When Fast Casual magazine published its 2015 Fast Casual State of the Industry report, it crunched the numbers from operators at more than 300 fast casual
restaurants. These statistics ran the gamut from how FSRs are applying technology and growing their brands, to their biggest challenges for the next 12 months.
When combined with recent figures from the National Restaurant Association that project 1.7 million new restaurant jobs, some interesting trends about the workforce emerged.
Here are four of the prominent ways the fast casual workforce is changing.
1. Campus recruiting is back
Restaurant operators are scrambling to hire qualified employees, and they are headed back to school to do it. During the recent recession, the portion of restaurants recruiting on college campuses dropped to 20 percent and 16 percent, for hourly and salaried employees respectively. Both numbers have almost tripled today. 52 percent of operators are recruiting hourly employees on campus, and 43 percent are recruiting salaried.
Many of the hourly employees are there for part-time jobs while still in school, but it is significant to note that salaried employees are being recruited so heavily. This points to the need for management candidates more skilled in finance, technology and culinary arts. Restaurants need these to keep them current and relevant.
2. Wages are climbing
Wages are up for both hourly and salaried employees. Over the last year, numerous minimum-wage movements have surfaced across the country. These include legislative and executive actions, as well as numerous civil protests. As a result, hourly wages in fast casuals has risen. In 2011, 68 percent of operators paid employees between $7.25 to $9.00. Today 62 percent pay between $9.01 to $12.00.
Salaried employees are indirectly affected. As the hourly wage rises, so must the salary-equivalent. Most operators (64 percent) will increase menu prices to offset the rising cost of wages, which may in turn affect sales.
3. Staff training is going digital
Aside from wages and other benefits, employee training is undergoing a change. While three quarters of operators still use paper training manuals, the industry is pivoting towards digital. Some provide digital versions of the paper binders so employees can print it if they choose to. Many operators remain cautious, since these manuals can contain trade secrets.
Up to 39 percent of restaurants are offering training videos and webinars to reduce the cost of on-site training. The most surprising trend is that 20 percent are also offering streaming video via mobile devices. This is not only appealing to millennials – the mobile internet has spread to all age groups.
4. Restaurants are offering longer-term careers
Finally, working in fast casual isn’t just a first-job opportunity for those in high school, in college or in career transition. Studies show that 90 percent of all employees feel restaurants are a good place to start out. Yet, the majority of restaurant employees in all age groups advanced to higher-paying jobs – including an astonishing 98 percent of those over 65.
As far as long-term careers go, nine out of ten restaurant managers started at entry level, as did 8 out of ten owners. This indicates plenty of opportunity and room to grow in this flourishing and ever-changing industry.
Find Out More About How Fast Casual is Changing the Restaurant Industry
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Michelle Strong is chief marketing officer at LRS and an advocate for meaningful customer engagement.