After a slight end-of-2015 improvement, 2016 has been tough for quick-service restaurant staff recruiting, and analysts expect it to only get worse. Recruiting challenges are at an all-time high, as reported in the People Report Workforce Index. The Workforce Index, launched in 2006, uses a baseline measurement of 50. Higher values (above 50), show greater difficulty in:


  • Maintaining employment levels: keeping a consistent amount of staff
  • Recruiting: attracting new quality employees
  • Job vacancies: filling open positions
  • Employment expectations: maintaining a balance between the employers’ and employees’ expectations for a fulfilling and productive workplace and acceptable compensation
  • Staff turnover: keeping staff long enough to reduce the strain of additional recruiting, training, and down time


For 8 quarters in a row (since the fall of 2014), the average index has remained above 70. The Q2 2016 index was 75.9, a slight improvement from the prior quarter (76.4), but as the overall index is an average of all five components, it’s not immediately obvious that the recruiting category reached a whopping 100 on the scale—all quick-service survey respondents reported struggling to bring in new hires in the last 3 months.


People Report executive director Michael Harms said, “We’ve never had an index value hit 100. Every quick-service company that was surveyed said they were having more trouble finding employees.”


The challenges seem to suggest there are both positive and negative trends in the quick-service food sector: jobs are being added, upcoming summer busy-season growth is expected, but vacancies are also rising. Managers are pressured to fill not only newly-vacant jobs after the loss of employees, but to also recruit new hires for additional jobs. Is it a perfect storm of economic growth and competition from other job sectors? Data may be telling us that it is.


In recent years, after nearing 10% nationally, the unemployment rate has improved to 5%. Jobs had to be created (or recreated) to employ those who are now working. Those workers now have money to spend, and the economy motivates companies (especially service industries) to then add more jobs. So the hiring process doesn’t seem to end. Plus, some of the foodservice staff are only passing through on their way to another career. It’s no wonder that 45% of survey respondents said they were “very concerned” about turnover, and 74% were “very” or “extremely concerned” about recruiting (and none said they were unconcerned, which is why this component reached 100 on the scale).


Quick-service (“fast food”) restaurants aren’t the only one in hot water when it comes to recruiting. In the previous quarter (Q1 2016), casual dining respondents netted 91 in recruiting difficulty, a level too high and too similar to the current quick-service number to indicate that other sectors could be immune to staff churn.


Has your restaurant struggled to recruit or retain staff? What factors have provided the most challenge? How have you been able to overcome the recruiting challenges felt around the industry?


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