QSR January 2023


AShiftingParadigm DEI isn’t just corporate speak any longer—it’s part of the retention equation for restaurants of every size. B Y B R Y A N R E E S M A N

employee retention. “I think the Great Resignation, COVID, social unrest, and gender inequality have given the opportunity for employees to have a voice,” says Kim Rubenstein, cofounder and chief research and product off icer of Com patibility LLC, a company that aggregates data to match business mentors and partners for mutual success. “While companies really looked at employees to be loyal, I think now companies are being forced to become more human-centric and really explore their loyalty. And making what’s important to the employees important to them and f iguring out there’s a lot of dynamics. There’s a lot that we missed.” As Rubenstein points out, some people look back at the seemingly “good old days” of employee and company unity before the pan demic. “I think they are fantasies of when we experienced where we were connected with people we felt were in our jam, doing our thing,” she says. “It may have been great individu ally. I don’t know that collectively we’ve ever really seen it. Do I think economic times have been good and people have been employed? Yes. Did they have jobs or careers? When you look back, some people want jobs, some people want careers, and it really depends upon the lens of the person being asked.” The tide is turning. Traditional Western corporate hierarchy previously tended to favor white male dominance and a one-size-fits all model, but people are more diverse and have different strengths and needs. Racial, gender, and cultural diversity is a more critical issue now. The restaurant arena is also different than some other types of companies that have a private corporate environment—it has a very public face involving daily customer interaction. “I think the def inition of value is shifting dramatically,” says Compatibility CEO John Kutac. “As we see the inability to hire, regardless of price point and retain, we’re seeing a lot of private investment go into [quick service] and into glomming up a large number of what might have been franchise owned, or even company owned that might be struggling. But those basic value principles are not necessarily compensation driven. They’re driven by a lot of other factors, and I think most companies need to make that breakthrough.” Kutac was happy to see the commitment of [CONTINUED ON PAGE 46]

The labor climate has given more voice to employees than ever.

I t’s no secret that in the wake of the Great Resignation and the pandemic, the quick-service sector underwent growing pains. And, one could argue, contractions. This is not simply a matter of basic employee dissatisfaction and fatigue, nor is it just dollars and cents. Issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion have become key components in this current paradigm, especially when it comes to employee retention. The National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry report for 2022 found 78 percent of operators felt they did not have enough employees to support customer demand, with 70 percent noting they lacked mission-critical staff. And with increasingly high employee turnover rates, recruiting and retaining employ ees would be their top challenge. A report issued last January, entitled DEI Initiatives for Min iat Companies, shined a further light. Incorporating data from different sources, the report made the case DEI is not just good for organizational health, but that it impacts a company’s bottom line. Companies that focus on DEI see improvements in work engagement, higher market valuation, increased profits, and yes,



JANUARY 2023 | QSR | www.qsrmagazine.com

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