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Employment pressures continued to grow for the restaurant industry during 2013, despite the fact that the industry’s same-store sales and traffic results were soft during the year and the economy continued to provide mixed signals in terms of its overall strength. Unemployment might still be at historically high levels but the restaurant industry’s growth, currently dependent on opening new stores as well as new concepts coming into the market, has kept employment growth strong and has made recruiting and retention increasingly harder over the last 12 months. This according to the year-end results recently published by Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report), a Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) company.

The Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) Workforce Index, a quarterly barometer of market pressures on employment measures, registered an overall reading of 70.2 for the 1st Quarter of 2014. This marks the highest overall index reading since Q4 ’06 (70.6). “This indicates that the people in charge of keeping the restaurants staffed with managers and hourly employees have expectations for increased job growth, an increasing number of vacancies, rising turnover and a tougher recruiting environment for the following quarter”, said Victor Fernandez, Executive Director of Insights and Knowledge for Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K). “The fact that the index is posting values not seen since before the recession hints at how challenging the current labor market is when it comes to maintaining those vacancies filled and keeping up with the growth rate of the industry”.

The index predicts strong employment growth in the first half of the year across all industry segments, although this growth is expected to be especially pronounced in the Fast Casual/Family Dining and Upscale Casual/Fine Dining segments.

“The Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) results for December 2013 show the industry adding restaurant management and hourly jobs at a rate of 2.8% year-over-year on average during the last 3 months of the year. By contrast, the growth rate was 1.5% on average for the period between July and September” reported Joni Thomas Doolin, Founder and CEO of Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report). “This supports the expectations we have been reporting on through the Workforce Index, which predicted a jump in staffing and retention difficulty starting with Q4 2013. Furthermore, this job growth has been pretty widespread within the industry; as an example, 65% of the companies tracked by Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) posted positive job growth year-over-year during December 2013” added Fernandez.

2013 also saw restaurant industry turnover for both managers and hourly employees continue to inch upward, especially at the management level. This rise in turnover affected most restaurant companies during 2013. Based on data collected monthly by Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) (representing approximately one million restaurant employees) management turnover increased in 69% of those organizations. On average, the increase in annual management turnover was 2.5% per company during 2013. The percentage of companies that reported increasing hourly turnover during 2013 was slightly lower, at 61%, with an average increase in annual turnover of 4.2%.
“From a relative standpoint, the increase in management turnover was much more significant during 2013, which hints at challenges retaining employees at this critical level while hourly turnover seems to be stabilizing” stated Fernandez.

As recruiting and retention pressures increased throughout the year, so did compensation growth rates for restaurant managers as additional incentives are needed to fill the growing vacancies and new job opportunities. Median starting salaries for entry level restaurant managers posted positive growth rates during 2013 compared with the previous year for all industry segments except for Upscale Casual/Fine Dining. This comes on the heels of 2012, a year in which median starting salaries decreased when compared with 2011 for most industry segments (Casual Dining salaries were flat in 2012). As employment pressures continue throughout 2014 as expected, starting manager salaries are also expected to experience upward pressures during the year.

Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) is the parent company of Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report), Financial Intelligence (formerly Black Box Intelligence) and Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence)). Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) provides service-sector human capital and workforce analytics for its members on a monthly basis. Financial Intelligence (formerly Black Box Intelligence) provides weekly financial and market level data for the restaurant industry. Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence)), currently in beta, will deliver unparalleled consumer insights and reveal online brand health. Together they report on over 30,000 restaurant units, one million employees and 35 billion dollars in sales. They are also the producers of two leading restaurant industry conferences: Summer Brand Camp and the Global Best Practices Conference, each held annually in Dallas, Texas.