff engagement starts with a strong investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

“Restaurants and other foodservice establishments have, for a very long time, been hubs of the communities in which they serve,” says Charlebois. 

“They are places where family and friends go to enjoy themselves and each others’ company and to enjoy a memorable experience. And, they are places for all members of the community to gather. As such, it’s incredibly important for everyone involved in the foodservice industry to place greater emphasis and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within their organizations in order to reflect the clientele they serve and the workforce that they employ.”

DE&I is a movement of sorts within industries, institutions, and companies looking to focus on improving corporate and organizational cultures and creating more welcoming and supportive work environments. It’s a movement that has continued to gain significant momentum throughout the pandemic as societies everywhere pay greater consideration toward social issues and causes. And it’s one, says Charlebois, that presents foodservice organizations with tremendous opportunities if they can develop or enhance existing DE&I programs and initiatives within their workplaces.

“There are so many benefits available to organizations that implement this type of philosophy and approach to doing business,” he says. 

“For one, of course, it’s simply the right thing to do. Everyone deserves equal opportunity, compensation, and treatment, despite their race, gender, sexual preference or identification, or lived experiences. Nobody should ever be restricted within their careers or inhibited from growing for any reason. A dedicated and committed focus on DE&I within the workplace ensures equal opportunity and respect, posing potential human, organizational and financial benefits to companies who adopt this kind of approach.”

Here are 3 more ways DE&I initiatives can help drive memorable guest experiences

1. Highly engaged staff

According to the 2021 U.S. Department of Labor, 47.8% of all foodservice employees in the United States identify as part of a minority group. In addition, the 2020 State of the Restaurant Worker indicates that 54% of all employees within the country’s foodservice sector are women. In light of these numbers, says Charlebois, it only makes sense to ensure that policies, treatment and considerations are paid to each member of the workforce. That the return on this type of investment by companies is most noticeable in the impact that it has on employees.

“By ensuring diversity within your workforce and the staff that are servicing customers in your establishments, you’re ensuring a more accurate reflection of the communities that you operate in,” he says. 

“Most importantly, however, by treating your employees properly, you’re sending them an incredibly strong message of support and care. And when this message is delivered consistently in everything that you do, it results in a highly engaged staff of employees that are proud to be working their jobs and feel confident in the fact that they belong and are important contributors toward helping to achieve the company’s goals and objectives.”

2. Deeper brand connections

Charlebois goes on to explain that engaged employees exhibit heightened loyalty toward their roles and responsibilities, eliciting from them discretionary effort that, in turn, enhances the experience that restaurants offer guests.

“There is a very powerful correlation between the culture that an organization develops for its employees and the experience that the guest receives,” he says. 

“When employees are happy and engaged, they’re really invested in the jobs they’re doing and are willing to go above and beyond to make sure that guest expectations are met and exceeded. In addition, when staff are an accurate reflection of the communities that they serve, customers also feel more welcome and feel inclined to engage with the brand at a deeper level, inspiring repeat visits and patronage.”

3. More feedback and ideas driving revenue and growth

A recent survey conducted by The Harvard Business Review of 1,700 companies around the world found that those operating with an above-average level of diversity within their organizations experience 19% greater innovation revenues and 9% higher earnings before taxes. They are results that Charlebois says are not surprising. In fact, he says that it’s an equation that, from a business and human perspective, makes perfect sense.

“When you engage your workforce with initiatives as positive and encouraging as those related to DE&I, results for the business will be just as positive and encouraging,” he says. 

“Because staff are energetic and inspired and focused on delivering exceptional service to the customer, those guests will return, resulting in increased revenue. And, employees that feel engaged and valued are more likely to share honest feedback and ideas to improve operations or the guest experience. When everyone is feeding in and involved in the success of the organization, limitations are removed, opening up boundless opportunities for growth.”

Though there have been some previously existing barriers that have prevented frontline organizations from actively pursuing and enhancing their DE&I initiatives, Charlebois believes that there may be a much-needed shift in mindset happening at the very top. It’s reflective, he says, of the recognition of brands concerning the opportunities that exist and their willingness to institute positive change.

“There are many within the industry that are now placing far greater emphasis around the issue of DE&I. Excellent work is being done at organizations like Wendy’s, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Domino’s, and elsewhere. The entire industry is stepping up its game with respect to stances on DE&I and the progress that’s being made by organizations toward improving the experiences they offer to their employees and customers,” he says.

