Hoping to hire some 40,000 people this year, including drivers and cooks, Pizza Hut is turning to its existing employees for inspiration.
The Plano, Tex.-based pizza chain on Wednesday is holding its first-ever virtual hiring conference, called “Pathways to Possibility.”
Speakers at the event will include people such as Top Chef participant Tre Wilcox, motivational speaker Michael Wigge and Pizza Hut Chief Equity Officer Chequan Lewis. But it also features a succession of franchisees and Pizza Hut employees who started their way on the bottom and worked their way quickly through the system.
“About 70% of our restaurant managers started as team members, as cooks, as delivery drivers,” Pizza Hut Chief People Officer Cristi Lockett said in an interview. “It’s not only possible to grow in this business, but you can do it with pretty quick speed.”
Hiring events have taken off in recent years as restaurant chains have tried to fill positions around the country. But they’ve taken on a new importance more recently as a shortage of labor has taken hold during the recovery from the pandemic.
Operators of a lot of these chains find themselves paying increasingly higher wage rates while sometimes restricting services because workers can’t be found.
At Pizza Hut, Lockett said, the biggest challenges are drivers and cooks. Drivers in particular have been tough for delivery companies to come by, thanks to mounting competition from the likes of Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub.
At the same time, however, the restaurant industry provides opportunities for people with little education or experience to come in, learn on the job and rise up through the ranks into management and other positions.
“There’s no credentials needed,” Lockett said. “We want to train you. Any person can do this and make a successful career out of it.”
Yet restaurants haven’t necessarily highlighted their benefit as a career option, making Pizza Hut’s conference somewhat unique.
The conference is not just for new hires, however. The company is also using the program to highlight opportunities for existing employees who want to advance their careers. “We want to recognize and develop the people we already have,” Lockett said.
“We want to give them information but we also want to inspire them,” she added. “We want them to hear from some of our franchisees, some of our delivery drivers, from restaurant managers. ‘Here’s what I’ve done. These are the benefits you can get with hard work. That’s what’s gotten me to this point.’”
The conference runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Pizza Hut said it would donate a book for everybody who attends.
Lockett said employees will be able to apply in less than four minutes through the company’s streamlined process. And to illustrate how serious the company is about getting people in the door, it won’t take long before people can start work.
“We can have them working the very next day in most cases,” she said. “For delivery drivers, training has been streamlined. We can have them safely on the road delivering pizzas in five hours.”