Dive Brief:

  • Brinker International plans to increase hourly employee earnings, including tips, to $18 by fiscal year 2023, according to a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.
  • The restaurant group also plans to increase Chili’s general manager pay to an average of $100,000 by fiscal year 2025 and to promote at least 80% of Chili’s managers and 90% of Chili’s general managers from internal candidates by fiscal year 2022. As of fiscal year 2020, Chili’s managers earned more than $87,000 annually on average, according to Brinker’s 2021 Sustainability Report
  • Brinker has already made progress toward these goals, boosting hourly pay, including tips, to $16.95 during fiscal year 2021, according to the report. The company also gave $3.8 million in retention bonuses to hourly employees and promoted 2,011 hourly employees to management positions as certified shift leaders.

Dive Insight:

While increasing pay will help Brinker attract more employees, promoting from within will help the company ensure that restaurant-level operations run smoothly. Companies that successfully retain their workers offer more than just competitive pay and health and wellness benefits, which Brinker extends to restaurant-level employees. These firms also pave a clear path to leadership for employees that want to make a career in the restaurant industry. 

“While things have gotten much better from where they were in March, there are still pockets out there where we don’t have restaurants fully staffed,” Brinker International CEO Wyman Roberts said during the company’s fiscal Q4 2021 earnings call in August. “What that means is, it puts a lot of pressure on the management, it also is limiting some of our sales potential. And so our first priority right now is to just get everybody staffed up, get our management team stabilized in staffing and get that foundation strong.”

As part of its retention strategy, Brinker created a Certified Shift Leaders program at Chili’s, which gives employees on-the-job training to develop skills needed in management roles. From that program, 643 employees were promoted to management roles, according to Brinker’s sustainability report. Thirty-eight percent of Chili’s general managers were previously certified shift leaders.

Brinker’s focus on retention has been paying off. During its Spring 2021 engagement survey, nearly 89% of Chili’s operations leaders and nearly 91% of Maggiano’s operations leaders said they planned on staying on the job over the next six months, per the report. 

The company also outlined future goals to increase diversity in leadership going forward, an issue that many other restaurant chains — including Starbucks, Yum Brands and Chipotle — have also been working to improve. Companies with an inclusive culture tend to have higher rates of retention and have an easier time with recruitment, according to Deloitte

Brinker plans to increase representation in restaurant operations leadership to 40% and increase female representation in restaurant operations leadership to 45% by fiscal year 2025. In fiscal year 2021, the company said it increased diverse representation to 35% and to 40% for female representation at the restaurant operations leadership level, according to the report.

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