“The world is changing. People are continuing to pay much more attention to social issues and the things that impact others around them. The foodservice industry is really beginning to take notice and seize the opportunities that result from creating and ensuring a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.”

5 ways to prioritize guest experience in challenging times

5 ways to prioritize guest experience in challenging times

We have now well and truly entered what many are considering the endemic COVID-19 period during which the virus becomes a lingering nuisance. And so, too, does the disruption and turbulence that’s been caused as a result. Highlighted by rising food prices, supply chain disturbances, and labor market shortages, the challenges faced by those operating within the foodservice industry are perhaps more significant than they ever have been previously. It’s placing an enormous amount of pressure on restaurateurs to address and overcome these challenges – while still providing an exceptional guest experience. 

Industry expert George Minakakis says that these issues have shaped into a perfect storm, inhibiting the efforts of foodservice establishments to drive loyalty and growth. Despite the current climate, however, he suggests that prioritizing the guest experience will enable restaurants to weather the challenges they face.

“There’s no denying the extraordinary strain that’s currently being placed on foodservice operators when it comes to running a successful business,” he asserts. “And, the pressures are coming from all angles, impacting their ability to stock their establishments with the right product and ingredients and staff their locations with employees who can make sure that service is executed smoothly. But, if foodservice operators can philosophically put all of the challenges and issues aside for just a moment, they might realize that the greatest opportunity that they have to not only survive over the short-term, but to set themselves up for long-term success, is to focus on their people and the amazing, loyalty-driving guest experience that they provide for customers.”

Once operators are focused on developing and enhancing their restaurant experience, Minakakis suggests that there are five critical things that can be done in order to sharpen and support that focus.

1. Engaging staff on menu development

According to Restaurants Canada’s Q1 2022 Restaurant Outlook Survey, restaurant operators are expecting to raise their menu prices by an average of 7.1 per cent over the next 12 months. It’s a move that’s necessary, but one which will pose obvious challenges with respect to explaining these increases to customers. However, one of the simplest ways to ensure that your establishment is prepared to provide an adequate explanation and deliver a guest experience that will resonate with patrons and engender their loyalty is to arm employees with as much information as possible. 

“Empowering your staff is one of the most strategic things a restaurant owner can do in order to overcome the challenges inherent in increased menu prices,” he says. “Sharing this information with frontline employees allows them to properly and confidently inform customers of changes and options. And, it also evokes discretionary effort from staff, empowering them to do their jobs to the best of their ability and deliver a memorable experience to customers.”

2. Creating brand ambassadors

Once frontline staff are properly engaged and involved in the sharing of information, Minakakis suggests that through a number of different means and incentives, foodservice operators can create brand ambassadors amongst their staff, further bolstering the exceptional service that they provide for customers.

“Because your frontline staff are those who are interacting with and servicing the needs of customers most frequently, it makes sense that they feel as positive as possible about themselves and the jobs that they perform,” he says. “Through community-building exercises that enhance the culture at the restaurant, staff recognition initiatives and the development of real-time feedback loops between frontline staff and managers, foodservice operators can engender a heightened sense of pride among their employees – pride that will, in turn, enhance the guest experience.”

3. Providing effective staff training

Before restaurants and food service establishments can rely on a staff of brand ambassadors, however, Minakakis says that a great deal of training and development is required. It’s yet another layer of preparation that enables employees to achieve maximum results. And, he adds, it also allows the restaurant to manage the experience that they offer their customers.

“Running a successful restaurant or food service establishment absolutely demands the right people who are armed with the right skills and knowledge,” he says. “You want your staff to understand the brand, the experience it offers, the customer who seeks out that experience and how to deliver it to them in the most effective way possible. Training and developing skills among your staff also ensures that the same consistently excellent experience is delivered to the customer with each visit.”

4. Ensuring a mix of diverse talent

In addition to staffing your restaurant with skilled, knowledgeable and prepared employees, Minakakis also suggests that ensuring that you’re drawing from a healthy mix of diversity and talent is one of the more meaningful aspects of the business that foodservice professionals can focus on.

“It’s vitally important for any business servicing customers to make sure that they reflect the community that they’re operating in,” he says. “That means the nurturing of an inclusive environment comprising different ethnicities, backgrounds and lived experiences. It also means ensuring that your restaurant is equipped with a staff of many different talents. When a business can draw on all of these ideas, influences and perspectives, the innovation and execution significantly improve.”

