Operations

Plugging the talent drain

plug drain

A QSR humming through the lunch rush is sweeter than a Carpenters medley to veterans who rose from sweaty, pressure-filled crew jobs to find wealth and success as chain executives. It’s common to speak of them as having ketchup in their veins.

It’s the special sauce that helped them engineer how to move hundreds of guests through counter and drive-thru lines in minutes, all while keeping a concept true to its beginnings. Like any other passion, it can’t be taught.

Fortunately, it can be contagious; a teen who grudgingly took the job for a paycheck finds the rush of teamwork to be as delicious as anything they feel on a basketball court. Hemoglobin turns into a different sort of red stuff, and a restaurant professional is born.

Or so it’s gone for decades. But the summer of 2017 hastened a trend that counters the tradition. The warning flare was fired during our Restaurant Trends & Directions conference in Chicago, when many a QSR manager might have been wondering why they weren’t getting as many summer job candidates as they had in the past.

Economist Arjun Chakravarti, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, suggested a summer job is no longer worth it. The pay is too low to make a dent in ancillary school expenses like books, and investing that time in pursuit of an education provides a much higher return. “They’re saying, it’s really much better for us to get out of school a year earlier and earn money, real money,” he said.

If they’re forgoing a taste of the restaurant business, how will ambitious young people be exposed to restaurant fever and forged into the next leaders?

Fortunately, the industry is cooking up a potion. Last year, the National Restaurant Association secured a grant to develop earn-as-you-learn programs to turn hourly workers into managers with the competencies restaurants need in their future leaders.

The apprenticeship program dovetails with an NRA initiative that’s intended to get the intravenous ketchup flowing: Choose Restaurants encourages youngsters to consider how they’d like to earn a living, and then see how they can indulge that passion within the restaurant business.

We salute the NRA for showing that foresight. If you’re in this business for the long haul, you should, too.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Multimedia

Exclusive Content

Financing

Red Lobster gives private equity another black eye

The Bottom Line: The role a giant sale-leaseback had in the bankruptcy filing of the seafood chain has drawn more criticism of the investment firms' financial engineering. The criticism is well-earned.

Financing

Beverage chains are taking off as consumers shift their drink preferences

The Bottom Line: Some of the fastest-growing chains in the U.S. push drinks, even as sales at traditional concepts lag in growing delivery and takeout business. How can traditional restaurants get in on the action?

Financing

Brands need to think creatively as the industry heads into a value war

The Bottom Line: Giving customers meal options they can afford will be key to generating traffic this year. But make sure those offers can generate a profit.

Trending

More from our partners