How to outbid restaurants for labor

New research pegs what noncommercial operators’ direct competitor for employees is offering prospective hires.

If noncommercial operators hope to pull job candidates away from restaurant jobs, here’s what they’ll need to offer, according to a flurry of new research.

The data underscore that pay, once third or fourth on most lists of the reasons foodservice employees leave a position, is becoming a far more important consideration for taking or keeping a job. Financial security is particularly important for members of so-called Gen Z, or what’s being defined as young people age 21 and under, according to the study just released by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF). The report found that compensation is the No. 1 reason an employee stays in a foodservice job for six months.

Prevailing pay rates are set out in several reports released in recent weeks. On a national basis, across all jobs, the average hourly wage for restaurant employees is $13.29 for men and $12.53 for women, according to a report from Gecko Hospitality, a job-placement service.

On a more specific basis, front-of-house crewmembers in quick-service restaurants are paid an average of $10 an hour, according to this year’s installment of the annual compensation study from People Report, a TDn2K holding that agreed to share selected results with FoodService Director. 

The report shows that a line cook in a full-service restaurant tends to earn $13 an hour, while a dishwasher typically collects $11.

The data shows a significant gap between what full- and limited-service establishments pay lower-echelon managers. An assistant manager of a quick-service or fast-casual chain restaurant is paid an average annual salary of $36,941, compared with $51,738 for a chain full-service place, according to People Report.

The wide range in restaurant compensation is underscored by the Gecko report. For instance, it pegs the annual pay of an executive chef at a broad-market casual restaurant at $60,350, while a counterpart at a polished-casual establishment would need an offer from a noncommercial place of at least $73,214 to be enticed by an increase.

In general, quick-service restaurants are easier to raid for employees looking for more money, Gecko’s study shows. A female catering or event sales manager for a fast-casual operation collected $55,600 last year, while a male holder of the job was paid $31,250. Their counterparts at a casual operation were $52,818 and $56,000, respectively.

Although the recent spate of human resources studies focused on pay and compensation, a few also looked at the importance of intangible recruitment and retention factors such as culture. The NRAEF’s Gen Z study, for example, found members of that age group regard the ideal culture as one where there’s recognition, flexibility, a team atmosphere and an opportunity to speak up with ideas. Particularly, the research found, the youngsters want feedback from their managers at least every few weeks.

Photograph: Shutterstock



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