5. Enabling staff success through use of technology

As long as the right mix of people and skills has been assembled, says Minakakis, the implementation and use of technology can be explored as a support for staff. In fact, according to Restaurants Canada’s 2022 Outlook Survey, 7 in 10 quick-service restaurants say that automation and increased use of technology would help them overcome labour shortages while 74% of quick-service restaurants and 52% of table-service restaurants said they expect to increase their use of automation technology in the next two years. It’s a trend that Minakakis says could have a profound impact on foodservice purveyors who have got all of their human resources properly equipped.

“One of the biggest drivers within the foodservice industry over the course of the next few years is going to be technology-enabled automation,” he asserts. “By implementing the right technologies, restaurant operators can make their employees’ jobs easier and reduce human error, among other things, creating efficiencies and enhancing the experience for employee and guest. It’s a way that those operating in foodservice can show their staff and customers that they truly care about the experience that they’re creating and will go a long way toward earning repeat visits from patrons.”

During such challenging and unpredictable times, with so many strains and pressures on foodservice organizations, it might seem difficult to understand which challenges to tackle and which areas of the business to focus on. But, as Minakakis points out, keeping the needs of the customer at the heart of everything that you do while preparing and enabling your employees to execute on your desired guest experience is likely the most sensible place to start.

“I don’t know how you run a restaurant or any other foodservice establishment without good staff. They’re integral to everything about the service and experience. And, given the nature of the business, the customer must be central to every single decision that you make. If you can get these two components of the operation right, creating an incredible experience for the customer that’s being delivered by inspired and dedicated staff, none of the other matters impacting the business will seem like such insurmountable challenges anymore.”

There’s a perfect storm in the foodservice industry – here’s what you need to know

There’s a perfect storm in the foodservice industry – here’s what you need to know

We’re hearing it again and again: What is going on in the foodservice industry!? 

As social restrictions ease across the country and public trepidation concerning gatherings and outings continues to dissolve, positivity is mounting that we are now finally heading toward a post-pandemic “new normal.” It means a return for many to the things they enjoy, including experiences like eating out with their friends and family at their favourite restaurants. 

Perfect storm in foodservice industry | Nudge

And, although this yearning for experiences presents foodservice establishments with significant opportunities, it’s also coming at a challenging time. Supply chain shortages and delays, rising food prices, labor market challenges, and other restaurant trends are combining in what industry expert George Minakakis calls a perfect storm, threatening restaurateurs’ ability to seize upon the growth opportunities needed during this crucial time of rebuilding.

“The challenges faced by restaurant operators and their staff are far more unpredictable and varied today than they ever have been before,” he says. “Their operations are being impacted from all sides, resulting in an extremely difficult time that’s really testing their resolve and plans to grow.”

Here’s what you need to know about the challenges and restaurant trends impacting the success and growth of the foodservice industry:

Supply chain shortages and delays

One of the most pressing issues currently impacting the operations of restaurateurs is the supply chain shortages and delays. In fact, according to a recent National Restaurant Association survey, 96% of restaurants in the U.S. have experienced “considerable supply delays or shortages in recent months.” This has resulted in an inordinate amount of disruption and uncertainty, says Minakakis, unsettling the entire chain of supply for many foodservice organizations.

“Disruptions, including delays, shortages and other obstructions have been severely inhibiting the efficient and effective operations of those operating within the foodservice industry for quite some time now,” he asserts. “And these disruptions can be seen everywhere from the absence or unavailability of certain products or ingredients from suppliers and manufacturers to the sourcing of local goods. It’s placing a great deal of pressure on restaurateurs, forcing them to reassess their supply chain strategies and make changes where possible.”

Rising food and menu prices

Another massive issue impacting those operating within the foodservice industry is the rate of current global inflation. According to numbers generated by the Consumer Price Index, global inflation more than doubled between March 2021 and March 2022, accelerating to a whopping 9.2%, up from 7.5% in February. This kind of economic turmoil wreaks havoc on foodservice operators, says Minakakis, and there are layers to its impact.

“When restaurateurs are faced with inflation of this magnitude, resulting in increases to the cost of just about everything, it’s an obvious and unfortunate consequence that menu prices are going to increase, too,” he says. 

“It erodes the operator’s confidence in turning a profit. And, in turn, the fact that they inevitably have to raise prices for items on their menu to offset these increased costs then has an impact on the consumer and their willingness to pay the increases. It’s resulting in a lot of downsizing and sharing among patrons as they manage how much they spend.”

