Broomfield, Colo.-based fast-casual brand Noodles & Company released its first company impact report Thursday following the company’s third-quarter earnings. The report highlighted how the company’s most recent employee benefits have led to slower-than-industry-average turnover rates.
According to the report, half of Noodles & Company’s executive team and 56% of the company’s operations team are now women. Moving forward, the company will be focusing more on racial diversity on its leadership teams and continuing to foster an inclusive environment for the company’s LGBTQ team members.
Over the past 18 months, Noodles & Company has invested $7.6 million in new employee benefits like “thank you” retention bonuses, parental leave (including for adoption and surrogacy), and even company policies that received controversial media attention, like Noodles’ gender-neutral bathroom policy, to make each of their employees and customers feel welcome and comfortable.
“We have fantastic retention, really better than the industry that's driven by our industry- leading benefits,” Noodles’ chief financial officer Carl Lukach told Nation’s Restaurant News. “We focus on mental health and wellness for our people, maternity and paternity leave and And industry-leading areas where we're giving back to our employees.”
But Noodles & Company is not immune to the labor challenges the industry has been facing, and Lukach said that the company has had to reduce operating hours in some stores where staffing levels were too low. But he said that Noodles & Company has reached the worst of the labor crisis and things will look up moving forward: the past quarter the company’s wages have inflated by 6% as new team members were brought on-board, and they anticipate adding a fourth quarter retention bonus too.
“We put these initiatives in place on both the retention front and on the new hire front, to make life at Noodles even better,” Lukach said.
Other highlights from the report include:
- A commitment banning artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from the Noodles menu.
- A recap of the company raising $400,000 for local schools and organizations over the past two years
- Further commitments to reduce water and energy usage and increase reusable/recyclable packaging (though no exact numbers were released for these goals)
“What we want to do is to replicate this business model that we have at our current footprint, and continue to, to keep our focus on inclusion, diversity, and showcasing our ability to be environmentally friendly,” Lukach said. “We want to grow at a responsible pace. We want to do these things the right way.”
Moving forward, Lukach said, you can expect a lot more menu innovation, particularly for healthy menu items, given the popularity of plant-based items like zoodles and cauliflower gnocchi, and continued digital investment, with the eventual goal of 4 million rewards members.
“We’ve really been able to see that digital guest retain; they stick around and continue to increase their visit frequency,” he added.
Contact Joanna at [email protected]
Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi