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CREATE-Greg-Kingen-Black-Box.jpg Ron Ruggless
Greg Kingen, chief revenue officer for Black Box Intelligence, gave a "State of the Restaurant Industry" presentation Wednesday as the CREATE conference in Denver.

Restaurant workers report abuse both from customers and managers

‘Restaurant employees endure a lot,’ Greg Kingen of Black Box Intelligence tells CREATE

More than three-fifths of restaurant employees report suffering emotional abuse or disrespect from customers and nearly half have endured it from managers, a recent Snagajob-Black Box Intelligence survey found.

“Restaurant employees endure a lot,” said Greg Kingen, chief revenue officer for the Dallas-based Black Box analytics firm, at a CREATE conference presentation Wednesday in Denver.

The Snagajob-Black Box survey found 62% of restaurant employees reported suffering emotional abuse and disrespect from customers. And nearly half, 49%, reported enduring similar abuse from managers.

“This is simply not acceptable,” Kingen said. “We can't allow our employees to suffer this type of abuse at the hands of our customers and at the hands of our own team members.”

Kingen, during his “State of the Restaurant Industry: Where Do We Go From Here?” presentation, said employees remain worried about the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

“In our survey, 65% of hourly employees want the business to keep their mask mandates for their customers,” he said. “And 83% plan to wear mask while working to keep themselves safe regardless of business and state requirements. They're still afraid.”

The fear has contributed to staffing shortages and elevated turnover rates.

Costs to replace an employee in 2021 continued rise. Black Box calculated that turnover cost, Kingen said, to be $14,689 for general manager, $8,119 for a manager and $1,869 for an hourly worker.

Black Box, which for its analytics subscribers collects data from 100,000 restaurant locations with about $170 billion in total revenue, has found industry sales have recovered since March but traffic growth remains negative. Limited-service restaurants continue to outperform full-service dining, he said.

“Looking ahead through the end of this year into next year, we see positive comp-sales growth to continue,” Kingen said, and traffic is expected to remain sluggish with no recovery expected this year.

However, while comp-sales increase will continue into the first quarter of 2022, Kingen said, “This delta variant is a threat. Strong regional differences may reappear as a result … a nobody wants another shutdown but with delta and the way it pops up here and there we're going to see some things change. And they're going to change for a short amount of time and then they'll probably change something else just like the 90,000 pivots we did when COVID first started.”

“Elevated off-premises mix is the new norm,” he added. “That is going to continue.”

Guest sentiment has been shifting to what Black Box calls a “a new normal,” with an erosion in cleanliness and beverage sentiment as sales improve.

Kingen advised restaurant operators to focus on the basics of execution as the customers’ mindset is shifting.

“People have a lot of options, a lot of places where they can eat. Restaurants are just one of them,” he said. “We have to execute on the basics to get our guest to have the experiences we want them to have.”

In relation to employees, Kingen added, increased pay levels may not be enough.

“Restaurants really need to focus on the entire experience to gain back staff,” he said. “It's just not enough to provide the job and a paycheck. We have to be more. We have to do better.”

Brand perception remains a strength in recruiting new employees, Kingen said.  

“One of things I’ve seen during the course of the pandemic is how you talk about yourselves in social media and out in public,” he said. “I've seen great campaigns talking about your history, your legacy, your culture. [Those] things I think are really, really important. They really resonate with people who are considering coming to work.”

Brands should continue that, Kingen said. “People want to belong to something they consider to be worthwhile. If they're going to spend significant hours working with you and for you, they want to believe that there is a greater mission behind what you do.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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