Increased focus on controlling costs and driving revenue

As restrictive as the rising price of food and ingredients might be for foodservice operators, Minakakis suggests that it’s all part of doing business for them. Generally speaking, he says, they are an incredibly savvy group of people who are used to responding to shifts in the market and changes in consumer preferences. And, in order to control their costs and continue driving revenue, he adds that many are being forced to leverage their savvy more than ever before.

“The rising cost of food and ingredients have made it very difficult for many within the foodservice industry to manage their costs effectively,” he says. 

“As a result, many are finding it necessary to make some changes and shifts with respect to some of their menu items. They are changing ingredients where they can without compromising quality and are reducing portion sizes. However, there continues to be deserved focus paid toward automation as a means to increase production within a labor-intensive industry, helping restaurants reduce costs.” 

Labor market challenges

For an industry so heavily reliant on its people, the current labor market crisis has signified a crushing blow to the ability of foodservice operators to execute on their guest experience. It’s a challenge that Minakakis recognizes. However, he believes that it’s a shortage of talent that may soon ease, driven largely by a rethink of the experience that employees receive within the foodservice industry.

“The pandemic really tainted the waters with respect to working within the foodservice industry. It suddenly didn’t seem to be a very attractive place to work, dealing with health and safety issues and disgruntled and angry customers. In addition, working within an industry that’s predicated on revenue and threatened by closures and shutdowns really led to a feeling of instability,” he says.

“However, I believe that’s about to change. And, to entice people back to the industry, restaurateurs are going to take a good look at the culture of their establishments and organizations to make sure that it’s a place of opportunity where employees feel good about themselves, the work they’re doing and who they’re doing that work for.”

Constrained growth opportunities

One of the many grave consequences of the pandemic has been highlighted by the rash of closures that have occurred throughout the industry. It’s a consequence that’s helped create a void within the market. And, according to Minakakis, it’s a void that should present a wealth of franchising opportunities over the course of the near-term, despite the many challenges that the industry is currently facing.

“Right now, most across the industry are relatively nervous about expansion,” he acknowledges. “And rightly so. However, the next year or so is going to present huge opportunities for people who want to purchase a franchise location and for the chains that want to grow. And, for the smaller players, it’s going to be very much steady-as-you-go as we continue to figure out exactly what the future has in store for the industry.”

Looking at the current state of the foodservice industry, there isn’t a shortage of challenges to overcome. Though, according to Minakakis, along with the challenges there are also opportunities for foodservice operators to capture the customer with an offering, service and experience that is second-to-none, initiating long-term, positive impact for their business. 

“Understanding the forcing functions impacting the foodservice industry may allow restaurateurs to pivot and shift their service and offering in order to not only survive the coming months and years, but to flourish,” he says.

5 ways to prepare your restaurant employees when you raise menu prices

5 ways to prepare your restaurant employees when you raise menu prices

There are a number of challenges facing the foodservice industry as organizations navigate the post-pandemic “new normal.” Causing the greatest disturbance to operations today, however, is the unprecedented and continued global inflation. It’s resulted in increases to the price of just about everything, including restaurant menu items. 

The producer price index for food manufacturing was up 14% year over year from January 2021 to January 2022. Full-service menu prices are up by almost 9% year over year, inflation has hit a 40 year high, and operators are planning more increases because they’re still not recovering lost profit margins. And this is all on top of rising labor prices and major supply chain delays and shortages. 

According to industry expert George Minakakis, it’s a situation that requires organizations to prepare their staff in order to properly meet customer needs.

“Consumers who frequent restaurants will notice pricing changes that are currently happening pretty much right across the board,” he says. “In fact, you would be surprised how many people will even notice a five-cent increase on a cup of coffee. What this results in is undue strain and stress on restaurant employees, particularly frontline staff, who are burdened with conveying, almost justifying, the menu increases to customers. The key in addressing this issue, and in preparing staff to be able to do this most effectively, is to ensure clear and strong communication with them.”

But if done properly, Minakakis says, if the internal message is managed, then the customer story will be managed as well. It’s a concept that he’s developed throughout his extensive leadership career within the retail and foodservice industries, which included working as Franchise Business Development Leader at what is now YUM! Brands – the Fortune 1000 corporation behind KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, The Habit Burger Grill, and WingStreet. 

The idea of managing this internal message starts with providing restaurant employees with the information and understanding necessary to do their jobs with confidence. 

Here are Minakakis’ top 5 ways to prepare restaurant employees when you raise menu prices.

