With the national unemployment rate dropping to 4.4%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, restaurant workers are like the prettiest girl at the prom, and operators are upping their prom proposal game. To engage staff and bridge the talent gap, TaKorean in Washington, D.C., is offering some nontraditional bonuses and incentives. “It’s a way to give them a bit more money and have them share in the success of the operation,” says Mike Lenard, CEO and founder of the Korean-Mexican-fusion fast casual. Check out how Lenard and other restaurateurs are sweetening compensation deals to attract and retain workers.
1. Achievable goals
TaKorean offers workers at its four locations bonuses based on how the units perform in mystery shopper-style evaluations. The evaluations track metrics such as customer satisfaction and speed of service, and the average of those assessments determines how much the whole team receives. Frontline associates can earn up to an additional 40 cents an hour, and they almost always receive a bonus. “It helps drive engagement,” Lenard says. “The key is to make it achievable.” Most months, staff earn between 30 and 50 extra bucks a month, he says.
2. Back-of-house bonus
At Dead End BBQ in Knoxville, Tenn., prep, smoke room and dish room employees are eligible for a profit-sharing bonus after three months on the payroll. The bonus adds an average of $5,000 per month in labor costs, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The newspaper reports that the bonus shakes out to about an extra week of pay each month during high-sales seasons.
The restaurant also advertises to potential candidates that it is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Eve, and New Year’s Day.
3. Paid vacation leave
The benefit that has had the biggest impact on staff retention at TaKorean is the chain’s paid vacation policy, Lenard says. All TaKorean associates can earn up to a week of paid vacation based on hours worked, and managers get between two and three weeks. “That’s been a really good tool for us,” he says. “A lot of hourly workers have never known what it’s like to get a whole week off with pay.” In addition, the fast casual encourages staff to take advantage of district-mandated sick leave when needed, which helps show loyalty to employees, he says.
4. Sign-on package
LouVino in Louisville, Ky., reels in candidates with a $600 signing bonus, according to LEO Weekly. Employees receive part of the bonus after 60 days and the rest after 120 days of working at the restaurant. LouVino also pays half of health premiums for full-time staffers. Owner Chad Coulter told the local publication that the policies have allowed him to be selective during the recruiting process.
5. Commuter benefits
When the TaKorean team was weighing what kind of benefits to offer, Lenard wanted to make sure that they were perks that his people cared about. That’s why he decided to offer commuter benefits. The incentive, which allows employees to set aside a portion of their pretax income for transit expenses, have a high rate of staff redemption.