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Restaurants leverage holiday hiring push

Restaurants leverage holiday hiring push

Chains such as Boston Market and Domino's Pizza reap benefits of seasonal hires beyond the holidays

If seasonal hiring trends seen elsewhere in the retail industry in October hold, restaurants and other businesses are expected to staff up slightly more than they did last year as they continue to prepare for the holidays.

According to Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, retailers added 130,100 jobs in October, an increase of 0.9 percent from 128,900 positions gained in October 2011. Last year’s hiring started slowly, Challenger found, but picked up in November and December to arrive at 660,200 seasonal jobs gained, which was the highest level since 2007.

Domino's Pizza is one restaurant company that is ramping up holiday hiring. Just before Thanksgiving, Domino’s said it would hire between 5,000 and 25,000 people at its nearly 5,000 domestic stores to get ready for three of its biggest days all year: Thanksgiving Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“The seasonal hiring we’ve been pushing has a two-fold purpose,” spokesman Chris Brandon wrote in an email to Nation’s Restaurant News. “One, we want to make sure we’re properly staffed for these busy six weeks, and two, we use this to get our new team members excited by the opportunities that exist with our brand.”

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company also noted that Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving when millions of Americans step up their online shopping, has also become an important day for Domino’s. Last year, Cyber Monday kicked off a week in which the chain rang up 1 million online and mobile orders for the first time in its history.

While online orders help boost numbers at Domino's, catering becomes a huge part of the business for Golden, Colo.-based Boston Market from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. The chain also promotes chilled holiday banquet meals as a take-home option.

Randy Miller, chief administrative officer and general counsel for Golden, Colo.-based Boston Market, said the chain begins staffing up in October for the holiday season. “It becomes a fever pitch in November to get staffed for the onslaught,” he said.

With its extra staff and a new “Holiday Hub” website to promote its holiday meals, Boston Market is targeting same-store sales growth between 10 percent and 12 percent over last year’s holiday period, Miller said. During the week of Thanksgiving, the chain’s sales rose 13 percent compared with the same week of 2011, with an 18-percent same-store sales increase on Thanksgiving Day, he added.

Seasonal push, year-round benefits

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Chains like Boston Market are also cognizant of the need to keep as many of its new hires around after the holidays as possible, to mitigate the expensive effects of turnover and to leverage those workers’ talents in the restaurants’ plans for 2013.

Boston Market is always trying to retain year-round the benefits of its additional employees trained to work the dining rooms during the busiest time of the year, Miller said. This has become even more important during the past two years, as Boston Market has implemented many new guest service initiatives that have led to sales growth, he said.

“The brand has undergone a big transformation the past two years, and as a result we need more people and folks who can work our dining rooms,” he said. “We have so many people coming to the restaurant who haven’t seen us in a while, and we’re hoping to derive the benefit of them coming back because they’re noticing the difference in the better Boston Market.”

As such, there is no “mass exodus” of seasonal employees, but rather a gradual, natural attrition, he said, “as people go back to school or move on to more normal work times for them.”

Because the seasonal hiring happens weeks before Thanksgiving, the additional staff for Boston Market ends up being more than college students home on break, Miller added. Many of Boston Market’s new delivery drivers also deliver for other restaurants and fill their daytime hours with the 476-unit chain, as do some other people with a hole to fill in the middle of a workday, like school bus drivers, he said.

Brandon of Domino’s added that the brand uses a seasonal-hiring strategy to “attract and keep team members who are looking for longer-term opportunities,” as well.

“At the very least,” he said, “we’d prefer to keep those seasonal team members on board through Super Bowl Sunday and beyond.”

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

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