1. Educate your staff

The first thing to do, advises Minakakis, is to educate staff concerning the reasons why prices are increasing. And, in order to ensure adequate transparency, he urges owners and managers to be honest about the reasons. It will arm staff with the knowledge they’ll need when responding to inquisitive customers.

“Let your employees know that inflation and cost increases are a global phenomenon that everyone, everywhere, is trying to work through. Explain that the adjustments that have been made have been done as reasonably as possible, highlighting exactly how much the price increases are and for which items on the menu. The more they know, the more effectively they’ll be able to manage the customer story for the brand,” he says.

2. Focus on continued value

Minakakis explains that in order to continue satisfying customers in light of menu price increases, a renewed focus on the value the organization offers should be underscored whenever possible.

“It’s no secret that recent increases to menu prices are, in most cases, simply meant to offset cost and ensure the same, if not greater, level of service and quality,” he says. “So, staff should be encouraged to focus on the value of the incredible service that’s provided and the amazing menu items that everyone enjoys. When the customer sees that service levels are maintained and that they can still enjoy their favorite meal, price increases for many quickly becomes a non-issue.”

3. Empower restaurant employees to provide options

Many customers will be curious to find out how long increased prices on the menu might last and if they might lower in the future. Minakakis suggests that restaurant owners and managers keep employees updated concerning the situation, including near-term plans. Understanding the current state of the market helps employees confidently answer these types of questions from customers. And, he adds, it’s actually a situation that provides frontline staff with the opportunity to become creative in the options that they offer customers.

“Employees have got to be aware of the restaurant’s plans with respect to pricing. A common inquiry over the course of the next few months will be whether or not pricing is going to come back down. Empower your staff, letting them know that it’s currently unclear whether prices will come down or not and that their message should be around uncompromising quality. Employees can explain to customers that in spite of price increases, the restaurant is always looking for ways to lower costs and offer greater options in order to deliver the value they seek,” he says. 

4. Prepare restaurant employees for angry customers

Angry and belligerent customers unfortunately come with the territory for anyone working within a customer-facing position. Minakakis says that it’s vitally important for restaurant owners and managers to not only prepare their staff with respect to explaining the price increases to customers, but to also ensure that they are ready to address negative questions and responses from angry guests.

“It’s probably one of the worst challenges about working within the foodservice industry. You’re not always going to please everyone. And, sometimes, people are going to get upset,” says Minakakis. “Restaurant employees dealing with the public need to be reminded to reiterate the reasoning for the price increases in these situations, explaining that the restaurant is dealing with the same market changes and inflation as everyone else. And, make sure that everyone reinforces the same message, maintaining consistency in communication.”

5. Make the visit about the experience

Minakakis points to pent up consumer demand for experiences as a great way for many to highlight the value in dining out. He says that by doing so, you’ll not only keep customers satisfied, but will also invigorate the brand and increase positive engagement with customers.

“It’s obviously incredibly difficult attempting to explain the reasoning behind increases to menu items. And, it also tends to distract from the real value in eating out with family and friends. It’s about being out and away from the house and in hospitable and friendly surroundings. It’s always very much been about the experience. And restaurant owners and managers should make sure that the experience, and the excellent service that helps support a great one, becomes the focus. When you make your guests feel welcomed and appreciated, you’d be surprised how quickly they’ll forget about menu price increases,” he says. 

The need for most restaurant owners to raise prices on at least some menu items is becoming an inevitability. However, as Minakakis points out, doing so does not at all mean that service, quality and a satisfied customer needs to be sacrificed. On the contrary, given the current economic climate and market conditions, it might be the ideal time for restaurant owners to become creative in finding ways to enhance the service they provide and quality they create in order to enjoy continued growth and success during these challenging times.

The Great Unburdening: Understanding employee burnout in foodservice

The Great Unburdening: Understanding employee burnout in foodservice

The past few years have been an extremely difficult period for many frontline workers,  leading to employee burnout in a number of different industries and roles. And it’s no surprise – the pandemic and associated impacts have influenced and, at times, altogether changed the ways we do things. 

But some of the most significantly affected are restaurant workers. Not only are they navigating an ever-evolving landscape and environment, they also need to do so burdened with longer work hours and staffing issues resulting in greater responsibility within their jobs. It’s a combination that Sylvain Charlebois, food industry expert and Senior Director at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, says is resulting in employee burnout and stress.

“Employee burnout within the foodservice industry has become a big problem that employers need to figure out,” says Charlebois. 

