- Quick service restaurant operators need to prioritize workplace harassment training for employees because many fast food workers are minors, and may not know what warrants a report, Chipotle's director of field training Michele Lange told attendees at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago this week. Lange said this includes enacting zero-tolerance policies and providing franchisees with the resources necessary to implement quality store education.
- For Chili's, this meant holding a diversity and inclusion summit for the company's directors of operations and hosting targeted development sessions and compliance training, said Nicole DaCosta, senior manager for learning and development at Brinker International, Chili's parent. "It can't just be a new procedure or a new policy that you institute. It has to be a multi-pronged approach. It needs to be an ongoing conversation ... [that's] woven into every discussion and be part of your business strategy," she said.
- Lange said a major step in improving workplace safety and culture in the back and front of house is to take soft skills training more seriously in management training programs, and to focus on cultural sensitivity and unconscious bias.
Consumer demand for dynamic dining experiences and the growing risk of hospitality blunders going viral on social media — a phenomenon both Chipotle and Chili's have suffered — is putting more pressure than ever before on restaurants to facilitate healthy, happy store environments. The challenge, however, is achieving this across a national footprint, especially when systems rely heavily on franchisees.
DaCosta suggested that digital training resources can help scale best practices across restaurant chains, and that videos and online quizzes can help engage a young, digitally native workforce. She said Chili's also asks employees how they would rate its workplace culture through annual engagement surveys, while Lange said shifting those conversations from yearly to quarterly reviews has helped Chipotle stay abreast of successes and areas to improve.
Still, DaCosta said that its hard to measure ROI when it comes to these efforts. "Sometimes it's not always that direct metric that you're going to see within the first 30 days. Like with leadership training, for us it takes time to see those results," she said.
DaCosta also said that one key measurement, however, is retention. And if staff feel welcomed and safe at work, restaurants will also see this positively impact guest count and loyalty, she said.
In order for honest conversations about workplace culture and safety to occur, however, employees need to feel comfortable reaching out to leadership. McDonald's is improving lines of communication across its chain by creating an anonymous sexual harassment hotline that will launch next month, the company announced Tuesday. The development comes after 25 women across 20 U.S. cities filed sexual harassment lawsuits or complaints against the chain.
Resources like this are especially necessary in foodservice, since as many as 90% of women and 70% of men in the restaurant space have experienced sexual harassment of some kind, according to the Harvard Business Review.