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People Report’s 3rd-Q index predicts job growth for QSRs

Despite the economic downturn, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers has maintained a growth pattern throughout the past year, opening about one restaurant per month since May.

For the 80-unit quick-service chain that has meant the hiring of about 50 to 60 new employees, both hourly and salaried staff, per unit, said chief people officer Rodney Morris. The company’s support centers in Baton Rouge, La., where the company is based, and an additional site in Dallas, are both fully staffed and holding steady—though layoffs have been reported among other quick-service operators across the country.

There are signs, however, that the scenario is changing. According to third-quarter data from the People Report Workforce Index, a growing number of quick-service operators say they believe the worst of the job shedding is behind, and many say they are starting to add hourly and managerial workers.

The index measures operators’ expectations in five areas: employment levels, recruiting difficulty, job vacancies, turnover and employment expectations. A rating of 50 or more indicates strong growth or pressure to fill vacancies and increase staff. A reading of 50 or below indicates a slowing down of growth.

People Report, which tracks human resources metrics for more than 100 member foodservice companies, surveyed 70 members to collect data for the Workforce Index. Information was grouped into four segments: fine dining and upscale casual, casual dining, fast casual and family dining, and quick service.

For the quick-service segment, the overall index was 44.1 in the third quarter, up three points from historical lows in the second quarter. While still below 50, the improvement indicates that employment expectations, in particular, are “picking up steam” after showing modest improvement in the second quarter, said Michael Harms, a senior analyst at People Report, which is based in Dallas.

“Things still aren’t good,” he said, “but there is some improvement. The job cutting is done; they’ve stopped the bleeding and…it looks like they are going to start hiring again.”

Employment expectations, a forward-looking rating that when above 50 indicates an expected increase in head count for hourly and salaried workers, was 56.6 for the quick-service segment, meaning modest job growth was expected.

The expectation rating within quick service was lower than the 58.3 rating for all segments but up from the 55.5 rating quick-service companies reported in the previous quarter, People Report found.

Perhaps most significant was the increase in the employment levels rating, which looks at hiring or job cuts during the past three months. In quick service, that rating rose to 48.4, which Harms said shows that companies saw only a slight decrease in hiring during the quarter.

Of those surveyed, 19 percent said they added hourly jobs during the quarter, and only 25 percent said they had reduced hourly ranks—a vast improvement over the 44 percent who said they had cut hourly jobs in the second quarter.

Harms noted that the employment level rating bottomed out in the second quarter at 38.3 as the industry shed jobs in the first three months of the year.

Not surprisingly given the nation’s high unemployment rate, turnover among jobs in the quick-service industry hit a new low during the third quarter, dropping 18 points to 23.4.

According to the report, 75 percent of those surveyed posted declining turnover rates among hourly staff, while about half said turnover had declined among managers. Only 25 percent said they saw turnover increase during the quarter.

Looking forward within the quick-service segment, 24 percent of companies surveyed said they planned to add hourly workers, and only 12 percent said they planned to cut jobs at that level.

Another 24 percent said they planned to add managerial staff, while only 6 percent said cuts were expected.

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