In this tight labor market, foodservice operators must know their enemy. Now, quoting “The Art of War” to overcome common recruitment and retention hurdles might seem a bit extreme. But record-low unemployment and an exodus of talent has hiring managers readying for battle.
For the third time, Facebook this year topped Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work ranking. The job review site’s list is based on the quantity, quality and consistency of employees’ anonymous feedback on topics such as career opportunities and work-life balance. Facebook’s legendary perks such as free food, on-site medical centers and 17 weeks of paid parental leave have helped it earn a company ranking of 4.6 stars out of five.
Competing with a $27.6 billion company's culture is not easy, but 10 restaurants and retailers are nipping at the social network's heels when it comes to job marketability. Check out the companies that could be poaching your top talent.
1. In-N-Out Burger
This Irvine, Calif.-based burger chain snapped up fourth place on Glassdoor’s list with a company rating of 4.6 stars—identical to Facebook. Employees praised the company’s benefits and opportunities for advancement. “Extremely flexible with scheduling, you work with similar personalities so everyone tends to get along, you move up quickly, you genuinely feel appreciated nine times out 10, free meal every day that you work, great pay and excellent benefits for a rewarding job!” wrote one Los Angeles team member.
In-N-Out’s culture isn’t the only thing earning top spots on rankings. Lynsi Snyder, CEO of the 329-unit chain, was one of the highest-rated chief executives on Glassdoor this year, with an approval rating of 97%. Listening and spending quality time with staff is one of the reasons employees value their experience with the chain, Snyder said in an interview with Glassdoor. “We spend a lot of time doing activities together—we have annual trips, we play sports, and every year we have several trips to my dad’s ranch, sometimes for workshops and play, sometimes just for In-N-Out family time," Snyder said.
Rolling in at number 20, reviewers praise San Antonio-based H-E-B for seeing team members as a name, not a number. The grocery and convenience store chain creates tailored development plans so that workers can move up and out to the store’s many divisions. The retailer also offers classroom training, online computer training and rotating assignments, so “partners” can get a well-rounded education, according to the chain’s extensive career site. H-E-B also strives to create a workplace where team members connect with one another, a strategy some noncommercial operators are also investing in. “The managers at my store are great at building relationships with their employees,” wrote one cashier in Austin, Texas. “They also often let you know that you're appreciated. Going to work is kind of like going to visit some friends for a couple hours. I know it might sound so cheesy, but most of my coworkers have actually become some great friends.”
3. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants landed in the 37th spot on the ranking. Some employees value the high-caliber candidate base the company recruits from. “At Kimpton, I am part of a culture that challenges me to be my best self, challenges me to be a leader in the industry and also surrounds my team and I with some of the best leaders in the industry,” wrote a director of food and beverage in San Francisco, where the hospitality group is based.
Some of the recruiting tools Kimpton wields to win over talent include a list of nontraditional benefits for the industry. Moms, dads and partners can earn up to six weeks of paid parental leave, and employees grieving the loss of a pet can take some time to honor the memory of their furry companions without having to worry about work or covering shifts. General managers, executive chefs, corporate employees and regional directors get a paid sabbatical every seven years. And staff members who care for children or parents can opt in for backup care if their regularly scheduled daytime caregiver falls through.
Hilton’s more than 4,000 locations across 90 countries means that team members have “endless opportunities” to grow, as one anonymous reviewer put it. “They have opportunities available where you can build your own schedule while still meeting their minimum weekly requirements—lots of opportunity for advancement,” the reviewer wrote. The McLean, Va.-based company has partnered with Cornell University’s School of Hotel Management to offer online courses in hospitality management, revenue management and strategic leadership for company executives and general managers, according to a company news release.
Besides flexible scheduling, employees also have access to a retirement savings program, employee assistance and educational assistance, a team member and family travel program, and paid time off, according to Hilton’s job site. The company’s resource groups help support workers who identify as LGBT, Hispanic and Latino, African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, as well as people with disabilities, veterans and women, according to the website.
5. Wegmans Food Markets
For Wegmans Food Markets, which took the 49th spot on the list, work-life balance is a key part of the culture. In fact, at least 159 reviews mention the grocery company’s flexible scheduling. The Rochester, N.Y.-based chain accommodates student schedules, caring for dependents and can’t-miss personal obligations, according to Great Place To Work.
Wegmans also works to open the lines of communication with open-door days, huddles, focus groups and two-way Q&As with executives, according to Great Place to Work. All those channels help to show staff, such as one meat clerk in Annandale, Va., that the company cares about what staff have to say. “I truly believe they do every little thing they can for their people,” the Glassdoor reviewer wrote. “Being a grocer, it's never going to be free buffets and nap pods like the big tech companies, but they do all that they can to make you feel crucial to the operation. Everyone is super friendly and inviting, and there seems to be a true open-door policy with any of the upper management.”