“The sector has been under tremendous pressure, battling rising food prices, supply chain issues, and heightened guest expectations. And all of this is happening during a labor crisis. The past couple of years, which have consisted of daily changing market conditions, have resulted in a great deal of uncertainty for everyone involved. Many restaurants have closed for good. Some of them were institutions. This kind of unpredictability causes overwhelming anxiety for many.”

Causes of employee burnout in restaurant workers

Charlebois explains that there are a number of factors that are contributing to the employee burnout currently threatening the foodservice industry. First and foremost, as a result of an ongoing labor shortage, many restaurants and other foodservice establishments have been operating understaffed, some of them severely so. This places undue pressures on staff who are expected to pick up the slack left behind by departed colleagues. And, of course, the fallout from the COVID-19 global pandemic has also taken its toll on foodservice employees, resulting in what Charlebois describes as a “larger mental health issue.”

“Impacts of the pandemic have resulted in a great deal of uncertainty for many restaurant employees within the foodservice sector,” he says. 

“They’ve been showing up to work every day generally unsure as to the safety and security of their jobs as well as the health of the businesses they’re working for. In addition, many of their jobs and the way they used to do things changed overnight. The ways they interact with and serve the customer changed. Some establishments also introduced new services like curbside pickup which requires new skills, new equipment and new ways of doing things. As a result, many had to essentially retrain themselves, on the fly, in order to continue doing their job effectively. It’s all caused an incredible amount of stress and adds up to a big mental health issue that operators within the foodservice sector have got to address.”

How employee burnout impacts foodservice organizations

The negative effects of poor mental health for individuals are obvious and debilitating. And, for organizations, the impacts can also be detrimental, stunting productivity and hindering progress and growth. However, Charlebois points out perhaps the most draining impact that a burnt-out workforce can have on an organization is the increased turnover that it invariably causes. 

Wellness program developer Limeade’s 2021 survey talked specifically to employees who started a new job in 2021. It found that a whopping 52% of workers within the foodservice and hospitality industries who left their jobs did so due to burnout. The study also found that those who left their job without another job lined up were 1.7x more likely to cite workplace mental health impact as their top reason for leaving.

Further, Nudge’s recently released Foodservice Deskless Report finds that 38 per cent of foodservice frontline workers currently wish to quit their jobs, with burnout among the top three reasons for doing so. It’s a worrisome trend, says Charlebois, who believes that it couldn’t be happening at a worse time, given the current criticality around attracting and retaining talent.

“The greatest impact that employee burnout has on an organization is the way in which it erodes the workplace culture,” he says. 

“It shows up in absenteeism and employees not fulfilling their entire duties. It leads to discontent and, at times, an embittered and antagonistic workforce that does not feel valued or cared for. Suddenly, establishments and businesses are left with a decayed culture that’s driving employees out and turning away the interest of prospective workers. And, right now, given the near-impossible task of recruiting talent, restaurant managers are finding it extremely difficult to run successful locations.”

Developing programs and initiatives to improve employee burnout

In order to deal with this incredibly important workforce issue, some organizations are beginning to develop and implement mental health and wellness programs to help care for employees and enable them to succeed. 

Burger restaurant chain Wendy’s, for instance, says that it is taking a more holistic approach to employee wellness than it has in the past, instituting training programs meant to assist managers in becoming more sensitive to mental health issues. Chick-fil-A recently adopted a program called Abound which provides employees with access to a wellness coach who can help address mental health and wellness concerns, among other things. Others within the industry that are following suit.

The development and implementation of these programs and initiatives are a positive sign, says Charlebois, that organizations are beginning to pay more attention to their employees’ concerns, focusing more on providing them with solutions and support. He adds that it’s all rooted in listening and proper communication from management. In fact, according to Nudge’s Foodservice Deskless Report, it’s exactly what many organizations are realizing, with 76% of leaders within the sector committing to investing more into the employee experience. More than a third (36%) plan to invest more into communication and a quarter (25%) plan to invest more in feedback.

“Taking a good look at the organization’s communication and engagement with employees is a very good place for leaders within the foodservice sector to start in terms of addressing employee burnout and concerns over mental health,” says Charlebois.  

“And they should do so through a lens of compassion, asking themselves whether or not their employees feel cared for. They’ve got to convey the message to their employees that their work environment is a safe place for them to share any difficulties, personal or otherwise, that they might be facing. The pandemic has brought a new dimension of consideration to the workforce, and it’s becoming vitally important that employers understand that the challenges faced today are not just about a disrupted supply chain or inflation. It’s also very much about the people that they rely on to achieve success.”