From the editor: Takin' care of business

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My first job was as a soda jerk at a small family-run ice cream shop in La Crosse, Wis.

The vintage-looking shop had big band music piped in through old, lo-fi speakers, and all the jerks wore pressed white shirts and black bow ties. I still remember the thrill of picking up my Friday paycheck—$85 went a long way when I was 16.

In 1994, minimum wage in Wisconsin was $4.25. In 2018, it’s $7.25.

Today, $85 for a week of work doesn’t go far by any stretch of the imagination. And $4.25 would be simply laughable by today’s standards. Now, we have living wage—not minimum wage. Today, in the eyes of the employee, a good, competitive wage differentiates a good employer from the rest—a great job from a not-so-great one.

Generally speaking, $15 an hour minimum is table stakes. The qualified workforce, as difficult to find as the unemployment rate is low, doesn’t have to settle for anything less. With giant national outfits like Amazon making that rate its base across the board, smaller employers are struggling to keep up.

Despite the incredibly creative ways FSDs are working to retain their best employees, that $15 benchmark is looming large. For most of the operators we spoke to for our November cover story, keeping employees happy was top priority. For some, that meant a $15 minimum. For others without the means to provide that base, continuous recognition for a job well done or a generous benefits package is paramount.

Regardless of how FSDs attract and keep their employees, there is a shortage of workers. And regardless of that shortage, there are still people to feed. School lunch programs, dining halls, hospital service and business lunches don’t stop just because you’re understaffed. FSDs are likewise getting creative about how they staff. For her story on labor and the menu, Patricia Cobe talked to directors across segments about how they maintain operation despite worker shortages.

We’ve worked hard to talk to as many operators as we can across segments to get a better idea of how the issues around hiring, retention, benefits and pay are affecting your business. Your stories were both proactive and thoughtful—cautionary and cautious. But despite any uncertainty, there is was always relentless optimism.

Unsurprisingly, the FSDs we spoke to expressed a need to take care of their employees first, and that at that point, the business would take care of itself.

What is your greatest workforce-related issue? Let us know atalewis@winsightmedia.com



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