6. Kwik Trip
Coming in at 64th, convenience store chain Kwik Trip is known for its low turnover, especially when it comes to senior leadership. The last time Kwik Trip had turnover on its senior management team was in 2013, when the vice president of operations at the time, Bob Thorud, passed away after battling cancer. In fact, some of the LaCrosse, Wis.-based company’s vice presidents have been there for 25 years, said Director of Corporate Communications John McHugh, who is involved in the cultural elements around hiring and training. The retailer has been able to maintain high executive retention despite having acquired more than 200 stores in the past four years.
Kwik Trip CEO Don Zietlow is a big part of that retention story, and has gained a reputation for putting his coworkers first, according to McHugh. Zietlow doesn’t have a reserved parking spot in the c-store chain’s headquarters, and “parks where all of us park, and sometimes that means the back of the lot,” McHugh said. The executive also uses every email to start a conversation about employee satisfaction. In his signature line, Zietlow says, “Thank you for all that you do,” and “Is there anything I can do for you?” These two sentences help employees view Zietlow as a servant-leader, McHugh said. As part of Kwik Trip’s commitment to keeping bathrooms clean, the company hangs signs in stores’ restrooms with Zietlow’s name and number. “Don personally returns every single bathroom complaint call,” McHugh said. The simple act shows the team that Zietlow will not ask his crew to commit to something he isn’t willing to do himself.
7. Trader Joe's
Grocery store chain Trader Joe’s lands the 70th spot of the ranking. Headquartered in Monrovia, Calif., the Hawaiian-shirted staff say the benefits are a big draw. An anonymous reviewer who has been with the company for more than 10 years wrote it has some of the best benefits of any retailer. “It has a competitive base pay, a 401k that is second to none and, in my state, some of the best medical benefits at half the cost of your hard-earned pretax dollars as other places,” the worker wrote. “The scheduling varies from store to store but, over the years, they have been very flexible and accommodating.”
Part of the reason the company is able to be so accommodating is because of a higher ration of middle managers to each store, Hayley Benham-Archdeacon wrote in a blog post for software company Lattice. Each unit has one store manager and about eight to 12 assistant managers. “I thought that having so many middle managers would cause problems, but in fact it turns out to be good for everyone,” she wrote. “Oversight of opening and closing shifts are distributed evenly, and tasks and assignments are rotated throughout the week, which means no one is stuck taking in the frozen truck at 4 a.m. every single morning, or closing out our computers every night until midnight. Maybe that's why managers are able to stay so nice to us.”
Chick-fil-A, which comes in at No. 72, is known for its friendly staff. A trademark of the chain’s high customer service standards includes training employees to say “My pleasure” instead of “You’re welcome.” But employees at the Atlanta-based chain aren’t just positive around customers. “No comparison, this is a great job for a first job, extra money or for career advancement,” wrote a team lead in Round Rock, Texas. “Such a loving environment, great management and fair pay. No place could be better to get your feet wet in the American workforce!”
Chick-fil-A owners might have a little more time than other franchisees to focus on culture, because they generally can only own one unit at a time. Chick-fil-A operator Brian Davis launched a leadership program for his millennial employees called The Jumpstart Experience. The two-year program gives young professionals the opportunity to work as a director in the franchisee’s Oregon locations while receiving one-on-one coaching, attending experiential learning retreats and advancing through a leadership curriculum.
9. Darden Restaurants
The parent company of Olive Garden, Yard House and LongHorn Steakhouse slid into the 85th spot on the list this year. A Darden Restaurants manager in Houston wrote that the company’s leadership considers their employees' quality of life. For starters, team members earn an average of $15 an hour and are paid weekly, according to Darden’s career site. Staff benefits also include health insurance coverage, wireless phone service discounts and computer loans.
The employer leverages its eight restaurant concepts to promote workers to 7,000 leadership positions across the company. In fact, 99% of directors of operations, general managers and managing partners are promoted from within, according to Darden’s career site.
Darden has also ramped up its inclusion initiatives. The restaurant group partners with multiple executive search firms and launched employee resource groups to court diverse talent. Having added 4% more minority restaurant managers between 2011 and 2015, according to Darden’s website, the efforts just might be paying off.
Workers’ team spirit helped Starbucks garner the 96th ranking on the list. “Starbucks is definitely a company one can feel proud to be associated with,” wrote an employee in Seattle. “The people are truly a top priority. The level of authenticity found at Starbucks is hard to come by in the corporate world.”
Executive Chairman Howard Schultz has instituted several initiatives that put people first. The company made headlines this year for vowing to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022 in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting refugees from certain countries in an effort to secure U.S. borders. The company was also one of the first to offer full- and part-time team members—and their domestic partners—health benefits, according to The New York Times. And today, employees who work 20 or more hours a week qualify for a tailored benefits program, with options such as life insurance, vacation, tuition reimbursement, commuter benefits and adoption assistance, according to the career site.